Chinese conglomerate Wanxiang Group, best known as one of the nation's largest auto parts manufacturers, is investing in blockchain technology through two new initiatives.
First hinted at in a blog post by Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin, Chao Deng, managing director at Wanxiang-owned subsidiary DataYes, confirmed that the company had completed a purchase of 416,000 ETH, the native token on the Ethereum blockchain, in an total investment of $500,000.
The investment, however, is just the first step in a multi-pronged plan that includes establishing two entities dedicated to promoting blockchain technologies. The first, a non-profit called Blockchain Labs, was co-founded by Buterin, BitShares co-founder Bo Shen and Feng Xiao, vice chairman and executive director of Wanxiang Holdings, the company's investment arm.
The Blockchain Labs launch is to be followed by the creation of a $50m venture capital fund that will invest broadly in applications for blockchain technology and for which Wanxiang will be the sole limited partner (LP).
In interview, Chao noted that Wanxiang now has roughly 10 subsidiaries in financial sectors including insurance, banking, futures and asset management, and that the investments provide it with the ability to look for ways to apply blockchain technologies to its business lines.
Chao told CoinDesk:
"About two years ago, we saw the rise of blockchain technologies, and we started research and we were very optimistic about their prospects. We know that blockchain tech has a wide range of applications. We don't have any specific goals set yet, but we see opportunities."
Chao confirmed that, despite interpretations of announcements from the Ethereum project, the $50m fund will seek to support "all crypto 2.0 projects", a comment echoed by Shen.
"We maintain an open, transparent and equal spirit. Ethereum is definitely the leading project of crypto 2.0 on decentralized applications at the moment. We would not only say Wanxiang will be the only LP in the fund, neither is Ethereum the only project that will be funded," Shen said.
The legal structure for both entities, according to Chao, is currently being established.
According to Shen, Blockchain Labs will promote education about blockchain technologies and invest in research and experiments in the field. The venture is in the process of being registered as a Chinese entity.
As part of the program, Wanxiang will donate $3m, or $1m over the next three years, to fund the project. Half of the funds for the first year, Shen said, were used to purchase Ether.
"[Blockchain Labs] will promote and give out ETH to community for non-profit purposes such as rewarding for projects that promote education," he said.
The name of the $50m fund once legally established may be called Fenbushi, according to Shen, which stands for "distributed " in Chinese.
While Chinese in name, Shen said Blockchain Labs is seeking to denominate one-third of its investments Chinese yuan, with the remaining funds being dispersed in US dollars.
As part of its promotional efforts, Wanxiang is also backing a conference to be held in Shanghai on 15th and 16th October.
Called the 2015 Global Blockchain Summit, the conference will feature guests from Deloitte, Huarui Bank and Shanghai Steel Union, among other institutions. Representatives from the wider bitcoin and blockchain community include Circle VP of trading Joshua Lim, Koinify CEO Tom Ding and Tether CTO Craig Sellars.
Topics will include the use of blockchain technologies in payments, securities trading, digital asset management and global supply chains, which will be discussed in talks and in closed-door sessions.
"The problem here in China and in many other areas is that many professionals from conventional business don't understand much about blockchain," Chao said, adding:
"We hope to provide an opportunity for them to get to know the tech better."
Hangzhou image via Shutterstock