GenomeFi, a specialized Web3 Blockchain and AI platform providing Decentralized Identity (DID) services based on individual genetic characteristics using NFTs, has acquired a business license and a free zone license within the Dubai Multi Commodities Center (DMCC) in Dubai, UAE.

Using AI technology, GenomeFi facilitates genetic information-based NFTs to provide identity verification services reflecting individual genetic characteristics. It aims to expand the ecosystem where DID services and genomic information are available across the spectrum, from genomics to biotechnology. GenomeFi also seeks to establish an incentive system using blockchain technology and encourage mass adoption of genomic content.

The GenomeFi Foundation, along with its core partner CLINOMICS, provides genomic medical solution services through the world’s best Genome-based diagnostic kits, monitors early diagnosis of cancer/disease through liquid biopsy and multi-omics technology, and provides personalized prescriptions, and personalized treatment services. Starting with Clinomics, a key partner, the expansion and popularization of medical services through cooperation with various medical institutions and medical companies can be used in real life by lowering accessibility through distributed ledger technology and Web 3.0, and participants in the GenomeFi ecosystem can receive services.

GenomeFi plans to intensify its business expansion in Dubai, based on networking and cooperative relationships with DMCC member companies.

In addition to collaborating with Web3 companies in Dubai, GenomeFi will focus on realizing a proof-of-concept business model that bridges the blockchain and medical industries through collaboration with genome-based medical centers.

Jimmy Choi, CEO of GenomeFi, stated, “Acquiring the DMCC license will strengthen our position in the Middle Eastern market based on Dubai and lay the groundwork for expanding our partners. We are preparing to conduct collaborative projects in various parts including investment, marketing, medical, on-chain, and community.”

UAE based Cypher Capital, crypto investment firm has co-led a $2.4 million investment round in German blockchain data analytics firm BitsCrunch. BitsCrunch specializes in multi-chain insights and forensics for NFT and digital assets using blockchain and AI technology.

Backed by Coinbase Ventures, Animoca Brands, Chainlink, Cypher Capital, Crypto.com Capital, Morningstar Ventures, Shima Capital, and others, bitsCrunch is an AI-powered, decentralized NFT data platform that enables developers to build reliable NFT applications (dApps). The company is pioneering crypto data forensics to allow retail, institutional, and venture investors to make better decisions about crypto assets.

Cypher Capital Chairman Bill Qian states: “We are excited to partner with Vijay and his team at blockchain enabled bitsCrunch. They are solving the transparency problem in the NFT space through AI and data analytics, which will further enhance the user experience and trust.”

bitsCrunch recently set a record on CoinList by achieving the fastest sale in history, raising an additional $3.85 million in just 24 minutes (translating to $160,000 each minute). The community-driven event drew participants from 163 countries, marking the most diverse sale in CoinList’s history. The 5x oversubscribed funding underscores the widespread interest and confidence in bitsCrunch’s vision.

bitsCrunch CEO, Vijay Pravin, states: “Cypher Capital has been a great value add for bitsCrunch, especially connecting us to a lot of their Venture Partners and introductions to their portfolio companies. They have been one of the very few active VCs in the last bear cycle. This investment round strengthens our ability to scale across multiple chains in the coming years.”

Cypher Capital cotinues to invest in crypto and blockchain projects. UAE-based social networking and content monetization platform Lyvely,  was one of the most recent.

UAE luxury brand Kelvin Haus launches with a unique collection that utilizes NFTs to offer consumers a sustainable future for fashion.

Founder Hammad Anwar shares, “Our journey starts here, in the heart of the UAE, where each garment reflects our commitment to supporting the local community while championing eco-conscious fashion.” Aligned with Vision 2050, Kelvin Haus ethically sources sustainable raw materials and expertly crafts them in the Kelvin Haus Atelier, a symbol of luxury and exclusivity.”

In its first product release dubbed “The Street Tee.. Dubai edition” of just 971 pieces, they are introducing Blockchain ownership and NFTs (non- fungible tokens) to deliver authenticity and interactive engagement with every garment. The NFTs will also offer customers unique experiences and benefits, showcasing Kelvin Haus’s commitment to leading in fashion technology.

Collaborating with local artists, Kelvin Haus has curated a limited edition design that authentically captures the vibrant essence of Dubai. The brand’s unwavering commitment to inclusivity is evident in its exhaustive efforts to cater to all body sizes, offering a diverse range of fits tailored to suit every unique body type.

Sustainability is the cornerstone of Kelvin Haus. With the fashion industry generating 1.92 million tons of textile waste annually, the brand champions the use of recycled fibres, adhering to the highest ecological standards such as OEKO-TEX® and GOTS. Kelvin Haus pioneers the circular fashion economy with sustainability embedded in every operation.

In July 2023, the US  Department of Justice on Monday charged a Moroccan national accused of impersonating OpenSea marketplace functions in order to make off with cryptocurrencies and NFTs, including a Bored Ape. Apart from NFTs, Oulahyane is accused of stealing ether (ETH).

Prosecutors accused Soufiane Oulahyane, 25, of defrauding a Manhattan resident and others of approximately $450,000 of digital assets in September 2021.  According to the allegations, the DOJ alleges Oulahyane “spoofed” OpenSea, creating a site that mimicked the real OpenSea to trick customers into logging in and swiping their OpenSea credentials in the process. He allegedly bought “paid advertisements on a popular search engine” to boost the fake page.

“Oulahyane is alleged to have operated a spoof website to gain unauthorized access to victims’ cryptocurrency wallets to steal their cryptocurrency and NFTs,” FBI Acting Assistant Director in Charge Christie Curtis said.

The DOJ charged Oulahyane with wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, affecting transactions “with an unauthorized device” and use of an unauthorized device.

He’s in Moroccan custody. Oulahyane stole a seed phrase from a New York-based victim’s wallet after the victim accidentally landed on the fake OpenSea login page — designed by Oulahyane — and not the actual marketplace. From there, Oulahyane was able to steal 39 NFTs, including their Bored Ape.

The UAE Central Bank has issued its long awaited virtual assets and virtual assets service provider framework under the umbrella of a new guidance on anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) for licensed financial institutions (LFIs) with a focus on the risks of dealing with virtual assets.

The actual document is more telling than the initial press release. In reality the UAE Central Bank has clarified what is considers as virtual assets and who can offer services in this realm, as well as how banks and financial institutions will work with VASPs when it comes to opening accounts for them and meeting compliance requirements. It also makes clear that virtual assets are not considered a legal tender in the UAE.

Now a lot has been made clear. Earlier this month, there was a position for a Fintech virtual assets senior manager job at a UAE Bank who was required to be specialized in Fintech and virtual assets compliance from a finance crime perspective, which was eye catching because there wasn’t anything yet announced from the UAE Central Bank. Yet now one thing is for certain, banks in the UAE will be scrambling to hire talents who understand the virtual asset ecosystem so they will be able to comply with the recent guidance.

Definition of virtual assets and VASPs

First the UAE Central Bank has defined as they mention in alignment with FATF definitions, what virtual assets are, leaving out of the definition CBDCs and security tokens, as well as some NFTs. As per the guidance, “A virtual asset is a digital representation of value that can be digitally traded, or transferred, and can be used for payment or investment purposes, excluding digital representations of fiat currencies, securities, and other funds (such as those separately regulated by the competent authorities of the UAE, including the CBUAE, SCA, VARA, FSRA, and the Dubai Financial Services Authority (“DFSA”).”

It goes on to explain, “Virtual assets, so defined, typically include assets commonly referred to as cryptocurrencies, cryptocoins, payment tokens, exchange tokens, and convertible virtual currencies. Without prejudice to the definitions in the laws and regulations referred to above, stablecoins may be considered either virtual assets or traditional financial assets depending on their exact nature. No asset should be considered a virtual asset and a traditional financial asset (e.g., a security) at the same time.”

The guidance also discusses payment tokens offered and licensed by payment token service providers. Payment Tokens are defined as a type of Crypto-Asset that is backed by one or more Fiat Currency, can be digitally traded, and functions as a medium of exchange and/or a unit of account and/or a store of value, but does not have legal tender status in any jurisdiction. A Payment Token is neither issued nor guaranteed by any jurisdiction and fulfills the above functions only by agreement within the community of users of the Payment Token. Payment Token Service Providers, in turn, are defined as persons engaged in Payment Token issuing, Payment Token buying, Payment Token selling, facilitating the exchange of Payment Tokens, enabling payments to Merchants and/or enabling peer-to-peer payments, and Custodian Services related to Payment Tokens.

What Virtual assets are not

As for NFTs, they are not considered virtual assets, but this does depend on the nature of the NFT and its function. As stated, “Some NFTs that on their face do not appear to constitute VAs may fall under the VA definition if they are used for payment or investment purposes in practice.”

The guidance makes it clear that the Central Bank of the UAE does not accept or acknowledge virtual assets as a legal tender/currency in the UAE; rather, the only legal tender in the UAE is the UAE dirham. As such, those accepting VAs as payment for goods and services or in exchange for other assets bear any risk associated with the future acceptance or recognition of VAs.

The guidance adds,  by definition VAs cannot be digital representations of fiat currencies, securities, or other separately regulated financial assets, a bank record maintained in digital format, for instance, that represents a person’s ownership of fiat currency is not a VA. However, a digital asset that is exchangeable for another asset, such as a stablecoin that is designed to be exchangeable for a fiat currency or a VA at a fixed rate, could still qualify as a VA, depending on the relevant features of such a stablecoin.

VASP activities overview

There are five basic activities that fall under VASPs as per the UAE Central Bank, but these are not considered as comprehensive only meant for illustrative purposes. They include virtual asset exchange, virtual asset brokers, who transfer ownership of VA from one user to another, virtual asset custodians, P2P exchanges, remittance payments, payment for nonfinancial g goods or services, or payment of wages. A provider offering such a service will likely be a VASP.

The UAE Central Bank has even considered decentralized virtual assets Exchanges or decentralized finance (“DeFi”) application creators, owners, and operators as VASPs given they maintain control or sufficient influence in the DeFi arrangements, even if those arrangements seem decentralized, may fall under the definition of a VASP where they are providing or actively facilitating VASP services. For example, there may be control or sufficient influence over assets or over aspects of the service’s protocol, and the existence of an ongoing business relationship between themselves and users; even if this is exercised through a smart contract or in some cases voting protocols.

Even entities that provide related financial services to issuer’s who offer or sell virtual assets through participation in and provision of financial services related to an issuer’s offer or sale of a Virtual asset through activities such as initial coin offerings (“ICOs”) are considered as VASPs.

Licensed Financial Institutions AML CFT

Finally as per the AML-CFT Decision, every natural or legal person who carries out any VASP activities, provides VASP products or services, or carries out VASP operations from the state must be licensed, enrolled, or registered by a competent supervisory authority in the UAE.

LFIs are strictly prohibited from establishing relationships or processing transactions with individuals or entities that perform covered VASP activities and are not licensed to do so by UAE authorities. It is therefore essential that LFIs form an understanding of whether its customers perform covered VASP activities and, if so, whether they have fulfilled applicable UAE licensing requirements. LFIs are not permitted to establish relationships or process transactions with foreign VASPs that have not secured a license to operate as a VASP from UAE authorities, even if the foreign VASP is duly licensed or registered outside the UAE.

The guidance warns that LFIs may be indirectly exposed to VA or VASP activity through its customers that use their account or relationship with the LFI to provide downstream financial services to VASPs. In the case of VASP customers, this may include the provision of accounts or custodial wallets that can be used directly by customers of a third-party VASP to transact business on the customer’s own behalf.

The AML-CFT Law brings virtual assets and virtual asset service providers within the scope of the UAE’s AML/CFT legal, regulatory, and supervisory framework. Under Articles 9 and 15 of the AML-CFT Law, VASPs must report suspicious transactions and information relevant to such transactions to the UAE FIU, and under Articles 13 and 14, supervisory authorities are authorized to assess the risks of VASPs, conduct supervisory operations (including inspections) of VASPs, and impose administrative penalties on VASPs for violations of applicable laws and regulations.

Conclusion

In conclusion this is the first comprehensive framework that the UAE Central Bank has published which will allow a select number of VASPs to be able to deal with the licensed financial institutions in the UAE. It will not be easy for the financial sector as the AML and CFT requirements are exhaustive, but it will also not be easy for the VASPs.

Moreover, there is one gap that seems huge and over looked by the UAE Central Bank, and that is what if licensed financial institutions actually want to offer Virtual asset services. So what if a bank actually wants to offer VA custodial services, or VA payment services, or brokerage services, can they both be the provider and the client and what happens to AML and CFT requirements then.

In Bahrain for example the Central Bank is allowing crypto entities to move into the other financial arenas and has even allowed the first digital bank which deals in digital assets to make their base in the country.

Another question that can be raised, is that in a country which has called for more international cooperation and coordination when it comes to regulating virtual assets, then concurrently does not allow any of its financial institutions to deal with any VASP not regulated in the UAE even if they are regulated in other jurisdictions, what precedence is the UAE making in this regards and is reciprocity the new name of the game?

With regulations taking force in UAE especially when it comes to virtual assets, the country that once boasted of having 1800 blockchain and crypto entities might see that number dwindle as most of these companies will not be able to comply to the regulatory requirements rendering them unable to receive services from the banking sector. 

We can already see this decline in number on the new website for VARA, where there were once dozens of names listed as on the course of receiving licenses, today there is a handful.

Next to be published will definately be the payments rulebook under VARA which was missing before. Can’t wait to see what that will bring to the table. 

Digital Dubai, announced recently that it has adopted soulbound token technology, considered the advanced version of NFTs (Non Fungible tokens). Digital Dubai has used soulbound tokens to issue the world’s first digital certificates.

Utilizing soulbound tokens, certificates can be permanently linked to the person’s account in their digital wallet. Ownership of the certificate cannot be transferred to any other person, sold, or disposed of; however, it can be verified by any party if needed. This means the certificate is highly secure, and therefore does not need to be attested by any third party, making it intrinsically trusted. .

The Dubai Cyber Innovation Park (DCIPark) ,an affiliate of the Dubai Electronic Security Center) at Digital Dubai , granted the first Secure Digital Certificate to the first cohort of graduates from the CISO Executive program with the participation of  17  Government and Semi-Governmental entities. This certificate marks the first-ever use case of Soulbound Technology, which was adopted by Digital Dubai.

His Excellency Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori, Director General of Digital Dubai, said, “The accelerated pace of technological advancements has made the future closer than ever before, and here in Dubai, we are proud to have an agile government that do wastes no time in embracing developments and putting them into practice to drive digital transformation and shape the future today. With that in mind, issuing the first Self-Secured Digital Certificate marks a new stage for e-certificates, where individuals and institutions are able to showcase their certificates and achievements in a sovereign and trusted way without relying on third parties.”

H.E. Al Mansoori stressed that: “Dubai remains a pioneer in introducing breakthrough initiatives that assert its global leadership in digital transformation, and help improve quality of life and ensure the wellbeing of the Dubai community. To digitize all aspects of life in the Emirate of Dubai, and provide integrated, comprehensive digital services, we need an impenetrable electronic security system that is capable of mitigating any potential risks. This is a prime objective for us at Digital Dubai, one that we work to implement in close cooperation with our strategic partners. We invite these partners to explore this game-changing technology and its potential uses in their operations to serve the objectives of the Dubai Government.”

This comes at a time in UAE where the first international NFT awards took place sponsored by FtNFT. ftNFT unveiled its first ftNFT Phygital Space franchise in Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi. The ftNFT Phygital Space is the second shop opened by ftNFT, following the grand success of their first-ever phygital shop at the Mall of the Emirates.

Some of the many nominees for the awards included Al Jalila Foundation, Jetex, Huawei and Dubai Police.

In addition a recent Kaspersky research found that 72% of people in the UAE confident of NFTs increased use in the future while only 42% think it’s a technology hype. 77% of respondents in the UAE think NFTs can offer a new progressive way of trading digital assets. On the same note, 72% believe that it can ensure uniqueness of digital assets and contribute to intellectual property ownership.

In March 2022 Dubai announced the launch of the world’s first virtual asset regulatory authority. The authority would be set up to grant blockchain and crypto licenses in Dubai UAE. VARA then announced the first presence of a virtual asset regulatory authority in the metaverse with its headquarters in the Sandbox. Soon afterwards VARA hired the first CEO to head a virtual asset regulator, Mr Henson Orser.

As per the recently published rulebooks the goal of VARA is to promote the Emirate and ultimately the UAE as a safe and progressive jurisdiction worthy of attracting meaningful Virtual Asset growth and innovation, in complement with all related UAE Government programs, and  position VARA and the UAE as globally trusted and respected in the realm of international law.

Henson Orser in an interview with LaraontheBlock clarifies how the first global comprehensive rule book for VASPs and issuance of virtual assets issued by VARA in February 2023 is achieving its aim of becoming a global leading regulatory authority and jurisdiction.

The importance of VARA for UAE’s D33 strategy

Orser believes that VARA not only aims to help develop the virtual asset regulations globally given the enormous demand for regulatory clarity worldwide but is also a part of the broader initiative under D33 (Dubai 33). He explains, “Dubai’s D33 Economic Plan has outlined our mission to establish the Emirate as the capital of the Future Economy. VARA was launched as the world’s only independent and specialist regulator for Virtual Assets to serve as the accelerator for a truly borderless Digital Economy. Our regulatory framework, which is first of its kind, has been structured to accelerate Dubai’s economic agenda and sustainable market growth.

VARA according to Orser assists in achieving the objectives of Dubai 33, a strategy that targets to double the size of Dubai’s economy to $8.7 trillion by 2033 making it top three global cities, because it encourages innovation and technology which will attract individuals and companies to the city.

He adds, “VARA follows Dubai’s footsteps in global innovation, fostering collaboration between public, private and government entities to enable economic independence and create long term value. Dubai’s virtual asset regulations set out a comprehensive framework built on principles of economic sustainability and cross-border financial security. Ultimately, by defining an equitable framework, we help mitigate risk and create space for newcomers and seasoned players alike to innovate responsibly.

Dubai VARA and its relation to UAE Securities and Commodities Authority

On January 14th 2023, the UAE Security and Commodity Authority released its federal regulations on crypto assets. It shed light on the interaction between the jurisdictions of VARA and SCA, by stating that no person may engage in Virtual Asset Activities in the UAE without obtaining a license from “the [SCA] or the Local Licensing Authorities such as VARA.

Questions have arisen as to the roles of both SCA and VARA. Is an SCA licensing enough to operate in Dubai and do entities regulated by VARA are overseen by SCA?

Orser when asked about the relationship with VARA noted that as we are dealing with a globally integrated, and borderless virtual economy. VARA is extremely fortunate to have such strong internal alignment and synchronization of local and federal efforts. He states, “These are absolute must-haves. Reflective of the UAE’s commitment to the new economy and confidence in the Metaverse and Web 3.0 ecosystems, VARA serves as the central authority for this specialized global industry mandated to provide VA oversight across the Emirate of Dubai [except DIFC], fully supported by relevant UAE Regulators and Legal Authorities to create a Global Operating Benchmark.”

He adds, “To this end, Cabinet Resolutions No. (111) and (112) of 2022 have been very effective in providing clarity on how the VA industry standards setting, rules enforcement and market protection responsibilities and authority assigned to VARA for the Emirate of Dubai, will be supported by SCA’s assurance of an agreed acceptable operating baseline across the wider UAE. Similarly, the UAE CB and SCA being the custodians responsible for National FATF compliance – will provide the guidance on Anti-Money Laundering [AML], Combating the Financing of Terrorism [CFT] and such other rules that warrant uncompromised consistency in execution.” 

The importance of compliance to FATF

In June 2019, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) adopted an Interpretive Note to Recommendation 15 to further clarify how the FATF requirements should apply in relation to Virtual Assets and Virtual Asset Service Providers.

VARA has exhaustively taken the FATF AML/CFT guidelines to heart in its extensive 7 Rulebooks.

Orser explains, “Compliance to FATF and its AML/CFT guidelines are an absolute top tier global principle that we adhere to and aim to set the global standard for. There is no compromising on these guidelines within VARA and so people entering the VARA regime can expect a zero-tolerance for failure environment, here in Dubai..”

VARA Positive stance on crypto staking

Globally, 2023 has seen a lot of news related to cryptocurrency staking service and severe penalties and fines being imposed by regulators where such programs were being undertaken without relevant supervision. In the VARA Rulebooks, staking is a fully regulated activity as VARA feels strongly for the need for full investor disclosure, including marketing and solicitation activities being tailored for specifically qualified audiences.

Further elaborating on VARA’s perspective in permitting VA staking, Henson explained “We strongly believe that so far as a VASP exhibits the right level of responsibility and demonstrates robust transparency, investors must be able to effectively benefit from the offering that is built on permissioned DeFi protocols with proper regulatory guardrails and mandatory disclosures. When it comes to proof of stake versus proof of work tokens, we are also studying many of the interesting developments in protocols, with a strong focus on environmental sustainability.

VARA DeFi Regulatory Sandbox

While the term DeFi is not specifically referenced in the 7 Rulebooks from VARA, DeFi lies very much at the core of Dubai’s Future Economy considerations. 

 Orser explained that VARA’s Rulebooks have focused on facilitating borderless ‘value-exchange’ both in the traditional and new economy contexts, by leveraging a full spectrum of cross-cutting ‘activities’, which should not in any way be construed as TradFi specific. 

He states, “We are well aware that in this sector new technologies and products will be continually emerging, and constructively challenging traditional financial systems. It is exactly for this reason that VARA has been constructed as a technology agnostic and product-neutral framework that allows us to remain progressive and future-focused.  This means that our regime will provide for R&D sandboxes to test, learn and evolve prototypes across DeFis and DAOs today, to wider innovations across Metaverse and Web3.0. As we have maintained, the VARA Regulations will strike a measured balance between remaining agile so we benefit from future waves of technological innovations, yet being definitive in their ability to provide the required market certainty, FATF assurances, and cross-border security which are non-compromisable to us.”

Privacy coins no go at VARA

The rules on privacy coins are pretty simple says Orser. “Rather than going through specific examples of coins that will or will not be prohibited, we think it is important to emphasize how this issue is handled in VARA’s regulations. Our definition of an anonymity-enhanced cryptocurrency states that the prohibition will apply when a VASP has no means of establishing traceability or identifying ownership in relation to that cryptocurrency. If a VASP or a particular token or coin has the right technology or mechanisms to establish traceability or identify ownership, then Virtual Asset activity on that cryptocurrency may be conducted.” 

VARA is therefore focused on preventing financial crime and ensuring that the highest standards are met by VASPs in the areas of anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism.

He concludes, “We hope the above provides you with a better understanding of VARA’s approach to this issue”.

NFTs within VARA regime

While no direct reference was made to the term NFTs [Non-Fungible Tokens] within VARA’s Rulebooks, Orser says that this again refers to the product neutrality of VARA’s rule sets, and what VARA will govern is the activity of issuance which will include NFTs.

He explains, “To the extent that an entity or someone is issuing an NFT, VARA will determine whether the NFT issuance warrants regulation or is substantive enough to be registered under regulatory supervision within VARA. After that the consequent distribution, buying and selling of that NFT are covered in our Exchange, Brokerage and Payment and Remittance Rulebooks.”

Virtual asset mining under VARA

While VARA did not offer a rule book for virtual asset mining activity, in its Rulebook on VASPs it mentions virtual asset mining stating that all VASPs which have investments in Virtual Asset mining or staking businesses or conduct or facilitate Virtual Asset mining or staking activities [including by way of selling equipment] shall make publicly available in a prominent place on their website, up-to-date information related to, the use of renewable and/or waste energy [e.g. hydroelectric energy, flared gas] by the VASP or its Group in the course of conducting Virtual Asset mining or staking activities as well as initiatives relating to decarbonization [e.g. purchase of carbon offsets] and emission reduction of Virtual Asset mining or staking activities.

Orser clarified, “As we have maintained the principle of VARA’s framework is its ‘live’ nature which particularly applies to topics like ESG that are globally evolving, and rapidly maturing around us. We are constantly getting feedback, and suggestions from VASPs as well as other regulators that have subject matter expertise. As such we will on a quarterly basis look to include relevant advancements in some of these globally acceptable principles in order to make the end result truly borderless and interoperable.”

The End of FTX

The FTX debacle set the crypto ecosystem years behind according to experts in the industry. With the launch of VARA and the publication of its rulebooks, will disasters such as FTX happen again?

Orser believes that 2023 will see greater regulation in this industry with a focus on consolidation, international coordination, financial crime compliance and consumer protection in light of the ongoing hyper-volatility surrounding the VA industry.  He noted that, “Dubai has found strong acknowledgment from international peers for its unwavering stance. Most importantly it has been heartening to see that the industry itself is keen on having regulatory oversight, supervisory support and facilitation of responsible actors, and to this end VARA remains committed to working with the industry and peer regulators to ensure that market stability and investor protection remain sacrosanct.”

Note: This is a copyrighted interview any replication of this interview has to be as carried out with exact quotes from CEO of VARA and sourced to LaraontheBlock 

UAE based nealthy, a Web3 startup for investing in NFTs and cryptocurrency, has raised $1.3 million in pre-seed funding. Nealthy will use these funds to grow a core team, hire talent, and boost sales & development.

nealthy offers index tokens that enable investors to enter Web3 markets quickly and worry-free. Index tokens replicate the structure of classic exchange-traded funds (ETFs) by storing multiple virtual assets, diversifying the portfolio in case of unexpected market shifts. Moreover, index tokens like nealthy’s $NFTS retain real underlying value, with $NFTS being pegged 1:1 to blue-chip NFTs.

Co-founders Ludwig Schrödl (CEO), Zied Said (CTO), and Tim Pascual (CMO) established nealthy after observing a gap in the market for diversified index tokens. With backgrounds that unite finance, data science, and a deep knowledge of virtual assets, the co-founders’ expertise will keep investors at the forefront of a rapidly expanding market.

Although the founders’ origins lie in Germany and Tunisia, nealthy is incorporated in Dubai so that investors can benefit from a world-leading, tax-friendly regulatory environment. nealthy will also incorporate in the Metaverse Zone of Anguilla to emit the token in a regulated environment.

nealthy handles transactions via blockchain technology, the decentralized Web3 network behind most cryptocurrencies. The Ethereum Net blockchain enables nealthy to openly display proof of reserve, confirming the presence of blue-chip NFTs in nealthy’s digital vault.

“This is a space with enormous potential, and with any potential comes risk,” says Zied Said, CTO of nealthy. “To counteract those risks, we maintain security by storing all assets in cold wallets and smart contracts. Each cold wallet is public and maintains completely transparent holdings.”

As the market’s first dynamic blue-chip NFT token, nealthy’s $NFTS stores the market’s ten most valuable NFT collections. Currently these collections include the likes of CryptoPunks, Bored Ape Yacht Club, Mutant Ape Yacht Club, and Azuki, but because $NFTS is allocated by the market, any single NFT collection will be swapped should it drop from the top ten. No single collection will ever comprise over 25% of $NFTS’ value.

“As NFT trading markets evolve, potential investors are showing increased interest in diversification,” says Ludwig Schroedl, CEO of nealthy. “That’s even more true for first-time investors. A blue-chip index token, like $NFTS, provides superior investment opportunities at a reduced level of risk. And if we can do it with NFTs, we can do it with every asset on the blockchain.”

nealthy plans to release the $NFTS token in summer 2023.

The Government of Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) will be launching the RAK Digital Assets Oasis free zone dedicated to digital and virtual asset companies for non regulated entities. So the UAE now has two crypto Blockchain Oases, one in DMCC for regulated blockchain and crypto entities and one in RAK for non regulated. The new oasis will be launched in Q2 of 2023. 

Sheikh Mohammed bin Humaid bin Abdullah Al Qasimi, Chairman of RAK ICC and Chairman of RAK Digital Assets Oasis said,  “We are proud to further the UAE’s position as a primary destination for innovation with the launch of RAK Digital Assets Oasis. We are building the free zone of the future for the companies of the future. As the world’s first free zone solely dedicated to digital and virtual asset companies, we look forward to supporting the ambitions of entrepreneurs from around the world with our progressive, supportive, and quick-to-adapt approach, and our innovation-enabling environment.”

Making the announcement, Dr. Sameer Al Ansari, CEO of RAK ICC and CEO of Digital Assets Oasis, said: “I am privileged to help implement the forward-thinking vision of the leadership of Ras Al Khaimah to enable, foster, and promote innovation in new and emerging sectors of the future. With the UAE’s established reputation as an innovation hub, RAK Digital Assets Oasis delivers a truly unique offering to global entrepreneurs bringing together an unmatched combination of accessibility and liveability, supported by Ras Al Khaimah’s business-friendly infrastructure, progressive policies, and an international lifestyle offering.” 

RAK Digital Assets Oasis will be a purpose-built, true innovation-enabling free zone for non-regulated activities in the virtual assets sector. It is intended to be the only free zone in the world solely dedicated to digital and virtual assets service providers innovating in new and emerging sectors of the future including metaverse, blockchain, utility tokens, virtual asset wallets, NFTs, DAOs, DApp, and other Web3-related businesses. RAK Digital Assets Oasis will open for applications in the second quarter of 2023.

“We look forward to welcoming the world’s brightest Web3 minds with their most disruptive ideas that uncover new approaches to creating a better future. We are committed to empowering the next generation of global entrepreneurial talent to build transformative solutions and create impact, while shaping the future of businesses and economies,” added Dr. Al Ansari.

RAK Digital Assets Oasis’ unique lifestyle proposition will support companies with robust, innovation-enabling adoption frameworks, advisory and professional services, hybrid workspaces, accelerators and incubators, sandboxes, access to funding, and an environment that encourages entrepreneurs to imagine, create, and evolve.

The free zone aligns with the UAE’s position as a primary destination for innovation. RAK Digital Assets Oasis will be a remote-work friendly, globally connected destination for digital and virtual asset companies building innovative business models for the future that will be well positioned to tap into the region’s emerging markets.

Prior to this DMCC had embraced the Crypto Oasis ecosystem within its free zone in Dubai UAE. It has also incorporated the DMCC Crypto Center dedicated to crypto and Blockchain entities. So today RAS Al Khaimah is yet another blockchain and crypto oasis in the desert.

Food Metaverse, OneRare, the world’s first food metaverse, known as Foodverse has launched in the UAE. The Foodverse is bringing the Global F&B Industry to Web3 for the first time ever – allowing them to create virtual experiences, food NFTs and games, & interact with foodies from across the world built using the blockchain.

In UAE, partnerships with food brands such as Foodlink UAE, The Bhukkad Cafe, Cali Poke, Farzi Cafe, Papa John’s and more have been signed in only a few months.

Created while in lockdown, Supreet Raju, co-founder and CEO of OneRare states, “I have long said that food has a language of its own and makes the world a happier place. It is what connects us and the metaverse only brings us closer together in a unique way in which we can share our culture and our food. Now with the launch of the foodverse, there is no reason why brands and consumers can’t come together in this safe, virtual setting.” 

The Foodverse developed by OneRare will feature various zones where users can discover Celebrity Chefs, Food Brands and Virtual Restaurants. Designed like the real world, the foodverse features various geographical areas like the beach, forest and lakeside, and you can explore the open world at your will. There is also an exclusive Gaming zone, with activity areas for players to explore, earn, collect and battle. “The platform is incredibly unique and offers the end-user with so many opportunities to explore food,” adds Gaurav Gupta, co-founder of OneRare. 

OneRare will also allow users to claim Dish NFTs from across the world, by collecting Ingredients and following Recipes to mint exclusive NFT artworks. Dishes include global cuisines, festive specials, keto and vegan-friendly recipes, as well as signature recipes from celebrity chefs and restaurants. Raju explained, “As we grow, users will also be able to swap these NFTs for real meals & deals – amalgamating our real & virtual lives.”

UAE-based F&B group Foodlink released NFTs for its award winning sustainable cloud kitchen brand, Art of Dum’s signature Dish’s Dum Handi ka Gosht’ & China Bistro’s Vegetable Crystal Dumplings in food verse,  and  the street food inspired cafe The Bhukkad Cafe in collaboration with OneRare is all pumped up to release three unique Vada Pav NFTs — Cheeseburst, Schezwan, and Classic on 19th February . The Vada Pav NFTs  will be available to mint in the OneRare Kitchen.

Sanjay Vazirani, Founder and CEO of Foodlink Global restaurants & catering services, “My endeavor – Foodlink, operates a variety of verticals in the F&B industry. I’m thrilled to be a part of Web3’s transformational journey and am looking forward to seeing it in its full potential soon, complete with innovative functionalities, cutting-edge user experience, and ease of use that will make it easy for our expanding customer base to adopt. I wish OneRare the best as they work to revolutionize Web3 and raise awareness of and interest in what the future may hold for all of us.”

“We’re extremely excited to announce our collaboration with OneRare on developing the world’s FIRST EVER VADA PAV NFT! When OneRare reached out to us with the idea of developing our own series of NFTs, we were excited because we’re a very crypto friendly brand & have always supported our growing Bhukkad community with all things crypto, from hosting free crypto workshops to accepting payments in crypto. Our vision with this collaboration is to educate our followers & customers on use cases of crypto & ease them into adoption with fun, unique solutions & features. We look forward to engaging with our food community to create even more fun experiences in the Metaverse with the expert help of OneRare.”  — Reshmi Mukherjee, co-founder, The Bhukkad Cafe