J Ventures, which held one of the first initial coin offerings (ICOs) in Thailand earlier this year, announced a partnership with R3 and Microsoft to support its peer-to-peer lending system. The news indicates that R3’s “DLT Not Crypto” strategy may be evolving.
The Bangkok Post reports that J Ventures signed a memorandum of understanding with R3 and Microsoft to provide technology support for its peer-to-peer lending platform. J Ventures is part of Jay Mart Plc, a Thai holding company with interests in the retail and telecom industries that is publicly listed in the country.
The firm held one of the first successful ICOs in Thailand last February to fund the project, which it describes as a “decentralized digital lending platform.” Investors in the ICO received JFin Coin, which sold for 6.60 baht (around $0.20 USD) during the token sale. It is currently trading at 3.24 baht ($.09 cents) on Thai exchange Coin Asset.
The technology stack provided by R3 and Microsoft, which likely includes R3’s enterprise blockchain platform Corda, will allow JFin Coin holders to validate transactions on the network and receive a portion of the loan fees, according to the Post. Also on October 17th, R3 inked another deal in Thailand with Accenture and Digital Ventures Co. Ltd. and the Thai conglomerate Siam Commercial Bank.
R3 and Microsoft have been working together since at least 2016, when the tech giant announced it would partner up with the banking consortium that R3 had been developing. In 2017, the two firms said they would be offering R3’s Corda as a software-as-a-service application running on Microsoft’s Azure cloud. It appears that this is the product that J Ventures is looking to use.
The involvement of R3 in a business that uses cryptocurrency appears to mark a change of strategy for the firm. In the past, R3 has described itself as an “enterprise software” company dealing in “distributed ledger technology,” also known as DLT. Even the term blockchain wasn’t used by R3 during some of its history. For example, there is a screenshot of previous marketing material from R3 that then claimed, “No ‘block chain’ because we don’t need one”:
The fact that cryptocurrencies are now regulated in Thailand could have played a role in R3 doing the deal. When the JFin Coin ICO happened in February, there was a lack of regulatory clarity as to the status of digital tokens in the Thai legal system.
This issue was eventually resolved when cryptocurrency regulations were adopted by the government in May. The new rules allow ICOs and token sales to be held as long as the seller registers with the government first.
It’s also possible that the rumored problems that R3 could be suffering from caused it to broaden its thinking regarding the DLT/crypto divide. In June, there was a report in Forbes magazine saying that the firm was experiencing financial difficulties and could be out of business by early 2019.
R3’s CEO David Rutter denied the report in a blog post, saying it resulted from “false, malicious rumors” that were spread by former employees. He also noted the firm had raised more than $120 million and earned in excess of $20 million in revenue.