Binance has announced that it will invest $1 billion into blockchain startup companies, spread out over 10 phases of $100 million each. This “Social Impact Fund” will be used to help blockchain and cryptocurrency startups to grow and flourish.
Ella Zhang, the head of Binance Labs, the company’s incubator program said that the money used to fund the program will be drawn from Binance’s reserves of BNB tokens. Binance is seeking to invest the $1 billion into 20 different funds. To qualify for this “fund of funds” each fund must manage a pool of at least $100 million.
The first project that Binance Labs will invest in is an Uber alternative, powered by the blockchain. People will be able to hail rides using this platform, presumably with a DApp that is similar to the Uber and Lyft applications. Chen Weixing, CEO of Funcity and former founder of Kuaidi Dache, a ride-hailing app in China, and Yang Jun, co-founder of Meituan, a popular group discount app in China, made the announcement at a Big Data expo in Guizhou.
According to Zhang, “We believe it’s a disruptive social experiment. Binance Labs hopes to work with more aspirational projects to explore blockchain applications and together move forward the growth of the industry.”
Weixing and Jun will build the new blockchain DApp in partnership. Weixing said, “Ridehailing is the first time blockchain will be tested on a social application on mass scale.” At that time, he did not disclose what cryptocurrency would be used as the economy for the system, but it now appears clear that BNB will power it under the Binance banner.
The remaining 19 projects that Binance will invest in have either not been announced, or selected. However if we use the ride-hailing application as a model, then it follows that Binance may be looking to fund other real-world use cases that can benefit from cryptocurrency-based payment systems. Such projects might include ecommerce business platforms, online auctions, freelancer marketplaces and other service-based ideas.
Binance will need to anticipate how regulators will respond to this endeavor. In the United States, Binance does not follow every regulation, such as BitLicense requirements in New York. The company continues to operate from offshore and to date, there haven’t been any major repercussions. However this activity does put them on the radar, and expanding into other businesses may attract the watchful eye of regulators and legislators as well. For example, cities around the country have attacked Uber for pulling marketshare from licensed taxi drivers who paid large sums for their medallions. The same might be true about a potential decentralized ride-hailing application. The state’s ability to attack the creators of such applications is one thing, but, depending on how payments are processed, shutting down any sort of decentralized application would be a virtually impossible challenge once it’s put into action, as payments are not processed centrally, but rather distributed across all of the devices that are participating in the network.
Binance is not alone in sponsoring blockchain projects. At the state level, the government of China is investing in blockchain projects. On the private side, there are angels, VCs and other investors around the world putting their money into crypto and blockchain, as well as several blockchain foundation-sponsored endeavors, including a $2 million per grant, Stellar partnership program.