Singapore, SINGAPORE – Da Hongfei is the founder of NEO, a blockchain platform for distributed apps. He is also the founder and CEO of Onchain, a blockchain development company for enterprise and institutions. Both projects are headquartered in China and were the first blockchain development projects based in China.
Hongfei has earned his status as blockchain and cryptocurrency pioneer in Asia. He is now one of the most respected experts in crypto, especially when it comes to Chinese user adoption, enterprise applications, and government regulation.
In this spotlight, we’ll take a look at Hongfei’s career in crypto and dive deeper to understand his role in the greater cryptocurrency landscape.
Da Hongfei and the Blockchain World
Da Hongfei’s cryptocurrency story kicks off in 2014 with the founding of Antshares (now known as NEO) and Onchain.
The Founding of NEO (Antshares)
Antshares began in February 2014. It was designed to be a platform for building decentralized apps. The first of its kind in China, Antshares paved the way for future Chinese blockchain projects.
NEO’s technology allows for smart contracts (like Ethereum). However, NEO runs a virtual machine that allows developers to code these contracts in C#, Java, Python, or other popular coding languages. You no longer need to know a new language to code smart contracts.
In April 2016, the team released a whitepaper on a new type of consensus protocol (dBFT – delegated Byzantine Fault Tolerance), the first from China. This is the protocol that NEO nodes use to reach consensus and finalize transactions. dBFT allows NEO to maintain a transaction speed of 1,000 TPS, with optimization this can go up to a much higher level. Compare that to Ethereum’s 15 transactions per second, and you get a sense that NEO is built for large-scale, high-frequency use.
The Founding of Onchain
Hongfei and Antshares CTO Erik Zhang also founded Onchain around the same time. This company approaches enterprise blockchain use from the other direction. They provide consulting and development services to the many private companies interested in blockchain.
Onchain started seeing some high-speed velocity in 2016, further developing Antshares and becoming the first Chinese blockchain company to join Hyperledger, which has helped to further develop Onchain’s product called DNA. DNA, or Distributed Networks Architecture, enables the integration of business systems and the support of cross-chain interoperability.
DNA’s design allows blockchain to be applied to a variety of uses cases while collaborating with government regulations, deciding on a consensus protocol, being unable to connect with other blockchain applications, or even finding developers to build out your own blockchain or applications.
In June 2016, Onchain partnered with Microsoft China. Onchain also partnered with FaDaDa to found Legal Chain to address several inadequacies of legal digital applications. Onchain was also voted KPMG’s top 50 Fintech Companies in China, and announced a partnership with Alibaba for a email evidence repository for enterprises powered by blockchain.
Essentially, DNA is a platform that allows other existing platforms to utilize blockchain technology without having to reinvent the wheel. OnChain’s DNA aims to facilitate mainstream adoption and cross-chain communication.
Synergy Between NEO and Onchain: Da Hongfei’s Master Plan
For context, the relationship between NEO and Onchain is that of Ethereum and Enterprise Ethereum. Onchain works on blockchain projects with large enterprises and has collaborated with the Chinese government in the past, which ultimately helps the NEO ecosystem. The NEO ecosystem develops the platforms for future blockchain growth in China. In the future, as well see later in this article, NEO will bridge the gap between private institutional blockchains and public ones, creating a unified blockchain economy.
To find out more about Onchain and NEO, I recommend our guide on NEO.
Consulting the Chinese Government
One of the most notable and often understated roles Hongfei has played has been establishing a constructive line of communication with Chinese government officials.
China cracked down on cryptocurrencies in the wake of ICO-mania, where dubious ICO projects were flying out of the woodwork at the expense of naive investors. As one of the world’s leaders in tech innovation and home to a huge population of entrepreneurs and developers, closing the curtains on crypto would have been an extremely unfortunate missed opportunity.
Hongfei played an instrumental role in working with the Chinese government before and after the ban to create a healthy atmosphere for blockchain innovation in China without the scammy projects.
Hongfei’s Reaction to the Chinese ICO Bubble
Hongfei compared the ICO situation to that of the early 2000s dot-com bubble, “When you started a business that ended in ‘dot com’, you could easily attract capital. The same is what you see with the ICO buzz.” He went on to say that new technologies will always generate bubbles, because investors get excited more quickly than the technology can develop to keep up. However, after bubbles, the technology always catches up and the market recovers.
Although the cryptocurrency situation in China is far more complicated than just a few pesky scammy ICOs, it’s worth noting Hongfei’s influence. As the founder of Onchain and NEO, a smart contracts ecosystem that supports the development of dapps, Hongfei was able to take ownership of the cleaning of the space.
The battle for crypto in China is far from over, but by having more positive figures in the space like Hongfei, the conversation can continue towards innovation rather than destruction.
China recently published their 13th Five-Year Plan, which touched on the prioritization of blockchain development in the next five years.
In 2017, China’s Central Bank also published a similar plan on Fintech development with the goal of “Strengthen foundation, Increase safety, Promote innovation, Develop standardisation and Improve regulation”
Additionally, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of the People’s Republic of China published “The National Blockchain Standard”, which Onchain was one of the first to pass this new standard.
Hongfei has big plans for the future of Onchain and NEO. 2016 and 2017 generated the biggest buzz for NEO yet, and the momentum continues for both endeavors. Hongfei is optimistic for Onchain’s future as well:
“Our vision is to make Onchain a truly universal Blockchain framework. Utilizing different plug-in modules, our framework could be applied for a public chain, a consortium chain or even a private chain. Our cross-chain adaptor module, currently under development, creates interoperability among these different chains.”
NeoX + Onchain
The master plan ultimately involves synergy between NEO and Onchain. While it won’t come in the near term, expect NEO and Onchain’s services to link within the coming years. NEO already has plans for NeoX, their platform for cross-blockchain transactions. If successful, NeoX could link private blockchains to the larger public market. A blockchain crossing tool like that could be as useful as APIs are in web development, allowing for some private code to be interoperable with a public ecosystem. This would enable the interoperability between blockchains whether public or private.
Once connected, NEO and Onchain will hold a complete ecosystem of technology. They could intermediate a whole new blockchain-driven economy. This is Da Hongfei’s master plan. It’s brilliant, and so far he’s executing well.
Da Hongfei is one of the premier luminaries in crypto right now. His connections within the Chinese government, status as a pioneer in the Chinese crypto-sphere, and position at the helm of two major Chinese blockchain companies mean that he will be a key player in the development of cryptocurrency.