• Startup lets anyone make own digital assets on the blockchain
  • ANX International platform’s built on virtual currency trading

Setting up your own blockchain-based assets and trading network may become just as simple as signing up for an e-mail account, according to a Hong Kong-based financial technology company.

Virtual-currency trading startup ANX International is opening up its know-how so that people can issue their own digital assets using blockchain, the underlying technology behind bitcoin, the digital money that has become a popular method of paying for goods and services and trading over the Internet.

Blockchain technology, essentially a verified public ledger of transactions, can be used to buy and sell any asset, from coin and loyalty points to stocks and bonds. Blockchain systems can eliminate the need for middlemen such as banks and governments, making it an attractive way to transact or create exchanges.

ANX says its new service lets anyone make a blockchain account in minutes and choose how many digital assets to create. Ken Lo, ANX’s chief executive officer, said the technology for issuing blockchain-based assets has been in development for the past three years. It has been used internally for some of ANX’s biggest clients, he said, including an e-commerce company that wanted to run a loyalty program. By doing so, companies are able to set up reward programs without complicated back-office processes and reduce the risk of fraud.

“I can tell you now the demand for people wanting to get blockchain services is very high -- that’s why we’ve decided to systematize it,” Lo said. “We’re helping the general public get access to blockchain by lowering the barriers to using the technology.”

Lo started ANX International in 2013 with co-founders Hugh Madden and Dave Chapman, and set up a bitcoin retail store in Hong Kong two years ago. The company of about 100 people hasn’t raised venture funding since its first angel investment, he said. ANX’s main source of revenue comes from helping companies make customized digital assets and blockchains.

"Businesses and organizations that want any system of loyalty will want to use blockchain technology to do that over time because it’s interoperable, global and secure, and exchangeable for other types of assets,” said Jeremy Allaire, CEO of Circle, which lets people send bitcoin to each other. "We’re a ways from that because we’re not even in a world where digital currency is accepted.” 

For example, a cafe owner could sign up for ANX’s blockchain service and issue reward points. Customers can sign up for an account and every time they buy coffee, they can scan a QR code on their phone and receive points that can be exchanged in the future for free coffee. By doing so, the proprietor can track the points and exchange them at any time, knowing that they are legitimate.

Blockchain is already being used by the Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. to issue shares and universities to give out academic certificates. Big banks are pouring money into the technology, captivating Wall Street executives because blockchain offers a way to process virtually any kind of trade or money transfer in minutes rather than days. But the technology is still nascent, with most experimentation being done by the world of finance and players with resources.

"Once you drive the price down to zero, then you’ll see a lot more uses for it," Lo said. "The biggest problem now in blockchain is education and exposure."

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