Lyvely, UAE-based social monetization platform, today announced that it has been awarded a full operational license from Ras Al Khaimah Digital Assets Oasis (RAK DAO), the Free Zone with Common Law features established to support digital assets companies. The license allows Lyvely to undertake any non-regulated activities that fall under the SocialFi category.   

Backed by UAE based Phoenix Group, and leading Web3 investment firm, Cypher Capital, Lyvely aims to disrupt the $250 billion global creator economy. Lyvely was founded in 2023 by tech and wellness entrepreneurs Farah Zafar and Dave Catudal to empower all digital creators, ranging from celebrity influencers to digital creators and online brands.

Lyvely allows creators and brands to profit from their digital presence via monetization features such as content memberships, paid communities, and social commerce. 

According the press release, the license from RAK DAO marks a major milestone in Lyvely’s operational roadmap as a UAE born and bred tech startup. Lyvely’s SocialFi operational license will enable the company to operate within a secure and recognized environment. 

Dr. Sameer Al Ansari, CEO of RAK DAO, noted, “RAK DAO is thrilled to welcome Lyvely as a licensed SocialFi platform within our innovative ecosystem. This milestone underscores our commitment to nurturing cutting-edge digital assets companies in the MENA region. Lyvely’s vision to empower digital creators with advanced monetization tools aligns with our mission to drive technological advancement in the region.”

Farah Zafar, Co-founder and CEO of Lyvely, said, “We are proud to be a homegrown brand, building for the global creator and freelance economy from the shores of UAE. As a SocialFi platform licensed under RAK DAO, we envision adding immense value to the digital ecosystem by enabling web3-powered monetization avenues for under-represented digital creators and everyone who seeks to build a more profitable digital presence. Our strategic association with RAK DAO signals our intent to amplify our impact among the web3 community, while simultaneously adding to the massive economic potential of UAE and the wider MENA region. ”

Lyvely is set to release its mobile application in Q4 2024, followed by a much-awaited token launch. 

Hashed Ventures, a South Korean crypto investment firm has partnered with Abu Dhabi Hub 71 to introduce more Korean startups to the UAE. It has expanded its presence to the UAE.

As per the announcement on Bloomberg, Hashed Ventures views the UAE as having an advantageous regulatory environment making it one of the hottest global crypto hubs.

Hashed Ventures plans to bring over firms in Fintech and digital assets. The company will also look to open an office in Abu Dhabi and explore potential fund raising opportunities in the capital of the UAE, according to Simon Seo-Joon Kim, chief executive officer and managing partner of Hashed.

Founded in 2017, Hashed oversees about $700 million in assets, and already has offices around the globe, including San Francisco and Singapore. Kim said in an interview that the company is actively looking to expand overseas, as the environment for startups in South Korea became increasingly challenging due to several reasons, including the difficulty in expanding its domestic market.

“For the Korean startup, the mission to expand their business to abroad is quite mandatory because the biggest problem of Korea is our population is decreasing,” Kim said in an interview. “But I believe that the talent-wise, the Korean entrepreneur is one of the best in the world, so we have to expand our business to abroad.”

“We are excited about the prospect of welcoming more Korean startups to Abu Dhabi and attracting the most promising Web3 and digital asset technologies to the UAE capital,” Ahmad Ali Alwan, chief executive officer of Hub71, wrote in an email statement.

Kim said that Hashed is already helping some South Korea-based companies valued at more than $1 billion enter the Abu Dhabi market. He declined to disclose the names of the firms, saying the process is still ongoing.

“UAE is a very special market for us because the regulatory wise, Abu Dhabi has the most friendly and clear guidance for the web3 startups,” Kim said. “So these days, so many Web3 startups are opening Abu Dhabi offices.”

Kim also said that the global phenomenon of Korean content such as Korean pop music and drama, as well as South Korea’s long-existing relationship with UAE building nuclear power plants, are advantages for Korean startups looking to enter the Middle East.

A month prior to this announcement Simon Kim on LinkedIn wrote, ” Hashed is thrilled to host Hub71, an Abu Dhabi government-initiative startup accelerator, in South Korea, connecting vibrant startup ecosystems. Hub71 offered Korean startups opportunities to explore Abu Dhabi, gain international exposure, and connect with global investors. This event highlighted the importance of cross-border cooperation in driving innovation and growth.”, the crypto broker platform of European fintech unicorn Bitpanda, which recently announced its expansion into the UAE with a new office, now has 5 million retail users. This comes amidst projections that UAE’s digital assets market is projected to grow by 8.01% and reach a market volume of $616.80 million by 2028.

BitPanda Growth

After achieving a record-setting revenue of over $108 million in Q1 2024, Bitpanda added nearly 500,000 new users in Q2 as European investors have increasingly begun looking to take advantage of safe and secure digital assets trading.

BitPanda acquired several new licenses with major regulators including BaFin and Bitpanda Technology Solutions (a relaunch of its B2B-focused white-label solution). Additionally, the company also formed several industry-leading partnerships with well-known institutions like Deutsche Bank, N26, LBBW, and Raiffeisen.

Interest from MENA

Bitpanda has seen a significant rise in investment interest from not only Europe but also the Middle East. The UAE, with its digital assets marketed projected to grow by 8.01% and reach a market volume of $616.80 million by 2028, has been a key catalyst in Bitpanda’s recent decision to expand; with DMCC licensing,

the company launched Bitpanda MENA in early May at the most recent edition of the Dubai Fintech Summit to cater to the growing demand for digital assets that it is observing from the country and the wider region. Although this offering is not available to retail investors at the moment, Bitpanda already boasts the title of Europe’s leading crypto company and this expansion is further strengthening its global position as well.

Lukas Enzersdorfer-Konrad, Deputy CEO of Bitpanda stated, “We have the right products, a proven history of working with regulators, immense trust from our users and partners – including Deutsche Bank, LBBW and FC Bayern Munich – and we remain absolutely focused on growth. It took us five years to reach our first million users; we were able to achieve this same feat in the past 12 months alone, with more than 500,000 users joining us in just the last three months. We know we’re on the right track, and as we approach our 10th anniversary later this year, I know we’re going to have a lot to celebrate.”

Walid BenOthman, Managing Director, concluded: “While we are proud of our progress in Europe and the overall success we’ve achieved over the past decade, this growth has not been rooted in complacency. That is why we are now targeting the Middle East, to further strengthen our global standing as an unparalleled fintech. With a 25% surge in users over the past 12 months, we are confident in the strength of the MENA region and aspire to achieve similar success over the next year. We look forward to what the future holds.”

Aspen Digital, aimed at helping to accelerate the continued adoption of digital assets, and offer technical solutions to asset managers, high net worth individuals, family officers and other financial institutions, has received an in principle approval (IPA) from the regulatory arm of Abu Dhabi ADGM ( Abu Dhabi Global Market). the FSRA.

Aspen Digital which is co-incubated by Everest Ventures Group, a venture studio specializing in digital assets and blockchain technologies and TTB Partners, a regulated, boutique advisory and asset management firm started by Sir John Bond’s family will act as a bridge between tradition finance and the digital assets industry.

Subject to final regulatory approval, Aspen Digital will be licensed to provide financial services out of ADGM and expand its product offering and presence within the rapidly growing digital asset ecosystem in the Middle East.

Aspen Digital’s unique offering as a one-stop solution for private wealth to build their allocation to the alternative digital asset class will play an important role in driving the local ecosystem and broader adoption within the region.

CEO of Aspen Digital, Elliot Andrews said, “The IPA is an important milestone for Aspen Digital as we look to expand both our global footprint and offering within the digital asset sector. With a deep understanding of the asset class, ADGM has built a very comprehensive and clear regulatory framework in which to operate. We are grateful for their support and look forward to working closely with them in driving the next wave of digital asset adoption. 

 The Qatar Central Bank (QCB) has announced the completion of the development of the infrastructure for the Central Bank Digital Currency Project (CBDC) and the commencement of testing of CBDC for settlement of large payments with local banks. According to the press release, this initiative will serve as a proactive step to keep pace with the rapid global developments in this field.

Qatar Central Bank confirms that, after successfully completing the comprehensive study conducted in this field, it will proceed with testing and developing selected applications for the CBDC to settle large payments with a group of local and international banks in a trial environment designed according to the latest advanced technologies.

The project will focus on the applications of the CBDC to increase access to capital markets for operating banks in the country, enhance domestic settlement, and improve the efficiency of securities transactions.

This project, which will enter its first experimental phase extending to October 2024, aims to achieve a set of primary objectives, including leveraging artificial intelligence technologies, distributed ledger technology (DLT), and emerging technologies and establish a strong foundation to enhance liquidity by expanding participation in financial market facilities, considering the aspects related to information security during project implementation.

In line with the Third Financial Sector Strategy, the Fintech Strategy, and Qatar National Vision 2030, and based on Qatar Central Bank’s ongoing efforts to regulate and develop the financial sector in the country, Qatar Central Bank announced the completion of the development of the infrastructure for the Central Bank Digital Currency Project (CBDC), QCB said in a press release.

This project reflects Qatar Central Bank’s full commitment to contributing to digital transformation within the financial sector, noting in this context that the start of the CBDC project represents an important milestone and a strategic step towards building a digital economy in the country.

It was also noted that the results of this experiment will be the cornerstone towards identifying the different use cases that the Qatar Central Bank will adopt in the future, which will contribute to enhancing the efficiency of the current systems and instant settlement.

In April 2023 Qatar Financial Centre Authority and Blockchain solution provider R3 signed an MOU to develop and grow Qatar’s fintech industry using technologies such as DLT (Distributed Ledger Technology). Soon after, QFC announced one of the biggest digital assets initiatives in the country and the GCC region, the Qatar Innovation Dome for digital assets. The digital assets lab will develop tokenization platforms and ecosystems for everything that has value whether tangible assets or intangible assets including real estate assets, securities, Sukuk, bonds and others in the future utilizing DLT ( distributed ledger technologies), blockchain, and smart contracts.

In May 2024 The Hashgraph Association (THA), the Swiss-based organization at the forefront of global digital enablement, signed a strategic partnership with the Qatar Financial Centre to launch a Digital Assets Venture Studio, a platform to support local Qatari and international portfolio companies in the development of regulatory-compliant decentralized finance (DeFi) solutions and digital assets built on the Hedera Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) network.

The $50 million digital assets venture studio will focus on investments in Hedera-powered Web3 startups and enterprises building bankable DeFi solutions. The program will span over the next five years (2024-2028) with The Hashgraph Association investing $10million (20%).

Indirectly announcing their expansion into the UAE Digital Asset Solutions (DAS), a Swiss based crypto asset manager announced that they had hired Swiss financial professional Csaba Dekany on board as a strategic partner.

Dekany is already residing in Dubai UAE since 2023 has had a strong career at Credit Suisse, and Granite Gorup in Zurich.

DAS reports to the self-regulatory organization PolyReg in Switzerland, which underlines that compliance with the highest standards in terms of anti-money laundering (AML), customer protection, and transparency is a matter of course.

Dekany is expected to play a key role in the crypto specialist’s international expansion and leverage his extensive experience for his role as strategic advisor to management.

DAS on LinkedIn stated, “We’re thrilled to have Csaba Dekany join us in our expansion to Dubai! He will play a pivotal role in our first international push with his many years of experience in the financial sector and support DAS in identifying new opportunities in the Emirates.”

Csaba in a LinkedIn post stated, “Happy to be part of the journey to connect traditional finance with digital assets.”

Also on board with DAS is Zurich-based asset manager and CEO of VT Wealth Management, Sacha Fedier. He is taking a seat on the board of directors and noted that the UAE is «a market with great potential».

The UAE has been attracting an array of crypto and digital asset entities from across the globe, including crypto exchanges such as, OKX, Binance and many others.

It is no surprise that DAS is also setting its footprint in the UAE as well.

DKK partner, an emerging markets FX liquidity specialist firm, which recently received initial approval for digital asset broker license from Dubai’s Virtual asset regulatory authority, has partnered with UAE Seed Group, a company of the Private Office of Sheikh Saeed bin Ahmed Al Maktoum, based in Dubai.

As per the press release, the partnership offers a significant step towards achieving seamless financial interoperability across the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the broader Middle East and North Africa region (MENA). The companies will work together to enable transparent and efficient transactions and processes for global financial institutions, promoting digital solutions and financial inclusivity.

DKK Partners was recently granted initial approval to offer digital asset broker dealer services by Dubai’s Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA). The initial approval allows DKK FZE to move forward in the licensing process and offer customers in Dubai and the UAE access to stablecoin blockchain technology, utilizing USDT and USDC.

The Seed Group specializes in diversified business interests and operates across a group of companies, within different sectors such as technology, real estate, healthcare and more. Fostering innovation is what the Seed Group strives for, focusing on investment activities and strategic partnerships.

Hisham Al Gurg, the CEO of Seed Group stated, “We are pleased to work alongside DKK Partners in delivering forex risk management, liquidity solutions, and expedited collections to the rapidly growing markets across Dubai and the MENA region. This joint alliance will allow DKK Partners to deliver seamless interoperability customised to the growing demands of local businesses and government institutions. We are optimistic about how this partnership will unfold in the coming months.”

Khalid Talukder, Co-Founder and CEO of DKK Partners commented, “It is an extremely exciting time for us at DKK Partners as the new partnership grants us access to the offices of key decision-makers in Dubai and the UAE’s largest and most prestigious businesses. We were looking for a key strategic partner based in Dubai that has wide-reaching access in the UAE and GCC, and Seed Group was absolutely the ideal match. This partnership will enable us to showcase our business model and the immediate advantages we offer, perfectly aligning with our three-year growth and expansion strategy.”

Liminal Custody Solutions, a provider of digital assets and crypto custody as well as crypto wallet infrastructure solutions, has officially acquired the Financial Services Permission (FSP) from the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) allowing it to operate as a regulated crypto custodian within the Middle East.

As per the press release, obtaining the FSP positions Liminal as a trusted crypto custodian partner for institutions seeking secure and compliant solutions for safeguarding their valuable digital assets. This expansion broadens Liminal’s reach and allows it to serve a wider range of clientele seeking best-in-class digital asset custody solutions.

Mahin Gupta, Founder of Liminal Custody Solutions, expressed his satisfaction with the achievement, stating, “We are honored to receive the ADGM FSP license. This accomplishment represents the culmination of significant effort on behalf of our entire team, all dedicated to upholding the highest regulatory standards. Building trust within the digital asset industry, which is undergoing rapid evolution, is a core tenet of our mission. The ADGM FSP license serves as a powerful validation of our commitment to compliance. We are confident that this achievement will further empower us to deliver best-in-class custody solutions to our clients, ensuring the continued security and integrity of their digital asset holdings.”

By adhering to stringent regulations, Liminal crypto custodian ensures the safety and security of client assets, while its unwavering commitment to innovation allows it to develop cutting-edge solutions that address the evolving needs of the digital asset landscape. This two-pronged approach – prioritizing both regulatory compliance and technological advancement – positions Liminal as a leader in the digital asset custody space.

Commenting on Liminal achievement, Arvind Ramamurthy, Chief of Market Development at ADGM said, ” We congratulate Liminal on completing its licensing process and receiving the required  Financial Services Permission (FSP) from the FSRA of ADGM. Liminal’s focus on regulatory compliance and innovative solutions in the space of digital assets aligns with ADGM’s vision for fostering a dynamic and trusted financial ecosystem that prioritizes upholding the highest standards of security and innovation. We look forward to witness Liminal’s contribution to the growth of the digital asset industry in Abu Dhabi and beyond.”

Amir Tabch, CEO of Liminal Custody Solutions Middle East and Senior Executive Officer of the Category 3C ADGM-regulated entity First Answer Middle East Limited, remarked, “Earning the ADGM FSP license is a clear indicator of Liminal’s ironclad dedication to compliance and innovation. This achievement not only positions us at the forefront of digital asset custody but also signals our pivotal role in its future evolution. By equally valuing regulatory compliance and technological progress, we aim to equip institutions with the confidence to explore the digital asset realm, tapping into its vast, transformative potential. This milestone is a springboard for Liminal’s continued growth and a significant contribution towards the digital asset industry’s maturity.”

Liminal had received in principle approval from ADGM back in November 2023, and recently received in principle approval from Dubai’s regulatory authority.

On behalf of the Hong Kong SAR Government, the Financial Services Development Council (FSDC) signed an MoU with the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) with the goal of deepening the collaboration across multiple financial services areas between Qatar and Hong Kong including digital assets.

The Hong Kong and Mainland China delegates to Qatar have had numerous group meetings and networking opportunities with the local Qatar stakeholders – QFC, QIA, QDB ( Qatar Development Bank), Invest Qatar, Qatar Foundation, QSTP, regulators, investors, family offices, channel partners in digital assets, fintech, wealth management, to deepen the collaboration and uncover concrete business opportunities.

This MoU signing is a follow-up from an earlier visit to Qatar by the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Christopher Hui, in 2023. Since then, Qatar leaders also visited Hong Kong during the Asian Financial Forum in early 2024.

King Leung, Global Head of Financial Services and Fintech, InvestHK told Qatar Pennisula media, that “Qatar can leverage Hong Kong’s strengths to its advantage. In Hong Kong, we have been experimenting lots of innovation such as tokenization and digital assets and would like to work more closely with Qatar.”

Sharing his perspectives on the intersection between fintech and AI, Global Head of Financial Services and Fintech Leung stated, “We are seeing the intersection of AI, big data, blockchain, and cloud. A lot of the financial institutions are now using fintech, which with that AI capability can help streamline a lot of the internal processes. We have seen a lot of AI innovation in the fintech space that are empowering the financial institutions to transform their operation, to raise their ability to service their clients.”

There have been regular follow-ups by both organizations, as well as InvestHK. We are committed to deepen our collaboration in key financial services areas – asset and wealth management, fintech, digital assets, and family offices.

The Undersecretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Joseph Chan, the Financial Services Development Council (FSDC), InvestHK, and Cyberport led a delegation of over 30 Hong Kong and Mainland China business leaders to Doha on May 5-6.

Highlighting some of the key sectors of interest for investors from Hong Kong, Leung added, “The senior officials have been making our stance very clear in terms of our positioning as a major green finance and green tech hub. We would love to work with investors around the world to promote these movements. It could be new energy, new materials, or any of the technology layers that can promote a better tracking of the green behaviour. We see quite a lot of green fintechs using different technologies and access to different data.”

HexTrust, a digital asset custodian, under the UAE entity name of HT Market MENA, has been granted a VASP license from Dubai’s Virtual Asset Regulatory Authority (VARA) that will allow it to offer crypto brokerage services allowing it to serve both institutional and retail clients, pending that all requirements are fulfilled.

This is the second VASP license that HexTrust receives from VARA. It was previously awarded a crypto custodial license back in November 2023.

Hex Trust’s Dubai office was established in June 2022, and is led by Regional MENA Director, Filippo Buzzi.

On receiving the first license for digital asset custody services Buzzi stated, “It is exciting for us to become one of the first virtual asset companies to receive this operating license in Dubai,” said Filippo Buzzi, Hex Trust’s Regional Director MENA. “Hex Trust is fully committed to expanding into the Middle East and sees enormous potential for digital asset growth given the progressive regulations, welcoming governments, and thriving crypto ecosystem in the region.”

With this license Hex Trust will not only be able to hold crypto for its clients but also allow trading.

To date Dubai’s VARA has awarded 18 VASP licenses with the latest being Binance and WadzPay.

Moreover, there are more licenses on the way with Liminal Custody Solutions Dubai entity, “First Answer Custody FZE”, both providers of digital asset custody and wallet solutions, securing an initial approval from Dubai’s virtual asset regulatory authority (VARA).

Prior to that NorthStake a firm which offers safe, compliant and secure investment in Digital Assets for institutional investors as well as crypto staking and trading services applied and received a preliminary approval for a license from Dubai’s virtual asset regulatory authority (VARA) for a license.