- Mukaya (Tai) Panich is CIO and Chief VC at SCB 10X, the venture capital arm of Siam Commercial Bank.
- Panich told Insider why Thailand’s largest and oldest bank is bullish on decentralized finance.
- It also shares top 6 crypto investments and the type of DeFi projects the company is looking to fund.
- See more stories on the Insider business page.
Decentralized finance, once the wildest west of the crypto market, has started to gain traction among institutional investors in mainstream finance.
In a sign of the times, Commercial Bank of Siam, Thailand’s largest and oldest bank, specifically launched a venture capital arm called SCB 10X early last year to invest in digital technologies with a strong focus on blockchain and DeFi.
In an extensive Q&A with Insider via email, Mukaya (Tai) Panich, VC and Investment Director at SCB 10X, explains why the company is so bullish on DeFi, what kind of DeFi projects, and blockchain companies she hopes to fund, and her investment thesis for the company’s six main investments.
The written interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What is your background and how did you get into crypto?
I am Tai Panich, CIO and Chief VC at SCB 10X, the digital technology investment arm of Siam Commercial Bank, which is the largest and oldest bank in Thailand.
I am an engineer by training, graduated from MIT with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering. I worked in the engineering field for 5 years, working at a semiconductor startup in Silicon Valley called SiByte, which was acquired by Broadcom for $ 2 billion. Then I got an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Made a career transition in the investment management industry, first worked in New York and then in Singapore. I have invested in publicly traded technology companies for 14 years. For the last five years before joining SCB 10X, I led a pan-Asian fund for Pictet Asset Management, focused on investments in the technology sector. I came to start SCB 10X with other members of the management team in early 2020 and it has been a lot of fun.
At the start of last year, we looked at different types of emerging technologies that could disrupt banking and the financial industry in general. We were working on the blockchain industry and started studying DeFi. And we were amazed. It has everything traditional finance has today. This is how I got into crypto and haven’t looked back since then.
How many assets under management does SCB 10X supervise?
The overall fund size of SCB 10X is $ 666 million, which is intended for venture capital, venture capital formation and strategic investments. For VC funds in particular, our fund size is now $ 222 million. The fund also includes a $ 110 million Blockchain, DeFi and Digital Assets VC fund dedicated to investing in early stage and growing startups globally, with a particular focus on promising startups in the global market. blockchain infrastructure for DeFi and digital assets.
Why is SCB 10X optimistic about decentralized finance?
At the start of last year, we looked at different types of emerging technologies that could disrupt banking and the financial industry in general. We were working in the blockchain industry and started to look into DeFi. And we were amazed. It has everything traditional finance has today – credit / loan, asset management, insurance, trading, derivatives, prime brokerage, etc.
When we looked at DeFi, we said to ourselves that it was possible that one day banks and other financial institutions would be completely disintermediated … So we want to prepare the bank for this day when banks are potentially disintermediated . The best way to do this is to invest very actively in DeFi to learn and prepare banking, find DeFi partners, integrate DeFi into traditional finance, become a player in this area, and potentially be the disruptor in this area.
In addition to our mission to prepare the bank for the disruptive future of the financial sector, we also aim to raise awareness of blockchain and DeFi in Southeast Asia. This year we will do the DeFi Virtual Summit again and even bigger than last year, doubling the number of top speakers and developing into a two-day event on July 22-23.
What are SCB 10X’s main investments? What are their investment merits?
In the field of blockchain and DeFi, we have invested in Ripple (invested since the Digital Ventures years), BlockFi, Sygnum, Alpha Finance Laboratory, Anchoring, and Terra Anchor Protocol. Recently, we invested in four other companies that have yet to be announced and that I’m very excited about: two blockchain startups and two DeFi protocols. They will be announced in one to two months.
With regard to DeFi in particular, one of our early stage investments that is particularly close to my heart is Alpha Finance Laboratory (Alpha). This one is particularly inspiring, because the whole team is from Thailand. What Alpha does is credit and leverage in DeFi. Alpha has seen its Total Locked-In Value (TVL), or the assets flowing through its system, drop from zero to $ 1 billion in 6 months, making it one of the fastest growing DeFi projects in the world. today (the protocol was launched in October 2020). ).
Another DeFi protocol that we invested in at the bootstrap stage is Anchoring protocol, an economy protocol at a stable rate on the Terra channel. Anchor aims to disrupt the traditional fixed income market. Very quickly, as you know, one of the main draws of DeFi today is the very high interest rates, but the downside is that these rates fluctuate a lot. Anchor solves this problem by being a high and stable rate saving protocol by leveraging the staking reward mechanism of Proof of Stake (PoS) blockchains. The anchor is part of the Terra Protocol ecosystem. Anchor Protocol was launched in March of this year and in 3 months it has raised over a billion TVL. It is also another successful protocol.
We want to contribute to the development of the ecosystems of the projects we have invested in, which we do in two ways: (1) run a validation node, (2) create a new decentralized application (Dapp) to help drive development forward of the ecosystem. Terra or Anchor is also another example of how we work with their ecosystem. Currently, we are running a validation node for the Terra blockchain network. I am particularly proud of this because we are the only traditional leading bank in Asia to have really committed to a public DeFi network. Being a node validator means having certain technical skills, capabilities, which we have in-house.
What kind of DeFi projects is the SCB 10X looking for?
As for the area we are focusing on in DeFi, there are two main areas:
- Invest in the projects parallel to traditional finance, so that we can learn how to do it in a decentralized way and at the same time, teach the startup the best practices that we have developed from the world of traditional finance. This is true for the two DeFi projects we have invested in, Alpha Finance Lab and Anchor Protocol.
- Invest in the DeFi infrastructure. I am excited to continue development in the areas of DeFi’s infrastructure and cross-chain communication. I have always been an active investor in infrastructure because investing in picks and shovels is always a good idea. I think DeFi / Dapp has innovated very quickly over the last year, and now DeFi’s infrastructure needs to be upgraded and catch up with all of these innovations. I am currently particularly interested in (1) inter-chain communication and interoperability between different blockchains, (2) monitoring the operational intelligence of the blockchain network infrastructure and (3) monitoring The execution security of DeFi protocols to prevent them from attacks and exploits.