– an interview with the Co-founder and CEO of Coinstreet Partners, Samson Lee
Thank you for joining, Sam. Could you please start by telling us a bit of the history behind the TADS Awards? Who got the idea, and why did you make it into what it is today?
Sam Lee (SL): Well, first of all, thank you so much for having me here. So yes, we started what we call the TADS Awards, T-A-D-S, which stands for tokenized assets and digitized securities. And, we purposely try to avoid the word STO awards because STO, too many people, is very focused on fundraising. But, this award is not an award to those who raise the most money. It is an award for new asset classes, tokenized assets, or digitized securities. And, the reason we use two terms is that we think they are pretty different actually. Not all kinds of tokenized assets are securities. However, digital securities are, of course, more straightforward. This is now actually proven by the recent momentum of NFT.
When you think about NFTs, a lot of them can arguably say they are not securities. They are representing some kind of assets being tokenized.
Yes, but probably not all of them…
SL: Not all of them. Yeah. We can talk more about that; it is a whole topic, it’s very interesting. But yeah, so that’s the background. We started in Hong Kong, but we have worked together with many partners around the world. So, this is an international award. If you look at our winners from last year, I think maybe only one company came from Hong Kong, and then all the nine other winners came from different parts of the world.
What do you want to achieve with the TADS Awards?
SL: We have three main goals. First, of course, we want to recognize people who are taking a risk by being first movers. We want to thank them for their contribution.
Secondly, we want to bring together the whole industry from different countries, different solution providers along the value chain, different types of asset issuers, and continuously build a community on a global basis. The third objective is to work with other industry leaders to try to measure high-quality digital assets and digitized securities, for example, and the best practice of the industry. So, that’s the three goals that we want to achieve.
What has the reception been so far from the industry?
SL: Yeah. Well, so far, we are very grateful to have very positive feedback. We have gotten support from many major international corporations, such as IBM, Microsoft, Morning Star, Crypto Valley, the Hong Kong cyber ports, and many traditional investment banks and financial industry players. So, we are very fortunate and thankful.
Very soon, a new version of the TADS Awards is coming up. Could you tell us a bit about what to expect this year?
SL: Sure. Once again, we’re very thankful for the support from the communities and all the partners. Due to COVID-19, we can still not host a huge physical ceremony as we’d like to. But we will have a virtual ceremony in early November as a side event of the Hong Kong FinTech Week.
Last year we had a little over 50 nominations, and this year, we have close to seventy. Considering the early stage of our industry, we think this is a very good result. Among them are a lot of really high-quality projects from different countries. And the momentum is a lot stronger this year.
Could you please tell us about the different TADS Awards categories?
SL: Sure. We divide all the awards into two big categories. One is the Best of Class TADS Awards category, and the other is the Ecosystem Excellence Awards category. The Best of Class TADS Awards are going to different types of tokenized assets and digitized securities. These awards are for the issuers. On the other hand, the Ecosystem Excellency Awards are going to the service and solution providers along the value chain. So, under each big category, we have some sub-awards. For example, under the Best of Class TADS, we have five sub-awards. One is for the equity-backed tokens. One is for digitized, tokenized debt and tokenized loans. The third one is the ESG SDG tokens. And then, the fourth one is asset-backed and feedback tokens. And this year, we added a new sub-award for the NFT tokens.
Yeah. I was going to ask you about that…
SL: We’re primarily focusing on those that we call the Investment Grade NFTs. On the other hand, on the Ecosystem Excellency, the five sub-categories are the KYC compliance solutions, securitization, and tokenization solutions, custodian and digital asset management solutions, and brokerage and liquidity solutions. Also, this year, we have a new sub-category for the NFT platforms.
That’s interesting. Everybody is talking about the future of NFT. What do you expect to happen in the near future?
SL: I think NFT is really exciting. On the one hand, we have utility tokens and cryptocurrencies. And on the other hand, security tokens and tokenized assets. Digitized securities are what this award is mainly covering. But, if you think about it, NFT is positioned in the middle. Because some of the NFTs are more tied into digital arts. Other types of NFTs are almost like asset-backed tokens. If you look around the market, there are NFTs of cars, paintings, and collateral. But I guess the dividing line is whether there is a one-to-one relationship or if it goes further to the fractionalization idea.
Yes, that’s where it becomes a little bit tricky from a regulatory perspective. Right?
SL: Yeah. I would say fractionalization it’s definitely much closer to the securitization concept.
SL: If the underlying asset is an investment product. So, it’s more close to the security features. But, if it’s a one-to-one relationship, one token to one painting, you can arguably say it is not a security, but it’s still a tokenized asset.
It’s going to be interesting to see what will happen, not least from a regulatory perspective. I know that there’s quite a lot of law firms working on these things right now around the world. So, we’ll see what happens. If I want to be part of the TADS Awards, maybe not win an award myself, but just be part of it and follow it, what should I do?
SL: Right. The TADS Awards is an ongoing initiative. So please feel free to join our community on Linkedin. I’m not sure if we have launched the Facebook page yet, but mainly now we are using Linkedin, and we will grow our other social media channels. We already have a channel on YouTube. So if you want to watch any of the archived ceremonies from last year or our expert panels, they are available. This year, we have hosted seven expert panels, with over 40 guests talking about different topics, covering various markets. So, all of those are on YouTube now. And, of course, we have a ceremony coming up on November 5th that we will broadcast globally. Feel free to sign up on our website. Also, sign up for our newsletter to stay in touch.
Sure, absolutely. Did we forget anything, Sam? Anything you want to add?
SL: Let me think. Oh, maybe I forgot to talk about the Rising Star Award. I mentioned the ten awards before, five for each category. So, for those awards, we have pretty stringent judging criteria. The requirements are pretty high, and some of the feedback from our partners was that we should not forget those in the making, those people who are working hard and trying to make it – and we totally agree.
So, that’s why this year, we specifically added Rising Star awards for both main categories. So, now we have multiple Rising Star awards too. So, these are to give new companies some recognition and motivation to keep on doing well. And hopefully, next year, they can go for the official awards.