Grab veteran Wui Ngiap Foo to lead Singapore’s game finance startup Ethlas as its chief executive
Ethlas also announces another additional US$6 million raised in extended seed funding to boost its war chest to nearly US$10 million.
Singapore, 1st April 2022 – Singapore-based game finance (game-fi) blockchain startup, Ethlas, announced today the appointment of Wui Ngiap Foo as its new Chief Executive. Wui, most recently Head of Technology (Integrity, Mobility Engineering and Grab Patent Office), joins three other co-founders – Elston Sam, Gennady ‘Ari’ Medvinsky and Henry Foo – who have all worked in Grab.
Wui, who joined Grab in 2015, spearheaded Grab’s regional Mobility Super Tech Family and was pivotal in rolling out products such as JustGrab and GrabShare for the Southeast Asia market. He was also in charge of a wide spectrum of portfolios at Grab during his tenure which included Head of Integrity, Head of Growth, as well as lead of Grab’s overall AI strategy. In the role as Head of Integrity, he grew a team of more than 400 trust and safety specialists to develop and strengthen the protection of Grab’s myriad products. Prior to joining Grab in 2015, Wui was one of the founding members at Google APAC’s Trust and Safety team.
“One of my dreams has always been to found my own company that marries my passions for technology and gaming. Building a marketplace for games that is enabled by blockchain represents the perfect intersection for everything that I am passionate about: games, marketplaces and decentralised technologies.
“I joined Grab seven years ago and was privileged to be part of Grab in building and pushing out consumer products to uplift the lives of people in Southeast Asia. It has been a great journey, and it is now the right time for me to pursue my interests and at the same time, build my own tech startup.
“I am thankful for the opportunity to co-found Ethlas with my ex-Grab colleagues at a time when Web 3.0 is fast gathering momentum. Most importantly, I am humbled by the support and faith from the various VCs and strategic partners in believing in Ethlas’ vision of bringing the next one billion users onto Web 3.0 through game-fi,” says Wui.
US$6 million raised through extended seed funding round
Ethlas also announced it has raised another US$6 million in an extended seed funding round led by Makers Fund, Dragonfly Capital and Yield Guild Games (SEA). This new infusion of seed funds followed its February 2022’s announcement that it had secured an initial US$2.7 million in seed funding led by Sequoia Capital India and a host of leading VCs. In mid-March, Ethlas launched and sold out all 8,337 units of its genesis “Komo” non-fungible token series on mint day. Ethlas will use the additional seed funds to turbo-charge hiring and new user acquisition. It plans to hire another 80 personnel in roles such as data science, product, design, game development and blockchain engineering to augment its current team of 20 that are based in Singapore, the Philippines and the United States.
Ethlas has continued to refine its product roadmap with a focus on sustainable user growth and economics. For one, it is working with game studios to onboard more games, and progressively diversify beyond casual games into an open world game platform. The Ethlas metaverse is envisaged as a community where gamers can explore “new worlds” with their personalised avatars, have fun and earn from gaming with their companion Komo NFT.
“Game-fi continues to grow, but the elephant in the room is that most platforms are surviving on an operating model of getting the players who come in later to subsidise the early adopters. This is not economically viable. While Web 3.0 is relatively nascent and many founders and companies are trying to figure out how to manoeuvre in this space sustainably and economically, my co-founders and I have built and scaled marketplaces and platforms in our careers. I believe we can bring our experience and playbook in Web 2.0 to the Web 3.0 space. The backing of major VCs in our seed funding rounds is a testament of their confidence in the Ethlas team and our vision,” says Wui.
"Ethlas has demonstrated from its successful recent launch since seed funding that it can be a serious player in the Web 3.0 gaming space. We have faith in the experienced founding team as they have a well-defined product vision to democratise crypto access through games. We are delighted to back Ethlas with other eminent investors," says Mia Deng, Partner, Dragonfly Capital.
Ethlas is a free-to-play, play-to-earn platform that differentiates itself from other game-fi competitors which typically charge onboarding subscription fees before one can start playing. To start playing the many simple-to-learn casual games on Ethlas, gamers only need to install MetaMask, a software crypto wallet, or link their wallets, and they can start playing in the Ethlas metaverse on a PC or mobile phone’s browser. There are no complicated onboarding processes or requirements to sign up with a hefty subscription fee. Built on the Polygon blockchain, Ethlas has chalked up over 310,000 crypto-wallet users globally and 6.2 million gameplays on its platform as of end-March 2022.
Launched in November 2021, Ethlas is a free-to-play/play-to-earn blockchain-based game finance (GameFi) Metaverse built on the Polygon chain, the protocol for enabling interoperability and scalability within the Ethereum blockchain ecosystem. Founded by a group of four tech leaders with extensive experience in leading teams across tech giants such as Google, Microsoft, Airbnb and Grab, etc, Ethlas is headquartered in Singapore with offices in San Francisco Bay Area and New York, United States, and Manila, Philippines.
Within two months of its beta launch and with minimal marketing, Ethlas chalked up more than three million gameplays with over 100,000 unique wallet IDs to its gamepage. Ethlas minted its first Windblown asset-backed NFTs in December 2021.
The Ethlas GameFi metaverse has been voted “Best NFT Project” by Polygon, and ranked the number one blockchain casual game on PlayToEarn.net, which tracks and ranks the most popular crypto and NFT blockchain games.
Ethlas is backed by Sequoia Capital India, Global Blockchain Innovative Capital, Play It Forward DAO, Genesis Fund, Blockchain Space, Venturra Capital, and executives from Coinbase, CoinMarketCap, Grab and Switcheo.
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Biographies of FoundersFoo Wui Ngiap (胡伟业) Chief Executive & co-founder
Previously Head of Technology (Integrity, Mobility Engineering and Grab Patent Office) at Grab, Wui was one of Ethlas’ early believers and backers before the founding team developed and rolled out the Ethlas Metaverse in November 2021. Wui, who graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering, Electrical Engineering from the National University Singapore, has spent more than a decade with the likes of Credit Suisse, Google and Grab. Wui’s time in Grab saw him building and managing large tech and ops teams across a wide spectrum of domains, from Mobility Engineering to Trust & Safety, Growth, AI and Financial Risk. A passionate gamer since young (Wui actually considered quitting college to pursue a career in Dota 2 at one point), Wui is excited by the marriage of decentralised technologies with games and marketplaces, and believes that Ethlas can be the bridge to onboard the next billion users into the cryptoverse.LinkedinElston Sam (岑镇昇) Co-founder
A founding member of Grab’s Growth team, Elston is Ethlas’ “growth hacker” building on his expertise and experience in driving product growth with Grab, Airbnb and Chinese e-commerce platform, Jumei.com. At Grab, Elston led the expansion of the Grab Daily news feed into major markets such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia, which was pivotal in shaping Grab’s ‘everyday app’ strategy. The Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University graduate with a Bachelor of Business, Data Analytics, was instrumental in helping Ethlas garner more than 2.5 million gameplays and over 80,000 unique wallet holders within 10 weeks of its launch. He will be driving Ethlas’ growth strategy and product roadmap as it works towards achieving its vision of one billion users.LinkedinGennady “Ari” Medvinsky Co-founder
Based in Redmond, United States, Ari has more than 20 years of experience in software engineering and security architecture: he has built products and platforms with some of the world’s leading tech companies such as Microsoft, Grab and more recently Google. In his time with Google – over two stints that saw an interlude with Grab – Ari’s contribution included leading a team responsible for onboarding and integration of Cloud IAM service with Google Cloud Platform. As Grab’s Head of Engineering, IAM from 2017 to 2020, he founded and grew a team of 20 IAM engineers in Grab’s Redmond office. His team built GrabID - Grab’s proprietary authentication and login system - that now supports hundreds of millions of Grab accounts across Southeast Asia and enabled third-party integrations on interfaces of GrabPay and merchant partners. In his eight years with Microsoft, some of his achievements included co-designing an anti-piracy solution for Microsoft Xbox for PC and console gaming, as well as co-architecting the security design for the now defunct Microsoft Kin One phone. The United States citizen has a PH.D. in Computer Science from University of Southern California. His publications and thesis (1997) on "NetCash: a framework for electronic currency" were cited by over 160 academic papers; NetCash was one of the early experimental systems in the 90s that foreshadowed today's cryptocurrency wave. Ari's technical skills and knowledge in crypto will be vital in achieving Ethlas' moonshot vision of becoming the world's foremost game-fi platform.LinkedinHenry Foo (胡宏业) Co-founder
Henry leads engineering and game development at Ethlas. The avid gamer developed and launched the Ethlas metaverse single-handedly within two months. A believer of the zero to one ethos, espoused by Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal, Henry started building tech products from the age of 17. He has been ideating and prototyping minimum viable products, as he derives a sense of fulfilment when users like what he created. While in his second year in university, he launched a dating app, UniChat, for university students, which eventually chalked up more than 10,000 users across Southeast Asia. He hopes to empower and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs. The University of Malaya graduate in Electrical and Electronics Engineering had worked in Grab and Micron Technology, whilst also launching four startups of his own.Linkedin