Easy Crypto and its co-founder Janine Grainger were the big stars of the evening at the inaugural BlockchainNZ and Web3NZ Awards, scooping half of the awards up for grabs.
Easy Crypto, the country’s largest non-custodial cryptocurrency exchange, won Web3 Business of the Year, while Grainger, who left the corporate world in 2017 to start Easy Crypto with her brother Alan, picked up the MinterEllisonRuddWatts Stand-Out Individual of the Year Award, and Hamilton Locke Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
It’s been a big year for Easy Crypto, which last month launched its stablecoin, the NZDD, as well as a digital wallet for its customers. Grainger, who served as a BlockchainNZ committee member from 2019 - 2021 and currently sits on the FinTechNZ council, said the impetus for launching a stablecoin was to counter the volatility in cryptocurrency markets that puts off would-be adopters.
“We wanted to change this by offering a trusted NZ dollar backed ‘stablecoin’ - NZDD - that bridges the gap between traditional finance and the digital age. NZDD brings the benefits of digitisation to the New Zealand Dollar; backed 1:1 with Kiwi dollars held in a bare trust; meaning your NZDD is safe and flexible,” she says.
Jerome Faury, CEO and founder of Immersve was on hand to collect the Alibaba Cloud Innovative Solution of the Year Award. The Web3 payment platform had a busy year developing its partnership with Mastercard, which allows Mastercard customers to spend cryptocurrency directly from their Web3 wallets wherever Mastercard is accepted.
2024 Looking to be a big year for Web3
As Grainger struggled to carry all of her trophies away from the stage at Callaghan Innovation’s Auckland headquarters, AUT senior lecturer Jeff Nijsse was recognised for his educational efforts in the Web3 space with the Hudson Gavin Martin Educator and Advocate of the Year Award.
Nijsse, a BlockchainNZ council member who is currently completing his PhD, is one of the country’s few academics to focus on cryptocurrencies and Web3 technologies. He says New Zealand’s Web3 community is rapidly evolving and revealing areas of capability that showed great promise - especially when players in the sector collaborate.
“For years physicists thought they’d found the tiniest particle. And then they started to build colliders, and smashing these things together and finding more and more stuff inside those particles,” Nijsse told Web3NZ.
“What’s happening in Web3, just in New Zealand, is sort of the same thing.”
He said 2024 would be a big year for the crypto space with the potential debut of Bitcoin ETFs (exchange traded funds), the US election, and the upcoming Bitcoin halving, expected to take place in April.
“There's the old adage that you build in a bear market, which we saw this year. We're going to see a lot of things getting traction in 2024.”
Nijsse sees strong interest in Web3 from students, mainly from those in business schools who are entrepreneurially minded.
“In computer science, AI is a bit too hot, it's pulling away a lot of talent,” he said.
Everlasting won the Lane Neave Start-Up of the Year Award. The startup has set out to safeguard individuals' assets as wealth becomes increasingly digital and a growing number of people are taking their crypto to the grave.
A ‘big disconnect’ holding Web3 back in NZ
Its founder Paul Salisbury said Web3 in New Zealand continued to be a “challenging space”.
“In New Zealand, there's still this really big disconnect between Web3 businesses, banks, and the regulators,” he told Web3NZ.
“It’s much easier in offshore markets than it is in New Zealand, which is a shame but we are grateful for the efforts of Blockchain NZ and other associations that are trying to shift that.”
Everlasting has established a presence in Singapore where it has been able to tap funding for research and development, which Salisbury said had been difficult to achieve locally due to a lack of understanding of the technology.
“There’s a better understanding in Singapore and better access to funding. But the actual talent to build it is here in New Zealand. Singapore will give you the grant funding to do R&D, but they don’t have the expertise. But we’ll always have a presence here.”
Jeremy Muir, Partner at MinterEllisonRuddWatts, which sponsored the Stand-Out Individual of the Year Award, reminded those gathered of the potential for Web3 technologies and core concepts like decentralisation, by reading from Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin’s tech manifesto, which was published last week.
“I commend it to you as a way of thinking about the future,” said Muir before reading a salient passage from the manifesto, which itself was a response to venture capitalist Marc Andressen’s controversial Techno Optimist Manifesto.
“There are certain types of technology that much more reliably make the world better than other types of technology. There are certain types of technology that could, if developed, mitigate the negative impacts of other types of technology,” Buterin writes.
“The world over-indexes on some directions of tech development, and under-indexes on others. We need active human intention to choose the directions that we want, as the formula of ‘maximize profit’ will not arrive at them automatically,” he continues in his lengthy manifesto.
“I think that concept of active human intention is what really resonates with me,” said Muir rounding out the formalities on a night of celebration of Aotearoa’s vibrant Web3 sector.
Finalists and winners:
BlockchainNZ & Web3NZ Web3 Business of the Year:
Easy Crypto = Winner
Alibaba Cloud Innovative Solution of the Year:
Pay it Now
Immersve = Winner
Lane Neave Start-Up of the Year:
Everlasting = Winner
MinterEllisonRuddWatts Stand-Out Individual of the Year:
Janine Grainger = Winner
Hudson Gavin Martin Educator and Advocate of the Year:
Jeff Nijsse = Winner
Hamilton Locke Entrepreneur of the Year:
Janine Grainger = Winner