At the head of Animoca Brands, whose portfolio includes 380 companies in the Web3 ecosystem, Yat Siu is emblematic of this sector, not far behind the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto and Vitalik Buterin.
You have to see him during his visit to Gitex in Dubai fighting through the crowd that came to greet him to understand to what extent Yat Siu is today one of the most famous figures in the world. Web3. He patiently responds to all the requests, here of a young Frenchman who has come to introduce him to “the next Instagram”, there of an American entrepreneur determined to assess the merits of the future. blockchain revolutionary. Yat Siu listens to everyone attentively, then gives him the business card that represents his voxel avatar, this three-dimensional pixel, always with the same politeness: “Write to me at this address, I will remember you”, assures – each of his interlocutors his.
A simplicity away from “crypto bros”
In a sector where braggarts are often king, like Do Kwon (creator of Earth), Su Zhu (co-founder of 3 AC) or SBF, keeps it low-profile, wearing a simple zip-up sweatshirt, black T-shirt and chinos. “It’s almost a uniform,” laughs Benjamin Charbit, director of the French video game studio Darewise. “When I met Yat, I was really struck by this level of humility when Web3 is not known for this: it’s an industry full of ‘crypto brothers’: guys who have it all figured out, made a lot of money, drive their own car. Lamborghini and to explain to you that you missed the boat. Yat, by contrast, is very simple. And most of all, humble.”
His notoriety, perhaps comparable to that of the soon-to-be-fifty-year-old Vitalik Buterin (the creator of Ethereum), owes to the already substantial country of his firm, AnimocaBrands, founded in Hong Kong in 2014. Then a simple mobile video Game publisher, license holder of Garfield or Astroboy, the studio Animoca grew as soon as it joined the Australian mining group Black Fire Minerals in the same year. An astonishing operation on paper, but justified according to the founder by “common shareholders wanting to publicly exit the Black Fire in Australia”. The group quickly launched into the blockchain ecosystem and invested in start-ups, such as DapperLabs and Pixowl, the studios respectively responsible for Cryptokitties and The Sandbox, or the NFT platform OpenSea, companies whose common point was the development of the concept of NFTs .
“Animoca has invested in the middle of the crypto ice age”
“At the end of 2017, which seems like an eternity ago, we didn’t come into the industry because of Bitcoin, unlike many of our peers, but because of NFTs. We immediately thought that the concept of digital ownership would revolutionize really big,” explains Yat Siu about these winning bets today, but surprising at a time when the ecosystem was suffering most of bitcoin’s price volatility. “Some may remember that in 2018 and 2019 Bitcoin and Ethereum were worth 3,000 respectively dollars and 100 dollars. It was really hard, but in those times the best businesses were built. This ice age, OpenSea, Axie Infinity, Wax, DapperLabs, Decentraland appeared and we saw the opportunity to invest”.
A philosophy enthusiast, close to Loïc Le Meur
For the entrepreneur, Web3 embodies “a paradigm shift with the possibility of owning our data and controlling the value derived from it. In the physical world, we fight for the essence, for the land, but in the digital world, we fight for the data. ” . In his viewer, Facebook, Apple and Google are guilty “of stacking them up to make money. More than half of the revenue generated in the gaming industry goes to Facebook, Apple and Google. What part goes to itself industry “Almost zero. This is the Problem. Despite the huge value generated, GAFAMs are not reinvesting in the industry. It is the most eloquent example of extracting value.”
The speech ignores technical considerations, does not exaggerate and favors brevity. A sermon spread to the four corners of the world, that day in Dubai, the day before in Hawaii, the week after that in San Francisco and more often on the Internet, as for Pawa, the meeting of his “long meeting with friend “, Loïc Le Meur. , met “at the World Economic Forum in Davos 20 years ago”. The demands are countless, but the priesthood is assumed, a necessary evil to evangelize the greater number, beyond the single public of believers. The method works. “He is a visionary, eloquently gifted and accessible,” Sébastien Borget tells us. founder of The Sandbox, purchased by AnimocaBrands. “He has become a key spokesperson for a counterweight and another measure that resonates with the public,” continues the Frenchman, who points to “an additional context: the geographic position of Animoca Brands, based in Hong Kong, under Chinese control. “
“Meta aspires to monopoly, but thanks to Web3, it’s not possible”
However, Yat Siu was born in Austria and grew up in Vienna, under a strong European influence. This philosophy enthusiast, who learned to code on first Texas Instruments computers and then the Atari ST, evokes the “French Revolution” as “one of the sources of the libertarian system that is the blockchain.” According to him, the first seeds grew “at that moment: with a people who thought about property rights, freedom, decentralization of power”. In his eyes, blockchain is not a technical solution, but a political, economic and social system capable of providing transparency and property rights for all. “That’s why some parts of the globe have such an anti-blockchain backlash, not because of the technology, but because of its political implications,” he continues, not without pointing to an opposite Meta model. “Decentralization of ownership helps distribute value more evenly. The meta aspires to monopoly, but it is not possible: thanks to Web3, there will be thousands of metaverses. We cannot be satisfied with one New York. New York is special because it has many other cities in the world. If it was the only one, it would be boring. The Metaverse works the same way.”
A portfolio of 380 companies, a valuation of nearly $6 billion
Today, Animoca’s portfolio holds a stake in more than 380 companies in the Web3 ecosystem : video game, blockchain infrastructure, wallet, esport, nft collection, exchange platform… The Hong Kong group is everywhere, a paradoxical hegemony at first sight with the discourse of its founder. His relatives, on the contrary, evoke a benevolent strategy. “It would be problematic if there was a notion of control, but Animoca funds an ecosystem and participates in it in a minority way. Animoca still refuses to play an intrusive role in the governance of the boxes,” explains Benjamin Charbit, whose company has also bought it from the Hong Kong group.
“There’s a way to do Animoca, a real search for cultural fit. With 380 companies in their portfolio, you’d think they’d invest everywhere, but that’s not the case at all.” A shared feeling by Sebastien Borget. “The strength is in the ecosystem and Animoca does not centralize the ecosystem, but increases it tenfold. Animoca does not intervene operationally in the management of the company. They support us in the stages of fundraising or in the decisions we have to make at the level of the board of directors , but will not at any time try to consolidate resources or make economies of scale. The main stakeholder listens to the critical comments about the omnipresence of his group, without really being offended. “We have no debts, we have not used these mechanisms to finance themselves. Most people see us as venture capitalists because we make investments but we are not a fund, which means we can invest with a very long term. horizon. We don’t need to take out our capital,” he replies.
The group’s expansion, estimated at around six billion dollars, should not stop there. Yat Siu thus evokes the “3.5 billion players in the world” to conquer but also… the education sector. “Teachers are among the world’s greatest content creators and generally very poorly paid. Web3 can change that.” A vision that did not take long to take shape: early november six teachers shared $230,000 by selling NFTs linked to their content on Animoca’s platform, TinyTap.