Japan’s LINE to go big on blockchain with crypto ventures

October 02, 2018 16:01
LINE Corp., the Tokyo-based messaging giant, has unveiled its first cryptocurrency token, LINK, and its blockchain network, LINK Chain, with the aim of creating a strong token economy. Photo: Reuters

LINE, a Japan-based mobile messaging app owned by South Korean internet giant Naver, aims to create a blockchain ecosystem for its service offerings.

Its blockchain efforts have included the establishment of "LINE Blockchain Lab," a blockchain research organization within LINE, and “unblock”, a subsidiary of LINE Corp. focused on designing the token economy.

The social media platform has launched its cryptocurrency exchange BITBOX as one of its financial businesses, supporting the trading of at least 30 cryptocurrencies. It has also added a new crypto token fund, "unblock ventures", which will initially be US$10 million.

This August, LINE launched its first cryptocurrency “LINK”, with its blockchain network LINK Chain. As a reward system, LINE gives users LINK tokens as compensation for using certain services within the LINE ecosystem.

In a recent interview with EJ Insight, Edward Lee, director at LINE Tech Plus and Project Manager for BITBOX, and Sabrina Tachdjian, head of investments at unblock, shared their thoughts on LINE’s vision of creating a blockchain-based ecosystem.

“‘Unblock ventures’ is a corporate ventures fund that focuses on early-stage blockchain-related startups and that invests via token purchase,” said Tachdjian.

She said the fact that LINE is a technology company with years of experience and know-how as a global mobile platform and about 200 million monthly active users can be quite attractive to blockchain startups, “especially since many blockchain projects have promising technologies and business models but struggle with building a broad user base”.

Tachdjian said the token fund will be investing in projects that “either provide significant technological advances or solve a tangible business problem, while implementing a token economy that makes sense”.

She said the fund will invest globally. “We are interested in investing in blockchain startups all over the world."

“Several investment opportunities are currently in the final stages of execution,” Tachdjian revealed.

At a LINE conference held this June, the company announced that it will be moving forward its vision of “LINE Token Economy”.

The company is using self-developed blockchain technologies to reward users with its own “currency” for reviewing its services, allowing the services to grow and expand. The amount earned will depend on the type of action taken or the degree of contribution made to each service, the company said.

As part of the move, LINE will start offering its own digital token, LINK, which can then be used as payments or rewards within the LINE’s decentralised app (dApp) services, and for service categories like content, commerce, social, gaming, exchange, and others, within the LINE ecosystem.

“LINE aims to provide a connected economy and a digital token that is easy and natural for everyone to use,” said Lee.

He said the company wants to provide blockchain services to both individual and business users. “Individual users can benefit from the consumer offerings of BITBOX and LINK, allowing them to safely manage, trade, and also grow their digital assets,” said Lee. “LINK Chain will provide a strong platform for businesses to launch their dApps to serve the growing LINE user base.”

Despite the slump in the cryptocurrency market since the beginning of this year, Lee believes that blockchain and cryptocurrency technology is moving in the right direction for mass market usage. “With more experienced players investing into this space and the establishment of more collaborations, we believe the development of this technology will only accelerate, and hasten its readiness for mainstream adoption,” he said.

Asked about the outlook on the cryptocurrency market, Lee said that cryptocurrency is still in its early stages. “We expect it to go through the same ups and downs as other industries before stabilizing,” he said.

The longer-term situation will be clearer “once more token projects launch their working products, but we believe Japan and South Korea will play an important role,” Lee said.

“In the longer run, consumers need to see solid products being launched, driving the utility of these cryptocurrencies,” he added. 

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LINE Corp. CEO Takeshi Idezawa announces the company's blockchain-based "LINE Token Economy" concept at the LINE Conference 2018 in June. Photo: LINE
With the LINK token and its blockchain network LINK Chain, LINE Corp. is building a co-creative relationship between users and service providers. Photo: LINE
LINE Corp.'s BITBOX, a cryptocurrency exchange based in Singapore, allows trading in approximately 30 digital tokens. Photo: LINE

EJ Insight writer