Yat Siu: The Metaverse Man Gets Real

Web3 gaming powerhouse Animoca Brands isn’t playing around; it takes its work with governments and educating a skeptical audience seriously.

AccessTimeIconDec 4, 2023 at 1:04 p.m. UTC
Updated May 9, 2024 at 4:41 p.m. UTC

"Web3 is much more than cryptocurrency," Yat Siu, the co-founder and executive chairman of Animoca Brands, said on stage at this year's TED2023 conference. It was a message they may not have wanted to hear.

In an interview with CoinDesk, Siu said he encountered a skeptical audience – many of whom thought the metaverse was Facebook. "It was probably the most difficult talk," he said, describing his first – and hopefully not last – TED experience.

This profile is part of CoinDesk's Most Influential 2023. For the full list, click here. Yat Sui is a speaker at CoinDesk's Consensus 2024 festival, May 29-31, in Austin, Texas.

2023 was a volatile year, to put it mildly, but Animoca Brands, a Hong Kong-based Web3 gaming giant, continued to invest, build and educate. That is why Yat Siu, the firm's public face and lead investor, is on the most influential list for the second year in a row.

Purpose mission impact

In 2023, Animoca Brands, which was valued at $5.9 billion in a bull market of 2022, transformed from an investment-focused firm to an investment and education-focused firm. Animoca opened a space for Web3 education, joining the Web3 global educators fund by Open Campus Protocol. The company continued to expand into the Middle East, Japan and other parts of the world, to show people that there is a thriving world of Web3 outside the United States and Europe.

By 2023, Animoca Brands' portfolio has expanded to 450 projects and brands. "We are becoming much more than a gaming company," Siu said. The company has over 2,700 shareholders, and functions a little like a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO), he said.

Siu believes that working with governments this year has been among the biggest transitions for him and the company. "If there was no fraud and everything was working fine in 2022, we would probably not be working as closely as we are today with governments and regulators," Siu said. "We were not going to necessarily play a leading role. That's changed."

He is still an active Web3 investor but plays more of a role in education and lobbying. "Not like those companies in the U.S., they became very quiet and very cautious, we did the opposite," he said.

Although Animoca cut its target for new fundraise this year, the company raised $20 million to expand its Web3 identity project Mocaverse. In the middle of this year, Animoca planned to shift focus away from U.S, markets following the Security and Exchange Commission's clampdown on crypto.

The company acquired Web3 streaming platform Azarus to scale up metaverse gaming, joined the Chiliz network to boost its "SportFi" ecosystem and invested in a Hong Kong-based crypto startup exchange Hi.

Siu sees the year ahead as a year for many existing and emerging verticals in crypto, like GameFi, EduFi and digital identity. In other words, these are the places where crypto intersects with the real world, where financial technology and blockchain can reinject healthy competition, align incentives and foster collaboration.

Animoca also partnered with Saudi Arabia in a $50 million deal to bring Web3 to NEOM, the futurist desert city under construction. This followed Animoca's partnership with Japan-based trading firm Mitsui to create a new Web3 business in Japan.

Being hungry

Siu was appointed to Hong Kong Task Force on Web3 development when Hong Kong is aiming to build a Web3 hub. "We are not going to get mass adoption if the governments are not comfortable with Web3," he said. He believes that Hong Kong's strength will always be the fact it has been the independent financial hub.

Some would argue that investing in Hong Kong is risky because Beijing is not friendly to cryptocurrency. But according to Siu, "Everything comes with risks, we understand that we are pushing new boundaries, and I would argue that is far less risky for us in Hong Kong than some of our friends in America right now."

"Hong Kong is hungry, which Hong Kong has not been for a long time," he said, adding that "nothing is forever, you have to fight for it."

UPDATE 12/5: This article has been corrected to show that Yat Siu is co-founder and executive chairman, not co-founder and executive director.


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