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.”

UAE organically incubated, digital assets custodian, Tungsten, regulated under the FSRA (Financial Services Regulatory Authority) in ADGM is on a hiring spree.

Tungsten, according to Further Ventures, UAE Venture Capital firm, and its incubator, is a 100% UAE sovereign digital asset custodian that offers secure and regulated custody service.  It is also backed by an Abu Dhabi Sovereign Wealth fund.

As per Tungsten, “ We are on a mission to create the most advanced digital assets custody and treasury services for our clients, helping them to become self-sovereign organizations with strong mechanisms for access control, multi-tier and multi-factor authentication, no single points of failure, and advanced transactional risk management.”

Tungsten goes on to note, “Our offering will be insured by global underwriters, regulated exclusively by ADGM (Abu Dhabi Global Markets), and host its core services in a Tier IV data center with 24/7 physical security.”

Tungsten is custodian of virtual assets that protects client funds from geo-political, regulatory, and cloud risk by operating a fully private physical and application infrastructure out of the most secure facilities in the world.

The website states that Tungsten goes beyond custody, their integrations span exchanges, liquidity providers, analytics, tokenization, and more, providing a holistic solution.

The company is founded by Christian Desjardins, Co-Founder and CEO , as well as Jose J. Perez Aguinaga as the Co-Founder and CTO.

Tungsten is currently hiring an assistant Manager-Deputy MLRO.

In the advert for the position it states that Tungsten, backed by an Abu Dhabi Sovereign Wealth Fund has expansion plans across the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

The job advert notes, “We aim to redefine the landscape of secure, user-friendly virtual asset custody solutions. Our commitment is to unparalleled security, reliability, and ease of use, positioning Tungsten as the preferred choice for institutions managing their virtual assets.”

Tungsten is looking for Assistant Manager – Deputy MLRO, to support the Money Laundering Reporting Officer (MLRO) in implementing and managing their anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorist financing (CTF) framework.

This comes as more and more Blockchain and digital asset entities launch from ADGM in UAE.

This article was updated on Feb 27th 2024. Update concerned founding members.

OKX crypto exchange, with more than 50 million users, seeking a license in the UAE, has announced that it has appointed a General Manager for MENA region based out of Dubai.

Rifad Mahasneh, in his role as General Manager will be responsible for leading OKX’s operations and regulatory approach, and growing the company’s user base and market share in the region.

OKX President Hong Fang said: “We’re thrilled to welcome Rifad as OKX’s leader in MENA. With his extensive background in digital assets, finance and growth, and years of local leadership in the region, Rifad is a key strong addition to the team. With MENA being one of the fastest growing markets globally for digital assets and Web3 adoption, this appointment is a testament to our commitment to drive sustainable growth in this region.”

OKX MENA General Manager Rifad Mahasneh said: “I’m excited to join OKX and lead its MENA business – it’s a privilege to be a part of such a forward-thinking and innovative company. I look forward to contributing to the development of OKX in the UAE and across the MENA region, and to playing a role in helping to onboard the next billion users to Web3.”

Rifad has extensive experience in digital assets, strategy, and public policy in the UAE and is a board member of the Dubai Digital Asset Association (D2A2). Prior to joining OKX, Rifad held the position of Vice President with Rain, leading business and licensing efforts in the UAE. His earlier roles included leading Uber’s ride hailing business in the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Levant regions.

Synechron, a leading global digital transformation consulting firm focused on financial services and technology organizations which works with emerging technologies such as AI, Blockchain and others has opened its new office located in Riyadh, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s (“KSA”). The new office will enable Synechron to expand its array of key services to multiple banking and technology firms within the Middle East. This marks the 44th office Synechron maintains across 19 countries.

Synechron currently operates two offices in the United Arab Emirates, respectively in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. In recent years, KSA has experienced a transformation of its banking and financial technology sectors, presenting an opportunity for Synechron to scale up its business to support the growth of these sectors. Riyadh, the capital of KSA, was selected for the location of this office as it is at the epicenter of where multiple banking and telecom companies maintain their head offices.

The firm has previously executed projects in KSA, including building a digital branch for a global bank, and currently provides payments-related services for another financial firm.

Faisal Husain, Synechron’s Co-founder and CEO, said of the new office opening, “We are excited to join the Riyadh business community and establish Synechron as a key participant in KSA’s financial services industry, while contributing to the region’s vision and growth. With our expanded footprint, we are able to more closely collaborate with our clients and better enable their digital technology-led business transformation.”

Suhail Basit, Managing Director and Head of Synechron’s MENA Business, added, “We are pleased to expand our presence into KSA and look forward to welcoming a local workforce of talented individuals with the knowledge, skills and passion to work in tandem with our global exerts. We are investing in senior talent to lead our ongoing initiatives and to bring in the desired growth from this fast-growing market. Together, we will develop the customized business solutions that our existing and prospective clients require to scale their businesses. This includes bringing advanced methodologies and tools for Digital Transformation, Data and Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, and more.”

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.

In a recent blog post Sologenic, a Ripple partner pointed out the Ripple now boasta of 4.8 million wallets with 20 percent of its customers coming from MENA region. The information was provided by Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse during the Dubai Fintech Summit.

These comments were made as Sologenic and Ripple expand their presence in the UAE and MENA region. The SOLO Wallet has successfully onboarded over 200,000 users onto the XRP Ledger. Moreover, strategic partnerships with payment ramps like Uphold and BANXA to provide global accessibility to the ledger, and recent listings on prominent exchanges in specific regions such as Bitpanda (Northern Europe), CoinDCX (India), and CoinsPh (The Philipines) underscore the platform’s unwavering commitment to delivering accessible and cutting-edge tokenization solutions. These efforts directly address the surging demand among institutional investors eager to access digital assets.

As Ripple charts its course into the heart of Dubai’s financial sector, Sologenic stands as the one-stop-shop for all things XRP within the ecosystem. Sologenic’s platform connects global financial markets with the world of cryptocurrencies, redefining digital asset trading by allowing fractional share ownership.

Sologenic’s regulated arm is deploying a platform with a hybrid model for the on-demand tokenization of assets. This platform facilitates trading between crypto and off-chain traditional assets such as stocks & ETFs. This institutional-grade offering is designed for RIA’s, brokerage houses, family offices, banks and other financial institutions looking to tokenize real-world assets for their clients.

In Ripple’s latest report in July 2023,entitled “ 2023 New Value report, Crypto Trends in Business and Beyond” which covered topics such as cryptocurrencies, tokenization, DeFi, and crypto custody, financial decision makers from MENA ( Middle East and North Africa) are more bullish than their counterparts in other regions when it comes to cryptocurrencies, digital assets, and Blockchain.

As per the report findings, 72% of finance leaders surveyed expressed increased confidence in the crypto industry over the last 6 months, the number is even higher for those in the MENA region, reaching 87%.

90% of global finance leaders anticipate big impacts on business from blockchain and digital assets in the next three years. In terms of tokenization, they see the most massive impact in public stock trading and private share trading. This was especially expressed by finance decision makers with cryptocurrency experience in MENA.

Blockchain enabled Silal traceability agriculture and food safety platform, backed by Abu Dhabi’s ADQ has acquired a majority stake in SAFCO Group, a leading food and beverage distributor in the UAE.

Prior to this, UAE’s ADQ, Silal, announced the launch its blockchain powered platform to trace the lifecycle of food from farm to fork. As per the news using the new traceability service is as simple as scanning the QR code of a Silal Fresh product through the Silal App.

Today, the acquisition of SAFCO integrates with Silal’s strategic growth ambitions and significantly strengthens its presence in the hospitality, restaurant and catering segment, leveraging SAFCO’s 30-year track record in importing, distributing and exporting a wide array of premium food and non-food products across the UAE, Middle East and Africa. The acquisition integrates with Silal’s strategic objectives and growth ambitions.

SAFCO’s acquisition is a pivotal step in enhancing Silal’s capacity to meet the market’s demand for a wide range of high-quality products and will accelerate the company’s efforts to enhance its food distribution.

In a blog announcement published by VALR, a South African based crypto exchange, they state that their subsidiary VALR FZE has won an initial approval from Dubai’s Virtual Asset Regulatory Authority (VARA), marking a pivotal moment in our journey towards global expansion.

As per the blog post, “The initial approval granted to VALR FZE does not allow it to undertake any virtual asset services yet, but is a critical step as it seeks to establish a virtual asset exchange in Dubai and affirms VALR’s position as a reputable player in the virtual asset industry, committed to upholding the highest standards of operational integrity, compliance and security. “

Co-founder and CEO, Farzam Ehsani, stated, “For the past 5 years, VALR has been working closely with regulators to inform regulatory frameworks that protect the public while allowing responsible innovation to flourish. This initial approval from VARA is a significant milestone for VALR to bring our products and services to a more global audience under the auspices of a world-leading regulator.”

Blake Player, Head of Growth at VALR highlighted the strategic importance of Dubai and the Middle East, adding, “We see Asia, the Middle East, and the UAE as attractive markets with significant crypto flows. Dubai is quickly gaining recognition as a forward-thinking and pragmatic jurisdiction for crypto businesses. Setting up in Dubai provides an excellent opportunity to serve the regional market and a global customer base from a crypto and business-friendly jurisdiction.”

VALR is not the first crypto exchange seeking a license in the UAE nor will it be the last. Many international crypto exchanges including Binance, crypto.com, Bybit, and CoinBase have all expressed their interest in the UAE.

As Taurus, digital asset infrastructure provider, offer digital custody and tokenization services, partners with Deutsche Bank, it plans to expand into the UAE among other countries.

Founded in 2018, Taurus offers enterprise-grade digital asset infrastructure for the issuance, safeguarding, and trading of various digital assets, including cryptocurrencies, tokenized assets, NFTs, and digital currencies. The company’s product portfolio includes Taurus-Protect, a secure storage solution used by over 25 financial institutions and corporations in Europe, and Taurus-Capital, which facilitates the issuance and management of NFTs and tokenized assets on public and private blockchains.

Deutsche Bank’s partnership with Taurus builds on the bank’s recent initiatives in the digital asset space. By leveraging Taurus’ technology, the bank aims to meet the evolving needs of its clients in the digital asset ecosystem.

Paul Maley, the global head of securities services at Deutsche Bank, emphasized the significance of adapting to the growing digital asset market. As the digital asset space is expected to encompass trillions of dollars of assets, custodians must provide the necessary support to investors and corporations.

This partnership follows Deutsche Bank’s previous investment in Taurus. The bank participated in Taurus’ $65 million Series B funding round earlier this year, alongside Credit Suisse, Pictet Group, and Arab Bank Switzerland. Taurus plans to utilize the funding to further develop its digital asset platform and expand globally, with new offices in Europe, the UAE, the Americas, and Southeast Asia.

UAE based BitOasis crypto broker exchange has announced that it has secured an investment from CoinDCX, India’s biggest crypt exchange. This comes after BitOasis’s license was suspended by VARA for not meeting requirements. The latest investment will give BitOasis a new life line.

As per the news, the new capital injection will help to support BitOasis’s vision to amplify its regional presence and secure further licenses in the region.

Commenting on the news, Ola Doudin, Co-Founder and CEO of BitOasis said: “We are delighted to be working with CoinDCX, India’s leading crypto platform. From our first conversations, it was clear we share a common vision and synergies across our markets that we look forward to building towards. The investment will allow us to sharpen our focus on perfecting our existing products and expanding across our markets. We are very excited about the opportunities the funding will unlock for us.”

Sumit Gupta, Co-Founder and CEO of CoinDCX stated: “We are immensely excited about investing in BitOasis, the largest crypto trading platform in the Mena region. We have been impressed by BitOasis’s excellent product offering, strong leadership and their persistence to serve customers in the most secure and compliant manner.”

The investment comes after news that CoinDCX was in talks to acquire BitOasis. BitOasis in the past month had let go of more than 30 employees.

Prior to that VARA had freezed BitOasis’s MVP operational license for non compliance to requirements set by the Dubai virtual asset regulator. 

With this an Indian crypto exchange now has a foothold in the MENA region with the investment in BitOasis.