So while crypto exchanges flock and grow in the MENA region specifically in Bahrain and the UAE, RAIN crypto exchange has laid off more than 120 employees. Speculations loom as to the reasons, yet one thing is certain; the first regulated crypto exchange to launch in the MENA region is facing the heat and is shedding its employees like a snake sheds its skin. 

So while Binance and CoinMENA, both competitors of RAIN crypto exchange in Bahrain, were receiving upgrades on their licenses to category 4 and category 3 respectively, and while Crypto.com one of the biggest crypto exchanges globally received provisional approval for its virtual assets license from the Dubai Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA), RAIN was making no such announcements. On the contrary the only announcement it was making was that of layoffs.

On May 1st 2022, CoinMENA announced it had received an upgrade to its license from a category 2 to a category 3. As the company on LinkedIn stated, “We are proud to announce that CoinMENA’s license for Crypto-Asset Services has been upgraded from Category 2 to Category 3 by The Governor of the Central Bank of Bahrain, His Excellency Mr. Rasheed Al-Maraj. Thank you for your trust and support. We look forward to continuing to offer new services to our users.”

A week prior, Binance announced on its blog that it had received a Category 4 license, as a crypto asset service provider (CASP) from the Central Bank of Bahrain. With the license upgrade Binance Bahrain could now offer a wider range of crypto exchange services. The Category 4 license will allow Binance Bahrain to offer crypto-asset exchange services to customers under the supervision of the Bahrain regulators.

Despite its recent foray into Bahrain, Binance became the first exchange to be granted a category 4 license by the Central Bank of Bahrain. Richard Teng, Head of MENA Binance stated, “The upgrade to a Category 4 license in the Kingdom of Bahrain is a landmark achievement for Binance and further signifies our commitment to being a compliance-first exchange.”

The only one not to receive an upgrade was RAIN which already holds a category three license. On the contrary just days after CoinMENA announced its upgrade, RAIN announced layoffs. In a statement to Bloomberg Joseph Dallago, RAIN CEO stated, “We have had to make tough decisions to be able to navigate through this period of uncertainty and we can confirm we have downsized our Rain workforce.” However RAIN has been through turbulent crypto times before with crypto bear markets in both in 2021 and prior, so what is different today?

It is also interesting to note, that when looking at RAIN’s linkedIn page, RAIN had been on a hiring spree over the past 6 months since early 2022. The crypto market has been facing turbulent times since late December 2021, yet RAIN was continuing to hire. As per the linkedIn page RAIN saw an increase of 45 percent headcount growth in past 6 months.

So what else could it be? In January  2022 Bahrain based RAIN raised USD 110 million in its Series B funding. The round was co-led by Paradigm and Kleiner Perkins with participation from numerous parties including Coinbase Ventures, Global Founders Capital, MEVP (Middle East Venture Partners), Cadenza Ventures, JIMCOand CMT Digital.

Prior to that RAIN in January 2021,  had raised 6 million USD in a Series A funding also with the participation of MENA based MEVP as well as CoinBase ventures. At the time the founders of RAIN Abdullah Almoaiqel, AJ Nelson, Joseph Dallago, and Yehia Badawy, had stated that RAIN would continue to grow its team across the region hoping to double in size by 2022 while it expanded across the region.

So could RAIN’s decision to lay off employees be related to what is happening with one of its major investors, CoinBase?  CoinBase announced it was freezing new hires as well as cutting back on its work force.  In a blog post written by Chief People Officer L.J. Brock, Coinbase, he said, “We will extend our hiring pause for both new and backfill roles for the foreseeable future and rescind a number of accepted offers. The cutbacks come in response to the current market conditions and ongoing business prioritization efforts,”   This comes after Gemini exchange announced it was laying off 10% of its staff, or roughly 100 people.

Could CoinBase business prioritization efforts be affecting RAIN as a crypto exchange?

Some comments on social media platforms centered around the fact that RAIN had fired a number of employees within its Money Laundering Reporting Office as well as junior employees, while retaining its senior staff.

In addition, Bahrain based Cryptos Consultancy which operates Crypto Talents Middle East is offering RAIN employees effected by the layoffs  help in finding other employment. 

Regardless of the RAIN debacle, and how it will play out in the long term, it is obvious that the crypto ecosystem is still growing in GCC and MENA with more local and international players setting up operations.

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