CoinBase Asset Management, has launched Blockchain powered Project Diamond, with the execution of the first debt instrument on the platform as it prepares to enter the Abu Dhabi Global Market (“ADGM”) RegLab sandbox.

Project Diamond’s initial use cases will be for registered institutional users outside the U.S. only. Project Diamond harnesses the power of the Coinbase technology stack: Coinbase Prime custody, Web3 Wallet, the Project Diamond platform, and USDC, all connected to the Base layer-2 blockchain.

Project Diamond has received in-principle approval from the Financial Services Regulated Activity (FSRA) of Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) to conduct the regulated activity of Developing Financial Technology Services within the RegLab.

The goal of Project Diamond is to enable institutional use of next generation financial technology. Project Diamond is a platform to create, buy, and sell digitally native assets leveraging the power of the Coinbase technology stack and Base, an Ethereum layer-2 blockchain.

On November 10, the first digital debt instrument on Project Diamond was successfully issued, distributed, and matured on the platform as a technical demonstration of feasibility to the Financial Services Regulatory Authority as it prepares to join the ADGM RegLab sandbox.

Coinbase Asset Management is building Project Diamond to enable a future where institutions can create, distribute and manage a wide range of digitally-native assets directly onchain. On our journey, we seek world class partners to join us in imagining and creating the future of the global financial system. Together, we will make finance scale like software.

In April 2023, CoinBase global crypto currency exchange,revealed that it was in talks with UAE’s regulator in Abu Dhabi, FSRA ( Financial Service Regulatory Authority)  part of ADGM (Abu Dhabi Global Market) to expand its regulated operations to the UAE.

Mubadala backed Andalusia Labs, formerly known as RiskHarbor, has raised $48 million in a series A funding round and sets up its global headquarters in UAE Abu Dhabi in ADGM ( Abu Dhabi Global Market).

Andalusia Labs aims to create the industry’s security standards, instill confidence and resilience across the blockchain and Web3 industry, and help integrate this transformative technology into global financial services worldwide. Andalusia Labs intends to utilize the funds to accelerate product development, enhance institutional partnerships, and continue global expansion. The team is rapidly expanding, and hiring across finance, business development, AI, cryptography, distributed systems, and security engineering, among many other roles.

Andalusia, valued at $1 billion, is a risk management infrastructure for digital assets. It has received investment from  Lightspeed Venture Partners led the round with participation from UAE Mubadala Capital and existing investors Pantera Capital, Framework Ventures, Bain Capital Ventures, and Digital Currency Group. Other existing investors include industry giant Coinbase, Proof Group, Nima Capital, Naval Ravikant, and founders, general partners, and executives from leading global organizations.

In conjunction with the round, Andalusia Labs announced the establishment of its global headquarters in Abu Dhabi’s Financial Center, Abu Dhabi Global Markets. As per the press release this strategic move underscores the company’s commitment to expanding its global footprint and highlights Abu Dhabi as a leading financial hub for digital assets that nurtures growth and fosters innovation through its progressive regulatory structure, unique connectivity to eastern and western markets, and being home to some of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds providing strong access to institutional capital.

“Andalusia Labs is addressing one of the most significant challenges in the blockchain industry today,” said Ravi Mhatre, Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners. “Financial institutions and blockchain companies grapple with the absence of robust risk management technologies to safeguard their assets. Raouf, Drew, and their team are the first to fill this gap by delivering mission-critical risk management infrastructure that not only paves the way for wider institutional adoption by an order of magnitude, but also empowers developers to create novel applications that are inherently safe and secure from day one.

Andalusia offers blockchain solutions for risk management. The first product is Karak is a Layer 2 blockchain introducing a novel risk management infrastructure for blockchain, Web3, and global financial services, prioritizing financial security while upholding the highest standards of security, scalability, and affordability. Karak represents a new approach to securing a wide array of financial products and services for blockchain, Web3, and global financial services.

Subsea natively built on the Karak blockchain, is the world’s leading risk management marketplace for digital assets that pioneered a completely automated, transparent, and impartial invariant detection mechanism to secure users against digital asset risks, hacks, and attacks. Subsea has secured over $1 billion in digital assets and built 100+ integrations with different blockchains and financial applications.

The second product is Watchtower is an institutional security platform for digital assets. Unlike current market models that lack realism, Watchtower is creating realistic market simulations in real time with real data for the first time. Currently, Watchtower is in private beta. The combination of Subsea and Watchtower built on the Karak blockchain will provide the foundational risk management and security required to build a safe environment for the industry.

“Blockchain is still in the very early innings, and we’re thrilled to have partners like Lightspeed and Mubadala who share our commitment and vision for building the premier risk management infrastructure for the world,” said Raouf Ben-Har and Drew Patel, founders of Andalusia Labs. “This funding will enable us to continue developing the best-in-class products for our users that will unlock the potential of digital assets and drive innovation in global financial services around the globe.”

“We’re honored to build our partnership with Raouf, Drew and the Andalusia Labs team. The opening of their global headquarters in Abu Dhabi will catalyze their global scaling efforts and strategically position the company for unparalleled growth. We look forward to supporting them on the next chapter of their journey in shaping the future of blockchain and Web3 parametric risk management,” said Shaun Lee, partner at Mubadala Capital.

Recently Swiss based Copper, an institutional digital asset infrastructure provider focusing on custody and collateral management, acquired  Abu Dhabi based Securrency Capital Limited, a full-service, regulated blockchain-enabled brokerage firm offering digital securities trading based in the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), making its entry into the UAE market.

In a Zawya exclusive interview, GEMINI, digital asset exchange founders expressed their interest in applying for a license in UAE. As per the article US crypto exchange Gemini, is interested in a license in UAE because of the hostility and lack of clarity in the USA. Several other global virtual asset service providers have already expressed their interest as well including Coinbase, Bittrex, IoTa, and Circle. 

The license application is set to come after meetings in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss are the founders of GEMINI. Tyler told zawya, “There is a lot of customers and amazing investors here.” As for the USA, Tyler told Zawya it as hard to get things done in the US.

He added, “You don’t want the Wild West, but you also don’t want a wall or a gate to innovation, getting that balance right builds the healthiest markets. We have always believed that, and always tried to get that message across to the regulators to provide that clarity and consistency in guidelines, because we think that the outcomes are just so positive.”

Prior to this Gemini announced that it was launching its European HQ in Dublin. But Tyler affirmed to Zawya that Gemini would not be giving up on the USA.

This would make Gemini the latest global entity to see regulation in UAE, over the past two months, entities such as CoinBase, IoTaCircle, Bittrex, have all expressed their interest to set up in the UAE.

This is being further pushed with the new UAE Central Bank’s AML CFT guidance for financial entities regarding their dealings with virtual asset service providers.

According to a recent blog post published by CoinBase the second biggest global crypto currency exchange, the company revealed that is in talks with UAE’s regulator in Abu Dhabi, FSRA ( Financial Service Regulatory Authority)  part of ADGM (Abu Dhabi Global Market) to expand its regulated operations to the UAE.

The expansion is part of its global scale to go broad and deep. As part of its strategy, Coinbase will establish regulated entities and local operations in high-bar regulatory jurisdictions abroad to focus on international growth.

As per the blog post, “Coinbase is focused on international growth and is working with several high-bar international regulators to establish regulated entities abroad that safely facilitate trading solutions and provide products the crypto community demands. Coinbase will continue to launch foundational products that are a gateway to Web3 and crypto across the globe while launching localized infrastructure and public facing products with a full suite of services.”

The post adds, “We have accelerated our UAE plans with Abu Dhabi Global market regulator. We are in discussion with the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) in Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) regarding a potential license for a regulated exchange. ADGM is a renowned international financial services center. ADGM is known for having a well-regarded, comprehensive regulatory framework and is committed to operating a fair and efficient regulatory environment for global market participants. ADGM has developed and supported the regulation and trading of cryptocurrencies and Coinbase intends to help further their vision. “

This comes as Binance seeks to receive a regulated license from both ADGM and Dubai’s Virtual asset regulator. While others such as Kraken has closed its operations in UAE. 

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 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.