Terry Gou, Taiwan's richest man and the founder of manufacturing giant Foxconn, wants the island to roll out the red carpet for Facebook's Libra cryptocurrency project.
In a recent, little-noticed speech, the billionaire and one-time presidential candidate said Taiwan could boost its status as an international financial hub by embracing Libra, rather than approaching the project with skepticism as other governments have done.
Gou also suggested the island could connect Libra, if and when it launches, with the digital currency being developed by the People's Bank of China.
“I know [Facebook CEO Mark] Zuckerberg pretty well, and I hope we can bring Libra to Taiwan in the future,” Gou said on Oct. 3 at the annual meeting of Taiwan’s technology association in Taipei.
“Mainland China has decided not to accept Libra and build its own digital currency,” he said. "That creates a great opportunity for Taiwan as we can become a place where the two separate systems converge.”
To that end, Taiwanese regulators should establish a more welcome legal system for decentralized finance technologies, Gou said, arguing that fintech projects could benefit semiconductor and crypto businesses, both areas where Foxconn is active. He also announced that his own educational initiative would introduce a blockchain curriculum.
From Foxconn to politics
Gou, whose net worth is $6.7 billion according to Forbes, has gathered substantial economic and political clout since he founded Foxconn Technology Group in 1976.
The company, with a market capitalization of $33 billion, is the world's largest manufacturer of consumer electronics, raking in $173 billion revenue last year. Foxconn makes smartphones, computers and electronic parts for a range of the world's IT giants including Apple, IBM, Microsoft, Sony, Dell and Lenovo.
The Taiwanese billionaire, also known as Gou Taiming, stepped down as Foxconn’s chairman earlier this year to pursue the 2020 presidential bid, but dropped out of the race in September.
Gou has not returned to Foxconn since he announced that he would not to explore his bid, but his comments belied ambitions for a larger role in bolstering blockchain technology adoption and education.
In his speech, Gou said he would promote Libra in Taiwan by publishing a textbook about the currency for the Terry Gou Institute (TGI), which aims to cultivate the island's next generation of political and economic leaders.
“I have been in talks with many venture capital firms and they want to find better investments and create job opportunities for young people in Taiwan,” Gou said.
Foxconn and crypto
The manufacturing giant is active in the crypto space via several initiatives and client projects, including a lending platform for members of its supply chain.
Via its subsidiary FnConn, in March 2017, Foxconn partnered with Dianrong, a well-known Chinese peer-to-peer lending platform. Its spinoff project Chained Finance helps non-bank lenders make direct loans in supply chains globally.
The initial demo run of its prototype yielded $6.5 million in loans being originated to members all along its large-scale supply chain.
Foxconn’s investment arm, HCM Capital, is one of the participating investors in the $250 million fundraising for crypto venture capital Galaxy Digital, founded by billionaire and former fund manager Mark Novogratz.
HCM Capital led a $7 million Series A round in identity services startup Cambridge Blockchain in May 2018. PayPal announced to take a stake in the startup in April.
Foxconn has also pushed blockchain projects for other companies, including blockchain mobile phone maker Sirin Lab, helping to develop Finney, one of the first blockchain mobile phones. The Finney cryptocurrency raised $227 million through token sale as of last December.
Foxconn debuted its first investment in the bitcoin space in October 2017, leading a $16 million Series B funding round in the bitcoin remittance app Abra.
Taiwan and crypto
Perhaps reflecting Foxconn’s influence in Taiwan, and Gou’s pro-blockchain stance, the island of 23.8 million residents has implemented policies to develop the sector.
Taiwanese financial watchdog the Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) strengthened its regulations on crypto assets by further enforcing anti-money-laundering (AML) practices on bitcoin trading last year.
BitoEx, the largest crypto wallet and exchange services in Taiwan, has 80 percent of the local market. Its main business is selling bitcoin through ATMs in more than 5,000 convenience stores, or via regular bank ATMs with their over-the-counter services. Last May, the company claimed to have raised $10 million in the first five hours of its initial coin offering.
The firm has required ID to purchase bitcoin through its platforms since Taiwanese financial authorities started to crack down on anonymous crypto-asset purchases in November.
The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.