Carl Brenton, Head of Fund Services for Intertrust Cayman, recently sat down with Rachelle Peterson and Charlie Kirkconnell, the Global Business Development Manager and CEO respectively, of Cayman Enterprise City, to talk about the large influx in blockchain related companies they are seeing entering Cayman's Special Economic Zone.
Carl Brenton: Thanks to both of you for taking the time to talk about Cayman Enterprise City's Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and how you are facilitating the influx of blockchain focused companies looking to set up a presence in Cayman. For those that aren't familiar with Cayman Enterprise City and its SEZ can you please give us a quick description of the goals of the zone and how you help companies set up quickly and efficiently in the Cayman Islands?
Charlie Kirkconnell: Cayman Enterprise City's goal is for each of its individual projects (each a 'City') to become globally significant hubs of economic activity. There are currently three different development projects within the SEZ, being Cayman Tech City, Cayman Commodities & Derivatives City and Cayman Maritime & Aviation City. The relevant City for blockchain focused companies is of course Cayman Tech City.
Rachelle Peterson: Cayman Tech City provides a time-efficient and cost-effective regime for all aspects of setting up a physical presence for a company once it has been incorporated by a local corporate services provider such as Intertrust. Our bespoke service provides companies with access to a streamlined business licensing process, inclusive of licences that allow companies to operate from within the SEZ (called Zone Trade Certificates), employee work visas (called Zone Employment Certificates), and physical office space.
Brenton: Charlie, we met about a month ago and you mentioned the volume of blockchain focused companies you had seen come in to the SEZ over the past two months. Has the flow continued since then and can you provide some figures?
Kirkconnell: The recent wave of blockchain focused companies setting up in Cayman Tech City began in July 2017 and has turned into a steady stream of new business for us. We expect that there will be 50 such companies operating from within Cayman Tech City by the end of January 2018, if not sooner.
Peterson: That will put the total number of companies in the SEZ at around 250, so the influx of blockchain focused companies will represent roughly 25% growth for the SEZ over the past seven months.
Brenton: For context, how does this recent influx compare to any other time in the SEZ's history?
Kirkconnell: This is definitely the busiest period for the SEZ since our launch in February 2012. And the pace only seems to be picking up as word spreads within the global tech community that Cayman Tech City is the perfect place from which to launch a new blockchain focused company.
Peterson: We have become very efficient at assisting companies with the business licencing and business set-up processes, which is a result of our experience over the past six years.
Brenton: Why do you think so many blockchain companies are seeking out Cayman for domiciliation right now?
Kirkconnell: We understand that onshore counsel to these companies are advising them to locate their IP offshore as early as possible and, if possible, to do this at the very beginning of the development process. We understand this facilitates the cost-effective global licensing of a company's IP and, because Cayman has no capital gains tax, can facilitate a more profitable exit. We have also developed a reputation with our clients and their tax advisors, onshore counsel and Cayman counsel as offering an 'easy to use' solution for establishing a physical presence offshore; we have proven that we can work seamlessly with the various parties to set up a staffed, fully functioning Cayman office in as little as four weeks.
Brenton: Tell us a bit about the clients that are the right fit for Cayman Tech City.
Peterson: Companies that are doing business globally (or that are seeking to go global) that are focused on the development of all forms of information and communications technology and software products, the development/publication of electronic media and integrated media and/or the development of biotechnology, biomedical devices, pharmaceuticals and environmental technology are perfect for Cayman Tech City. Having said that, we encourage anyone who might be interested in setting up a company in Cayman to contact us even if they are not sure they are a perfect fit; we often find that opportunities arise even out of conversations that initially may not look promising.
Brenton: Can you give us an idea of the types of applications you see clients working on and how you see this impacting different industries globally?
Kirkconnell: We have licensed companies involved in a very broad range of blockchain related activities. Some business activity examples include the development of an open and permission-less protocol designed to enable the decentralized exchange of digital assets on the Ethereum (designed for use by the blockchain developer and user community), the development of a platform that rewards users with cryptocurrency-redeemable 'blocks' for viewing advertisements, as well as for trying new games, products, tasks and apps, and the development of technology designed to autonomously stabilise the value of digital assets relative to other digital assets. We have also recently licensed a company that publishes qualitative and quantitative real-time data on the facts that affect the value of new token offerings and existing crypto assets.
We are confident that at least some of these companies will become significant players in the on-going integration of blockchain technology into routine business and e-government functions globally.
Brenton: Any comments or thoughts on the blockchain industry and where you see it going?
Peterson: We are really seeing it mature quickly. We initially saw some companies come a little unprepared when making inquiries, but now we are seeing very senior and experienced people contacting us and they have already talked with counsel and understand the process well.
Kirkconnell: The qualifications and experience of our blockchain focused clients are very impressive, which has convinced me that there is much more to the 'blockchain revolution' than I at first suspected. Many of our clients liken the potential for blockchain technology to impact people's lives to the potential they saw for the Internet to do the same 25 years or so ago. While we are definitely in the gold rush phase now, from my perspective we are seeing a lot of new and exciting ideas that are backed by sound underlying technology that will likely change how a many industries function in the future.
Brenton: Intertrust and Cayman Enterprise City share some mutual clients. How many other business partners do you work with on island?
Peterson: We work with over 100 vendors on island. Not only do we work with local corporate service providers such as Intertrust, we also work with law firms, realtors, banks and schools. We even assist clients with items not strictly related to setting up and operating a business in Cayman, such as sorting out how to bring their pets to the island and who offers the best scuba diving tours. This 'concierge' service was not part of our initial plan but we quickly found out that it was critical for us to assist our clients with all aspects of their and their employees' relocation to Cayman.
Brenton: At the current pace where do you see the zone in five years and 10 years from now in terms of clients and types of businesses that you are servicing?
Kirkconnell: In five years we conservatively estimate that there will be over 500 businesses in the SEZ, with roughly 60% of those operating from within Cayman Tech City. We will be breaking ground on our new purpose built 53-acre campus in early 2018 and will complete the first three buildings in phase one of our five planned commercial phases within five years. We see our campus development as key to facilitating the creation of business activity hubs that enable like-minded individuals to easily socialize and collaborate.
Peterson: We coordinate frequent social events to get the different Zone businesses introduced to one another as well as introducing them to the local community. We see a lot of opportunity for businesses to benefit from these meet ups and potentially doing business with one another.
Kirkconnell: In 10 years we project to be finishing phase two, which will include more tenant buildings as well as the residential and hospitality sections of our master plan. We will have achieved the main objective of the SEZ, which again is for each of Cayman Tech City, Cayman Commodities & Derivatives City and Cayman Maritime & Aviation City to be first of mind for global organizations that are seeking to set up an offshore physical presence.
Brenton: What does Cayman need to do to continue to attract and retain the high quality businesses you are seeing coming into the zone? What do you see your clients or prospective clients asking for?
Kirkconnell: Cayman should continue doing what it has been doing so successfully for a very long time – being a high quality, reputable jurisdiction that is business friendly and that evolves with the ever-changing global economy. Locally, we would like to see more technology-focused training opportunities being made available for young Caymanians. The companies setting up in the SEZ need, and will continue to need, access to readily available qualified talent to meet their staffing requirements.
In recognition of this, we are proud to announce here that we will be putting our money where our mouth is by establishing a coding academy in Cayman in early 2018. We would be delighted to speak with any company considering Cayman which has concerns about being able to source the technical talent it will need, and how our coding academy might be able to assist.
Brenton: Cryptocurrency and blockchain technology continue to dominate headlines globally with no indication of interest waning. Certainly, here at Intertrust, we have seen a number of recent RFP's in the space ranging from cryptocurrency funds to blockchain technology companies raising funds via ICO's and seeking services ranging from company formation and registered office, company secretarial, fund administration and accounting and trustee services.
Thank you both for your time and congratulations on all the progress of the Cayman Tech City so far, Intertrust looks forward to your continued success and benefit for our mutual clients.
We continue to monitor blockchain and cryptocurrency news and developments during this exciting period of growth and look forward to ongoing discussions with clients and business partners engaging with this new asset class.
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