The world’s largest producer of bitcoin mining hardware, Bitmain, tells swissinfo.ch why it has chosen Switzerland as a location from which to expand its European footprint from a newly created ‘fintech hub’.
Beijing headquartered Bitmain has cornered the market in producing specialist computer cards and other equipment to create - or ‘mine’ - bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The incorporation of Bitmain Switzerland in Zug’s Crypto Valley last December therefore created a stir.
As the company seeks to expand globally, Switzerland’s central location, crypto-friendly political and regulatory sentiment and growing blockchain business cluster is the perfect springboard from which to develop the European market, explains Bernhard Müller, business development manager at Bitmain Switzerland.
“We will help entrepreneurs get access to investments, so they can realise their blockchain projects,” he told swissinfo.ch. “We want to support and help grow the strong fintech ecosystem in Switzerland. We want the best talent to stay here in Switzerland and not have to go to Silicon Valley to succeed.”
To accomplish this, Bitmain is currently recruiting for its recently opened office that is housed within the rapidly expanding Trust Square blockchain hub in Zurich. Bitmain Switzerland plans to staff this office with around 10 employees by the end of next year.
It will initially concentrate on enlisting local and European blockchain companies, which have conducted initial coin offering (ICO) crowdfunds, to list their tokens on Bitmain’s recently launched decentralised DEx.top exchange.
Bitmain Switzerland has teamed up with a Federal Institute of Technology (ETHZ) spin-off company to help audit the code of ICO projects that want to list on the exchange. “If Switzerland wants to realize its goal of becoming a Crypto Nation then it needs a professional crypto exchange,” said Müller. “Europe has a higher quality of ICOs than anywhere else.”Müller welcomes the imminent arrival of a new ICO token trading platform from the Swiss stock exchange operator, SIX Group, next year. He refers to it as ‘coopetition’, representing both business competition and potential side benefits for DEx.top.
A number of exchanges have sprung up around the world that trade crytptocurrencies and/or list the digital tokens created by blockchain start-ups in an initial coin offering (ICO). These are divided into centralised and decentralised operations.
Decentralised exchanges, such as DEx.top, operate with blockchain technology that allows traders to keep control of their assets at all times.
Proponents of decentralised exchanges, which also include Bancor, EtherDelta and Kyber Network, say this process costs less and better protects traders from security breaches. By not taking custody of client assets, these exchanges also require less regulatory oversight.
Fans of centralised exchanges say clients are better protected from fraud by the same regulatory oversight and that the system conducts trades faster.
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“The entry of such an established and respected exchange in this sector gives credibility to the whole industry,” he said. A healthy market for trading digital tokens, driven by strong platforms, will act as magnet for the very companies that issue such tokens, Müller believes.
Bitmain’s rise to a position of dominance in the production of cryptocurrency mining equipment has not always been greeted with enthusiasm. Critics are wary of the potential influence such an industry giant could have on the cryptocurrency sector, which is designed to escape the control of both monopolistic companies and government institutions.
But Müller insists Bitmain has received a warm welcome in Switzerland, particularly from the canton Zug and federal authorities. Another collaboration with the University of Zurich will explore a variety of blockchain research topics that Bitmain believes will benefit the Swiss blockchain ecosystem.
“Bitmain takes its position of dominance in the manufacturing of mining equipment responsibly,” said Bitmain spokesman Nishant Sharma by email. The company says it does not favour powerful mining operators when selling its equipment and records relevant shipments transparently for all to see.
Sharma added that Bitmain’s own bitcoin mining operations are far from monopolistic, taking a 4% market share globally. Bitmain, which employs 2,500 staff in China, the United States, Israel, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Netherlands and Switzerland, declined to comment on the its reported initial public offering or how this would impact its Swiss operations.
Bitmain was established in Beijing in 2013, manufacturing specialized computer cards and hardware under the Antminer brand specifically for the mining of cryptocurrencies. It has achieved a dominant status in this field.
The company also actively mines bitcoin, running a collective pool of diverse miners that join forces to boost their mining power.
Bitmain recently said it is diversifying into artificial intelligence, basing these operations in Israel.
In addition, Bitmain runs the decentralised crypto exchange DEx.top that lists and trades crypto tokens.
The company does not give out information on its financial performance, but it has been in the news recently about leaked plans to potentially raise billions in a Hong Kong public listing.end of infobox