Ava Labs, the blockchain developer behind Avalanche, has announced the appointment of two new heads of business in Asia, Justin Kim and Roi Hirata. The New York-based firm is seeking to expand its presence in Asia as the regulatory environment in the US becomes increasingly uncertain.
Kim, a former investment banker at the Korea Development Bank, will lead Ava Labs’ operations in South Korea, while Hirata, a startup veteran, will be in charge of the firm’s business in Japan.
Japan is a significant market for crypto and blockchain technology, but it has a complicated regulatory environment due in part to the infamous collapse of Tokyo-based crypto exchange Mt. Gox in 2014. Nevertheless, Hirata said in an email that he believes Japan has historically been at the forefront of crypto and its regulations. Ava Labs hopes to build on existing partnerships with Alibaba Cloud and Tencent Cloud, among others, to secure new partnerships with conglomerates in South Korea.
Ava Labs’ decision to bolster its Asian leadership team follows similar moves by other digital-asset firms that are expanding their presence in the region. For example, FalconX, a digital-asset prime brokerage, announced in February that it is expanding into Singapore with several new hires, while Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange, acquired a majority stake in South Korea-based crypto exchange GOPAX earlier this year.
The move also comes amid growing regulatory pushback in the US, which has hit the crypto sector hard in recent months. Many crypto startups are struggling to find banking partners after Silvergate Capital Corp., a go-to bank for crypto, announced it would wind down operations and voluntarily liquidate last week. Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, both of which have ties to the crypto industry, have also faced difficulties. In this context, Ava Labs is turning its attention to Asia, where crypto adoption is higher and regulatory uncertainty is less pronounced.
Avalanche, the blockchain developed by Ava Labs, has already secured several major partnerships in Asia. The blockchain, which is similar to Ethereum, has caught the attention of investment giant KKR, which recently put a portion of its private equity fund in a tokenized version running on Avalanche. As the regulatory landscape in the US becomes increasingly uncertain, it seems likely that more digital-asset firms will look to Asia for new growth opportunities.
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