Sources in the know of BitOasis’s current conditions, some of which have been affected by the latest changes, have confirmed to LaraontheBlock that on August 15th 2023, 30-50 employees were fired from BitOasis both from their offices in Jordan as well as UAE out of a total of over 120 employees. This happens as sources confirm that BitOasis is in the midst of ongoing negotiations to be acquired by India’s CoinDCX after the UAE based crypto broker failed to receive a Full Market product license from Dubai’s virtual asset regulatory authority VARA.

Launched on April 7th, 2018, CoinDCX is a cryptocurrency exchange with its offices located in India. CoinDCX is backed by investors such as Polychain Capital, Coinbase Ventures, Bain Capital Ventures, and HDR Group, operator of BitMEX and Pantera Capital among others. According to recent figures from CoinMarketCap CoinDCX has a Spot Trading Volume (24h) of $2,023,145.62 and holds total assets of $103,283,813.20.

In April 2022, CoinDCX raised $135.9 million from investors led by Pantera Capital and Steadview Capital, doubling its valuation to $2.15 billion becoming the most valued crypto trading platform in India.

In parallel BitOasis was valued in 2021 at $120 million receiving total funding of $30 million in a series B round in October 2021 from Global Founders Capital, Pantera Capital, Wamda Capital, Digital Currency Group, Alameda Research, Jump Capital and NXMH.

Sources also confirm that given the tough situation at BitOasis with no financial license, the company valuation has decreased significantly from 120 million and a distressed deal is being discussed to ensure business continuity and a path towards licensing.

BitOasis’s buyout comes after its MVP Operational license was halted by Dubai’s virtual asset regulatory authority (VARA) for not meeting mandated conditions required to be satisfied within 30-60 day timeframes prior to being permitted to undertake any VARA regulated market activity, subsequent to the issuance of its License for Institutional and Qualified Retail Investors, on 12.April.2023. This meant that BitOasis had failed to meet the financial and operational conditions license obligations.

At the time BitOasis had replied that they were committed to remediate all outstanding post licensing conditions of their Operational MVP license as committed to the regulator, as well as working towards Full Market Product (FMP) licensing.  The clarification stated, “We remain committed to securing a broker-dealer license, and operating a compliant, regulated platform in and from Dubai under VARA’s supervision. Transparency has always been a key value of our business – we will continue to update our community as we address these requirements prior to applying for an FMP license.”

Given the market conditions, the high interest rate environment and low valuation multiples for public players like Coinbase, it is expected that BitOasis investors will be offered shares as part of the distressed acquisition deal.

The upcoming weeks will be the teller of all, but what is sure is that the crypto exchange ecosystem is going through a rough time not only globally but in the MENA region. With increased and stricter regulatory requirements by regulators such as Dubai’s VARA, only the strongest will survive.

As per Bloomberg Kraken, crypto exchange based out of Abu Dhabi UAE has closed its office  while Chainalysis lays off 4.8 percent of its global workforce, but continues to hire in the MENA region.

Kraken has closed its  third office in less than a year. The first one was its headquarters in San Francisco, then Japan and now UAE.

Kraken had received a full license to operate in the UAE in April 2022.  With these closures have come layoffs. Kraken announced back in November 2022 that it would be laying off 30 percent of its workforce, equivalent to 1,100 employees.

As per Bloomberg, Kraken laid off the majority of its team in the MENA region, a total of 8 people. Benjamin Ampen, managing director for the region, will stay with the firm. On the Abu Dhabi market registry, Kraken is no longer listed as an active exchange.

In addition the exchange has suspended support for transactions in the AED, but clients in the region will still be able to use other products and services. That doesn’t require a local license, the spokesperson said.

In parallel, Chainalysis which last year had hinted to opening an office in the UAE hiring many employees as a prelude, also lays off part of its workforce globally but not in the UAE nor in the MENA region.  Actually while Chainalysis is laying off about 44 of its 900 employees, 4.8% of its workforce, it is continuing to hire for its operational expansion in the MENA region.

Sources close to Chainalysis within the UAE told LaraontheBlock that Chainalysis are actually hiring in the MENA region given the growth of crypto in countries such as Morocco with the potential to see KSA and Qatar on boarded into the crypto ecosystem in the future.

In an official statement, Chainalysis confirmed that it did not open its office in the UAE yet. It also stated with regards to the layoffs, “Chainalysis announced reorganization primarily impacting our go-to-market team – in order to meet new challenges and opportunities in the market. As a part of this reorg, some folks will have new roles, responsibilities, and reporting lines. Unfortunately we will also part ways with some incredibly talented people within our team. Chainalysis is well capitalized and will continue to hire and build out teams aligned with our refocused strategy in 2023.”

In July 2022, The UAE’s Ministry of Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications signed a preliminary agreement with blockchain data platform Chainalysis to provide virtual training programs for the country’s government entities.

So while some crypto entities close their offices and lay off employees in the MENA region, others continue to hire because the MENA region is a crypto growth market! So is it really the fault of the crypto winter or is it the fault of internal organizational issues and maybe even slow crypto regulation? 

Whatever the case while we say goodbye to Kraken, we welcome Chainalysis and many others to come!

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.