Singapore, a city-state known for its government efficiency, scored the highest in all three categories it controlled: digital infrastructure (12%), ease of doing businesses (10%) and regulatory structure (35%). These are both included in the enablers section. This was enough for Singapore to secure second place, despite middling scores in the categories of opportunities, crypto jobs and companies, and quality of life (due to high living costs).

To learn more about the criteria we used and how they were weighted, please visit: Our Methodology for Ranking CoinDesk’s Crypto Hubs in 2023.

(Ian Suarez/CoinDesk)

The Wild West reputation of the crypto industry is well-deserved, but crypto founders are more likely to look for predictability and clarity in regulations when choosing a jurisdiction to incorporate. Singapore is a well-governed, efficient city-state that hosts some of the largest brands in the crypto industry, including Binance and .com. After the failure of the homegrown darlings Terraform Labs, and Three Arrows Capital sent the ecosystem into Crypto Winter Singapore’s cryptocurrency community is now licking their wounds – but also looking to the future.

Singapore has maintained its strong reputation. It received the highest number of mentions in a CoinDesk survey that was sent to a group of crypto professionals from around the world this spring. The Red Dot is a crypto hub with all the right ingredients. It has the highest ranking for digital infrastructure in the world (as measured using the Tufts/Fletcher Digital Evolution Index), and the second-highest ranking on the World Bank’s Easy of Doing Business Index.

According to the Global Financial Centres Index it is the most competitive hub for fintech in the Asia Pacific Region, beating out Hong Kong. It also has the best regulatory environment when it comes to crypto. The Monetary Authority of Singapore passed the Payment Services License Act in 2020. The Payment Services License Act was passed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) in 2020.

Prakash Somosundram is the founder of Enjinstarter – a blockchain-based platform that provides early crypto project funding. He described himself as having “first row seats” in Singapore’s crypto scene. In the early days of crypto, regulatory perspectives were very positive. Somosundram explained that this is where many crypto influencers have moved their capital. It is a great place to move for crypto-rich people, because there’s no capital gains tax.

Singapore has benefited from a highly-educated workforce, as well as institutional fintech expertise. Singaporean startups like TenX, a cryptocurrency payment platform that raised $43,000,000 in seven minutes only in 2017, were among the first initial coins offerings. Singapore surpassed the U.S. in ICO funding that year with $1.5B versus $1.2B, a staggering amount for a location with roughly two-thirds the population of New York City and a landmass the size of New York City.

Singapore, until the current Crypto Winter was a magnet of a stereotypically brash strain in crypto celebrity culture and life. This world was centered around the wealthy enclave on Sentosa Island. Somosundram refers to it as “Crypto Island” because Sentosa Island is the only area in Singapore where foreigners are allowed to own property. Wealthy expats have moved in. Sentosa has been home to Chengpeng Zhao, the founder and CEO Binance and U.S. crypto investor Balaji Srinivasan. Somosundram said that back then, crypto conferences, meetups and events took place in villas or yachts.

CZ and Balaji did move on sooner or later. Zhuling chen, founder and CEO at staking startup RockX (his second crypto startup), said his view of local crypto community was different than a luxury island of conspicuous billionaires. He describes a community that is racially diverse and has diversified their cryptocurrency ecosystem. He said that Singapore had one of the earliest Ethereum Communities, in addition to the ICOs. When you attend NEAR meetups or Solana you will see different people. There is a large fan base” for many different token projects.

Singapore’s residents are from all over the world. About 30% of its population is non-citizens or expats. Chen stated that Singapore’s long history as a fintech center attracted talent all over Asia-Pacific. Chen stated that “we find it fairly attractive to find talented people here.” In fact, Chen’s 40 employees are from eight different countries.

“We don’t want to appear as crypto bros,” said Lee who sits on the Women in Blockchain Committee of the Blockchain Association of Singapore. “I don’t think this is the mindset Singapore wants to build. We want to become a fintech center that fosters a collaborative and innovative environment where people can grow and collaborate.

Singapore is resetting itself and both the MAS as well as crypto investors are a bit more cautious than they were before. Temasek Holdings – a government-owned conglomerate that also acts as a venture capital firm – reportedly wrote down $200 million of losses to Sam Bankman Fried’s now defunct FTX. While Chen said Singapore is maintaining its commitment in terms of promoting blockchain, he acknowledges that there is tightening on the banking side, with more attention paid to know-your-customer and anti-money-laundering measures. Somosundram said that the cautious attitude may cause crypto-affluents to move to Dubai or Hong Kong where pro-crypto regulations have attracted companies and VC funds.

He has said that he will be moving the tokens of Enjinstarter from Dubai to an offshore entity and has already applied for the first phase license in Dubai. Somosundram stated, “We’re losing our lunch to Hong Kong & Dubai.” Chen and Lee both say that Singapore has not lost ground to Dubai or Hong Kong, despite the fact that momentum is moving towards them.

Lee explained that because Singapore is so comfortable, it was not easy to move a business to Hong Kong. “You’d rather stay here and open a small office elsewhere.”

Singapore, the top financial center in the world, is far better positioned to regulate crypto than New York City. Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss announced earlier this month that the number of employees at its Singapore office would be increased to 100. This is compared to the reported global headcount of 500 employees.

In a blog posting, Gemini said that “Our Singapore office would serve as a central hub for our APAC operations.” “We think that APAC is going to be the driving force behind the next wave of crypto growth and Gemini.”

David Z. Morris is the editor.