Hi everyone! I’m Sara, a 20-year-old college student at Yonsei University in Korea and
an intern at VREX LAB, a startup focusing on VR/AR. Last December I caught one of my
'sunbaes' (a Korean word used to refer to upperclassmen) staring into a screen filled
with colorful cats during one of our lectures. And then he told me he was actually making
money by breeding these cats(CryptoKitties) and all I could think was HOW?!
That set me off to the journey of exploring the crypto world.
The more I learned, the more I was hooked, and eventually ended up working at VREX,
which now developing a dapp.
Fast forward a few months, I learned that college students in Korea can nowadays use
digital currencies based on a blockchain network called 'ICON' to purchase goods at
vending machines on campus. It turns out, ICON is one of most successful projects to
come out in 2017, having raised over $20MM within just 6 hours after starting its pre-sale.
Since ICON’s mainnet launch in late January, a number of banks and other corporations
have already started incorporating this new system. And for this post, I want to share
my chat with Henry Hyunil Lee, the head of global business development at ICON.
Q. Could you introduce yourself and tell me how did you ended up involved in ICON?
I started my career as an air force officer. Although I liked a lot of things there
I wanted to pursue a career in finance and joined Deutche Bank’s M&A division
as an investment banker. But eventually I wanted to do something that had
more growth potential as an industry and joined a Fintech group where
I met the co-founder of ICON, Min Kim.
I remember how he used to send me all these blogposts and videos about Blockchain,
and eventually I got to see the whole potential of blockchain.
That how I started working at the Loop, the company behind ICON.
Regarding ICON, I head the global strategy, IR and partnerships.
ICON itself is a smart contract platform with interoperability, and is
applying blockchain to the real world in areas such as insurance, banking, higher
education, and health care.
Q. What is the U-Coin?
One of the first consortiums we introduced the blockchain to was
a university consortium consisting of three universities – Sogang University,
Korea University and Pohang University of Science and Technology.
The 'U-coin' is the first product we offered to this consortium.
The U-coin is essentially a Korean fiat pegged cryptocurrency and the network is
a permission based private blockchain, closed by nature. They allow students to use this
U-coin to buy things on vending machines in and around campus.
Such smart vending machines enable students to top up their cryptocurrency balance
and take care of transactions, transfers, and other key functions.
In the future, we envision having students use their own organic digital assets or
cryptocurrency to pay for tuition, receive scholarships, upload academic credentials
on the blockchain and to use that information on other universities outside of Korea,
creating a blockchain based infrastructure around the world.
Q. You had a successful ICO in 2017. What do you want to achieve in 2018?
The two main goals are improving technology and strengthening our ecosystem.
There are many things we plan to develop in 2018 but it would be mainly the year to
solidify our network. That infrastructure would not be 100% mature
by the end of the year but 2018 should be dedicated to improving
the foundation of this network that would become the basic
for all future applications.
It is important for projects like ICON to try and build the community or ecosystem that
can support our development in a long term. As such, we recently actually launched
a blockchain incubator providing support for 300 startups, projects or individuals and
helping them try to build this ecosystem.
Q. Do you any words of advice or encouragement for students interested in blockchain?
I personally think that the students in high schools and universities are the ones to
bring out the true potential of these blockchain technologies. Our level of innovation is
limited to the level of experience we have up to this point. It is important
to be educating the younger generation who is learning about the blockchain
to pursue and experiment in the blockchain space.
For Korean students in particular, blockchain is perhaps the first technology that could
allow Korean companies and projects to have global dominance. I think, with so much
interest in cryptocurrency and blockchain shown by everyday Koreans and with Korea
being such an advanced IT nation, there are a lot of good factors that could add up to
make Korea the number one country when it comes to blockchain.
Seeing many universities talk to blockchain companies it is amazing how these
students all around the world can be excited about certain things and are willing to hear
about these new and different ideas. It is a sign that these people will be able to
maximize the potential of this industry.
I was very impressed by Henry’s optimism about future technology and his belief in the
power of students like myself to change the status quo. In fact there is already a club at
Yonsei, the Yonsei Blockchain Lab, that holds seminars and meetups on blockchain.
I sincerely hope that students at many universities across Korea can hop on the train
and learn more about blockchain.
*If you want to learn more about the VR/AR blockchain project I’m working on, please visit our website.