Blockchain startups such as IR4LAB and Verofax are just a few of the startups that are making waves in the region and being recognized during Gitex 2023 held in Dubai UAE.

IR4LAB R4LAB, a Saudi-based company Blockchain and AI specialized startups in disruptive technologies announced on LinkedIn that their startup was selected to join the “Expand North Star Launchpad” accelerator Market entry program. This would as noted enabled them to forge business opportunity in the UAE and beyond given that it is under the auspices of the Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy.

According to Mohamed El Kandri, Founder and CEO of IR4LAB “This is another step towards global expansion after the launch of IR4LAB Africa during Gitex Africa 2023 in Morocco.”

We are thrilled to announce that IR4LAB has been selected for the Launchpad Accelerated Market Entry Program at Expand North Star, to help launch and expand its business in Dubai, another step forward towards Global Expansion after the launch of IR4LAB Africa during Gitex Africa in Morocco.

In addition, Verofax won the GITEX Supernova Web3 and Blockchain Award. As per their linkediN post, “We’re pleased to announce that Verofax has been recognized with the prestigious GITEX Supernova Web3 & Blockchain award at this year’s GITEX Impact’s Supernova Challenge Pitch Competition in Dubai.

UAE based Verofax is a blockchain enabled traceability specialist for consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands. By creating a digital passport for each item in an inventory, and situating all of those passports within a digital twin, the startup makes inventories interactive and entirely traceable

The Supernova Challenge stands as one of the most significant pitch competitions across the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia, offering startups a platform to present innovative solutions.

The UAE Sharjah Digital Office’s “Sharjah NFT” is now live. The NFT will be used to issue verified digital certificates using soulbound tokens which efficiently store and track documents using blockchain through a QR code.

As per the press release, this marks a significant achievement in Sharjah’s digital transformation journey and underlines its commitment to a sustainable future for all.  The platform was inaugurated at the Sharjah Government Pavilion during GITEX Global 2023. It provides an innovative and user-friendly system enabling various entities, including government authorities, educational institutions, private businesses, and event organisers, to issue authenticated certificates as non-fungible codes stored in a digital record.

Sheikh Saud bin Sultan Al Qasimi commented, “In light of the rapid advancement of technology in work and life, Sharjah Digital Office remains dedicated to integrating cutting-edge technologies to benefit the community. These efforts are central to the emirate’s digital transformation journey, driven by the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, who underscores the importance of fostering innovation in Sharjah’s technological domain and prioritising flexibility and efficiency across all sectors.”

He added, “The introduction of the Sharjah NFT Platform signifies a shift from traditional paper certificates to secure and dependable digital certificates, which are easy to issue and offer a high level of reliability and security. The platform acts as a firewall; it is impervious to any form of tampering or fraud and ensures the authenticity and credibility of certificates through blockchain technology, guaranteeing their direct association with the legitimate recipient.” He also stressed that this initiative aligns with Sharjah Digital Office’s strategy to reinforce and expedite the digital transformation journey in the emirate, with a strong emphasis on making significant strides in the domain of smart living.

Users can design and generate customized certificates to meet their specific needs, utilizing the platform’s blockchain-based infrastructure to efficiently create certificate records and serve as a central control hub for coordinating their distribution with maximum efficiency and minimal manual involvement.

The Qatar, Ministry of Finance, signed an agreement  with the World Economic Forum (WEF) to establish a “Centre of Excellence for the Fourth Industrial Revolution” in Qatar that will help to foster an environment for research and development in technologies that include AI ( artificial intelligence), blockchain, IoT (Internet of Things), renewable energy and others.

The agreement was signed by HE the Minister of Finance, Ali bin Ahmed al-Kuwari and WEF founder and executive chairman Prof Klaus Schwab, in Doha. This strategic partnership paves the way for future collaboration, as the center aims to promote technological progress, diversify the economy and to promote sustainable development in Qatar, the Ministry of Finance noted.

It will also provide learning and training opportunities in those fields for Qatari nationals, developing their skills to keep pace with global developments.

“Qatar continues to fulfill its commitment to strengthening multilateral action to address current challenges to contribute to global growth,” Ministry of Finance added.

Overall Qatar has been pushing forth its blockchain and digital asset strategy, and has prepared a framework for digital assets as well as will be launching digital assets lab at the end of October 2023.

In a recent survey carried out by Deel, a global HR platform within the GCC and MENA region, the findings found that 51% of employees being paid in crypto prefer Ethereum

Employee cryptocurrency withdrawals within the GCC highlighted a growing level of adoption among individuals, who are now using cryptocurrencies as a viable medium for receiving employer payments. Conducting an extensive survey, Deel engaged with over 1600 employees and over 700 organizations in the UAE to gather valuable insights.

Of the 700 organizations surveyed in the UAE, 87% of employees were using crypto for salary payments. Of the 1600 employees surveyed only 8% were being paid in crypto in KSA while in Qatar it was 4.8%.

Exploring the Deel data beyond the UAE, Egypt places itself in the spotlight by a substantial margin, witnessing over 25,000 employee withdrawals using crypto in the last 12 months. Tracking Egypt’s trajectory, the roster of pioneering nations also includes Morocco, and Lebanon, each carving its path towards cryptocurrency adoption.

Notably, Ethereum (ETH) claims the top spot as the preferred cryptocurrency for withdrawals, commanding 51.2%. The US Dollar backed stablecoin USDC follows suit at 24.5%, while Bitcoin (BTC) controls 20.2% of the landscape. Solana (SOL) and Dash wrap up the top five most used cryptocurrencies with 2.5% and 1.6%, respectively, contributing to the crypto withdrawals landscape.

Tarek Salam, Head of Expansion from Deel, stated, “The Deel research provides an interesting window on the latest trends within the employment sector. It is truly great to witness the rapid surge in cryptocurrency adoption within the UAE and the wider region. The regulators have played a commendable role in encouraging greater participation in the cryptocurrency ecosystem and it’s a trend that we will be watching with interest as adoption continues to grow.”

Deel is a leading global compliance and payroll solution that helps businesses hire anyone, anywhere. Deel’s technology offers unmatched payroll, HR, compliance, perks, benefits, and other capabilities needed to hire and manage a global team.

UAE tech venture company Scalo Technologies is backing plans to integrate blockchain technology into mobile gaming, a trend that it believes will revolutionize the way games are played.

Dubai-based Scalo has been working closely with mobile game developer and publisher Hexacore, one of its portfolio companies, on a new strategy built around blockchain giving players long overdue ownership of their in-game assets, and the time they devote to playing.

Hexacore, whose central team is located in Poland, has now fast-tracked development and publishing of its flagship space fantasy product, ‘Pocket Space,’ which boasts multiplayer modes and asset ownership mechanics.

In July2023 Scalo Technologies, led a $3.5 million investment round for Hexacore, mobile game publisher specialising in hybrid mobile web3 games. The funding was also supported by Xsolla, Estoty, and other angel investors, will fuel the expansion of Hexacore’s team, known for creating games that have garnered over 350 million downloads. Notable titles include Sushi Roll, Blend It 3D and Merge Animals.

“We believe that blockchain technology will usher in a new era of mobile gameplay experiences,” said Abdumalik Mirakhmedov, Director and co-founder of Scalo Technologies, which led a US$3.5 million investment round for Hexacore earlier this year.

“By integrating blockchain into their gaming ecosystem, Hexacore intends to elevate the overall user experience, with the main focus on enhancing asset ownership, and the ease of in game transactions. This will not only make the game more exciting, but also increase a player’s value to the game.”

The ‘Pocket Space’ community launch will take place in Q4 2023, with the soft launch scheduled for H2 2024 and the global release to follow in 2025.

One of the main problems for mobile gaming, which is forecast to be worth $160.6 billion by 2025, is that players are increasingly distracted by multiple entertainment options, and prefer shorter gaming sessions. Hexacore is tackling the challenge to retain their attention head-on.

“The strategy is to firstly embed a game IP across multiple platforms and media,” says Rashit Makhat, Director and co-founder at Scalo Technologies, who have been working with Hexacore for almost two years.

“The IP of your game should be everywhere. Not just on smartphones and social networks, but also in cartoons, books, toys, clothing, on the streets, and even billboards.

“Then you have a higher likelihood that users will stick with you for the long term. In addition, strong community engagement will be another vital tool in retaining players, so we are focusing on community to provide a strong sense of belonging to a specific circle of people.” Scalo and Hexacore see mobile games becoming the gateway for new web3 users, driven by the growing adoption of crypto wallets on smartphones, attracting investors and fostering innovation in gaming worldwide.

“Both traditional and web3-focused investors are now attracted to mobile gaming,” said Mikita Khazau, co-founder and CEO of Hexacore. “This continuous influx of funds will drive innovation, creativity, and deliver new gaming experiences that captivate audiences across the globe.

Singapore-based VC firm Scalo Technologies shifted its headquarters to Dubai UAE in April 2023 and had announced an investment of $100 million in MENA startups over the next three to five years.

Web3 KEY Difference has received from UAE Freezone DMCC its business incubator license, a move that signals the next chapter for the company as they launch KEY Difference Labs, their new accelerator.

Over the last decade, starting from 2013, the blockchain landscape witnessed the steadfast growth of KEY Difference Media, the precursor to KEY Difference DMCC. Founded by Mr. Karnika E. Yashwan To has a wide range of accomplishments ranging from marketing for several Fortune 100 companies to assisting in the monumental fundraising of over $550 million during the 2017 ICO phase, the firm’s trajectory is nothing short of remarkable.

KEY Difference Media’s emphasis on incubating promising enterprises, its hands-on involvement in establishing extensive blockchain ecosystems, and its advisory role for potential future unicorns showcase the company’s forward-thinking approach.

Yashwan To  explains, “The focus of the accelerator is to assist Web2 powerhouses in seamlessly transitioning to Web3 using the blockchain infrastructure. It’s disheartening to observe the crypto space riddled with scams and short-sighted strategies. My passion is about championing businesses that exemplify long-term, steady growth. This is achievable by harnessing the value ingrained in the Web2 sphere and appealing to its vast user base through simple, effective business use cases.”

The aim is to onboard the masses by introducing Web2 value-driven entrepreneurs to the transformative potential of Web3 technology. He adds, “We’re working towards building a brighter future.

He adds, “But what makes this business incubator license so great? Not every firm gets this nod. The DMCC reserves it for the best, those who’ve proven their mettle. This exclusive license isn’t just a feather in KEY Difference DMCC’s hat; it symbolizes their dedication and unmatched expertise in the field.”

The Ethereum Riyadh 2023 conference held on October 11th brought together an array of blockchain experts and entities, including Saudi Digital advisor for a Saudi governmental entity, who gave a presentation on embracing DeFi for business excellence. As per the press release, Abdulelah Aloshayni, digital transformation advisor at a Saudi Governmental entity provided a clear understanding of DeFi and discussed potential applications for large companies and government organizations.

This is no surprise given the work that for example SAMA ( Saudi Central Bank) is doing on CBDC, virtual assets and DeFi. Saudi Central Bank had hired Mohsen Al Zahrani to lead their digital assets and CBDC projects.

Abdulelah Aloshayni gave a presentation on “Embrace DeFi for Business Excellence.” He provided a clear understanding of DeFi and discussed potential applications for large companies and government organizations.

ETH Riyadh 2023 conference successfully took place at the CODE Lab of King Saud University at Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia. ETH Riyadh 2023, Web3 technology summit, was dedicated to the Ethereum ecosystem and blockchain technology, aiming to gather developers and builders from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and other regions in the Middle East.

ETH Riyadh emphasized a strong technical focus and aimed to provide insights from industry experts, fostering discussions on blockchain and Web3 cutting-edge technologies.

The ETH Riyadh organizing committee was composed of Tharawat Technology, Studio1727, ChainIDE, Coffee with Crypto, and Mask Network. The event received guidance and support from the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, the Saudi Internet Association, and the KACST Digital Entrepreneurship Center. It was generously sponsored by Ankr (Title Sponsor), with presenting sponsorship from Chiliz, as well as support from Zilliqa, Adaverse, SAO Network, Onekey, Matrix World, and more than ten other Web3 projects.

Over 150 participants attended the event.  The ETH Riyadh 2023 conference kicked off with a keynote address by Tim Beiko, a representative of the Ethereum Foundation, who presented “Ethereum Governance Overview.” Tim Beiko outlined various ways to engage in Ethereum technology development and contributions, along with collaboration opportunities.

In the first roundtable discussion, Anton Agafonov, Product Lead at Zilliqa, Arpit Sharma, Managing Partner for the Middle East, India, and East Asia at the Near Foundation, and Aqeel Mohammad from the Ethereum Foundation discussed “L1/L2: Web3 Infrastructures and Innovations  from various perspectives, sharing their insights on Web3 infrastructure and innovation.

Xiao Wu, the founder of ChainIDE, then spoke on “The Road to Mass Adoption: Web3 Ecosystem in East Asia x Middle East Africa Region.” He shared insights into the development of Web3 ecosystems in East Asia and the Middle East and Africa regions, discussed the digital economy’s opportunities, and analyzed attempts and cases of large-scale applications in different regions.

While Dr. Waleed Aloriny, Chairman of the Saudi Internet Association, delivered a welcome address and moderated a special roundtable discussion on “Opportunities of Web3 Technology in Saudi.” Yasser Alobaidan, CEO of Tharawat Technology, Xiao Wu, Founder of ChainIDE, Stanley Wu, CTO of Ankr, and Alex Dreyfus, CEO of Chiliz, participated in the discussion. Representatives from various sectors engaged in lively discussions on Saudi’s entrepreneurial environment, policy regulations, Web3 development, digital economic opportunities, and international cooperation. Web3 entrepreneurs present recognized Saudi Arabia as a significant opportunity and expressed their desire to deepen their business and collaborations in the region.

ETH Riyadh 2023 marked a significant milestone as the first dedicated Web3 developer and blockchain technology summit in the Saudi Arabian region, particularly in Riyadh. This event represents a major advancement in the Web3 developer ecosystem of Saudi Arabia. ETH Riyadh has contributed to the flourishing of the local blockchain developer community, providing a platform for learning and networking for local developers and entrepreneurs.

The event has not only attracted local participants but also garnered attention from experts and investors from around the world. It serves as a crucial role in driving the development of blockchain technology in Saudi Arabia, offering a pivotal opportunity for exploring and shaping the future of the blockchain field. Furthermore, it plays a role in promoting digital innovation and economic growth in Saudi Arabia.

Xiao Wu, Founder of ChainIDE and a member of the ETH Riyadh organizing committee, expressed, “ETH Riyadh is the first summit in the Saudi region that focuses on blockchain technology and Web3 developers. It serves as a superhub for the local technology community and ecosystem development. Saudi Arabia is currently experiencing a pivotal period of rapid growth in the digital economy, and blockchain and Web3 technologies are integral components of the next generation of digital economies. We look forward to ETH Riyadh 2024, expecting to attract more builders in blockchain technology and facilitate increased collaboration and exchange among developers in the East Asia and Middle East and Africa regions.”

The Qatar Financial Centre Authority (QFCA), the legal and tax arm of the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC have signed an MOU with the Asian Institute of Digital Finance (AIDF), a research institute of the National University of Singapore (NUS), to embark on projects encompassing ESG, Fintech, digital assets, Web3 and other emerging technologies.

In addition to these efforts, both partners will actively facilitate the exchange of knowledge and insights to further their common goals and objectives.

Yousuf Mohamed Al-Jaida, Chief Executive Officer, QFC, expressed his optimism about this partnership, stating, “We are excited to join forces with the Asian Institute of Digital Finance at the National University of Singapore to explore and capitalize on the numerous opportunities in the ever-evolving digital landscape. This partnership reflects our commitment to innovation and our belief in the power of collaboration to drive positive change. We see this collaboration as a significant step, not only in the direction of constructing a more inclusive financial sector but also in forging a path towards a more sustainable future.”

Likewise, Associate Professor Huang Ke Wei, Executive Director, NUS Asian Institute of Digital Finance expressed their enthusiasm for the collaboration, saying, “The NUS Asian Institute of Digital Finance empowers the future of finance through digital innovation and academic excellence, and provides thought leadership through a holistic blend of education, research, and business incubation. Our vision is to catalyse the evolution of the digital economy by fostering innovation and imparting knowledge. This collaboration with QFC marks a significant step towards fostering cross-regional knowledge exchange, setting the stage for a brighter, interconnected digital future.” The partnership between the QFC and NUS AIDF underscores their shared commitment to innovation and sustainability and catalysing positive global transformation by leveraging technology.

QFC has been moving forward with its digital asset strategy and framework.

21Shares, issuer of digital asset ETPs, continues its international expansion with Shariah approval of its 21Shares Bitcoin ETP (ABTC) and 21Shares BOLD ETP (BOLD) from leading Saudi scholars.

Having launched the world’s first crypto backed ETP in 2018, the company continues to lead the market with the expansion of its products and a catalogue of listings on major global exchanges.

Amidst sustained interest from Saudi investors, the recent Shariah compliance of the BOLD ETP is significant in that the product is at the forefront to become Saudi Arabia’s first hybrid product. Rebalanced monthly, BOLD has a 25:75 Bitcoin to gold ratio, offering investors exposure to the traditional value of gold with the promising return rates of Bitcoin.

In the context of inflationary pressures, and heightened geopolitical risk, the products represent important risk and return diversifiers within both private and institutional portfolios.

According to the press release, “ As regional financial centers compete to provide the latest financial services products, 21Shares’ announcement is an important step in the company’s Saudi market entry. Under Vision 2030 Saudi Arabia is working to transform its financial services industry highlighted by increased digitalization across the economy and the widespread adoption of Blockchain.”

Ahead of the upcoming Future Investment Initiative, co-founder and CEO Hany Rashwan commented “Saudi Arabia presents exciting new market expansion opportunities for us. This milestone reflects our unwavering commitment to operating within the highest regulatory standards and providing a secure and transparent platform for our clients. Our tailored crypto investment solutions will resonate with Saudi investors. We look forward to partnering with local financial institutions, fostering trust, and contributing to the Kingdom’s thriving fintech ecosystem.”

Prior to this 21Shares Bitcoin ETP was listed on Nasdaq Dubai exchange to target major regions in 2022. Following its roadmap, the investment firm offers 46+ products launched almost over 12 exchanges in 7 different countries.

The Sandbox metaverse has announced further expansion into Saudi Arabia through a partnership with SandSoft, a Saudi based game developer, publishers, and investor powered by AAA talent.

Sandsoft will be a key partner in The Sandbox’s expansion into Saudi Arabia and the Middle East and will also be a driver in attracting local talent in the video game sector and growing education and job opportunities within the region.

The collaboration aims at building a team of Web3 gaming experts to create partnerships with local public and private industry actors, entertainment, IPs & Brands and celebrities to explore opportunities in gamified social experiences in The Sandbox, and to empower local creative talent by educating and onboarding developers and artists into its ecosystem.

“We’re excited to collaborate with Sandsoft in bringing new creators to contribute towards the open Metaverse and develop together a virtual neighborhood on our map. This partnership will allow brands and creators across Saudi Arabia and the Middle East to discover the creative opportunities The Sandbox provides,” said Sebastien Borget, COO and co-founder of The Sandbox. “It will also enrich The Sandbox’s global ecosystem with Saudi Arabia’s rich culture and history.”

“The Sandbox has great potential for game developers, creatives, brands and consumers from the Middle East and North Africa,” said David Fernandez, CEO of Sandsoft. “We’re pleased to announce this collaboration, which will drive opportunities for vibrant and diverse communities in Saudi Arabia and beyond, expanding on Sandsoft’s existing initiatives to nurture talent in the local gaming ecosystem.”

With a diverse global team of more than 60 people, Sandsoft is on a trajectory to become a leading mobile-first gaming powerhouse. Sandsoft’s ‘Press Start’ internship program aims to provide opportunities for talented young people in Saudi Arabia to enhance their game development skills under the supervision of leading games industry figures including VP Studio Yahsir Qureshi (formerly of EA, Zynga) and CTO Ahmed Sharif (previously at Meta, Sony, EA).