UAE based Param Labs, an independent Web3 Blockchain gaming and technology studio raises $7 million in strategic funding round led by Animoca Brands. Other investors included Delphi Ventures, Mechanism Capital, P2 ventures, Merit Circle, TRGC, MH Ventures, and UAE based Cypher Capital.

,Param Labs boasts a fairly robust online community. The company said it has more than 2.5 million followers on X across all its pages, in addition to 500,000 Discord users, according to a statement. The platform also has 300,000 daily active users, said Param Labs.

“This collaboration aligns with our shared vision to redefine the gaming landscape, ensuring that gamers are the true owners of their digital assets,” Animoca Brands co-founder and executive chairman Yat Siu said in the statement.

The availability of funds of this type will play a significant role in strengthening blockchain enabled Param Labs’ efforts to create a gaming world solely for native PARAM tokens. This supports the general mission to open the gates to the luminary members of the gaming world to own their assets.

Anthony Anderson, founder and CEO of Param Labs and Kiraverse, emphasized the importance of the strategic investment and partnership with Animoca Brands: “This investment marks a significant milestone for Param Labs’ ecosystem development and the broader Web3 gaming landscape. Our vision is aligned with that of Animoca Brands and we’re thrilled to collaborate on the creation of valuable products at the forefront of gaming’s innovative shift to digital ownership. With our new funding, we’ll continue to invest in building out and scaling our current products while also advancing our ecosystem initiatives and fostering community involvement.”

The investment in Param Labs announced today further expands the presence of Animoca Brands in MENA, following a partnership with NEOM to drive Web3 in the region, and with King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology to establish a physical office and Web3 hub in Riyadh.

Param Labs aims to build a gaming ecosystem that will be governed by its native PARAM token, which will soon be launched, the company also said. The company’s first game, “Kiraverse,” is a play-to-earn, multiplayer shooter.

U.S. based Web3Firewall founded by Lebanese born Dr. Samer Fayssal has raised $2.5 million pre-seed investment round led by Laser Digital, Nomura’s digital asset subsidiary, which is licensed in Dubai UAE, gumi Cryptos Capital (gCC), and SPEILLLP, a member of Susquehanna International Group.

We3Firewall has developed an intelligence-driven risk and compliance platform specifically to meet the evolving challenges of companies engaged in blockchain technology and digital assets.

The company was founded in 2023 by Dr. Samer Fayssal, who was previously CISO and Head of Security at digital asset custodian BitGo. Fayssal and team recognized that Web3 and blockchain technology companies require a next-generation cybersecurity product rather than the fragmented solutions currently available. The product, Web3Firewall Enterprise, addresses increasingly sophisticated risk and compliance demands in one seamless platform, which is equipped to handle the unique risk profiles of DeFi, NFTs, DAOs, and other emerging Web3 applications, providing a security layer that will be able to keep pace as the tokenized economy develops.

Web3Firewall Enterprise can be easily integrated with and tailored to security infrastructure through APIs, which can detect, protect, and respond to malicious transactions and AML/KYC-related incidents even before they occur. Furthermore, the platform simulates transaction outcomes with artificial intelligence to enhance actionable insights. Additional accuracy and precision are delivered by machine learning to self-correct false negative and false positive results. Web3Firewall Enterprise is currently in a beta testing phase and is due to launch onto the market in Q2 this year.

Dr. Samer Fayssal, CEO of Web3Firewall, commented, “We are grateful to have the support of our investors, who are aligned with our vision to bring intelligence-driven security to blockchain-enabled companies. As a proactive risk and compliance platform, Web3Firewall Enterprise provides actionable insights so that these companies can better protect themselves and stay compliant.”

Olivier Dang, Head of Ventures, Laser Digital, added “Laser Digital is delighted to support this exciting project — The uniquely heightened security and compliance of Web3Firewall’s product, which proactively protects against malicious transactions, will allow institutional engagement in tokenized and digital assets to grow and progress.”

Miko Matsumura; Managing Partner of gumi Cryptos Capital, said, “One of the greatest dissatisfactions with web3 is ensuring strong cybersecurity measures. Web3Firewall has the strongest team and vision for how to strengthen this key area”

Vir Anand, Investor, Susquehanna Private Equity Investments, said, “As the crypto industry matures AML, compliance, detection and prevention become paramount. Samer and his team have developed tools to assist companies in creating custom compliance parameters, which adhere to the regulatory framework in which the company operates, as well as cutting edge, self-learning solutions that promise to provide unparalleled protection against malicious transactions in real-time to ensure a protocol’s integrity.”

MANTRA Chain a Layer 1 blockchain for real world tokenization, has raised $11 million led by UAE based Shorooq Partners with investors including Three-point capital, Forte Securities, VirtuZone, Hex Trust and GameFi Ventures. The news which was published in Coindesk stated, that Mantra Chain was in the final stages of receiving licenses from Dubai’s crypto regulator, VARA.

John Patrick Mullin told CoinDesk, “These approvals will be essential in MANTRA’s plans to build and host a suite of compliance-minded tools for issuing and trading RWAs.”

MANTRA’s network isn’t yet live, meaning no one can issue or trade RWAs quite yet. But it is planned for Cosmos, a network of closely linked albeit independent blockchains. Cosmos doesn’t yet have a designated so-called app-chain for trading tokenized RWAs, according to MANTRA’s documents.

Once live MANTRA will focus on the “crypto native” crowd, which is to say, the people already familiar with crypto, decentralized exchanges, on-chain borrowing and lending and so-forth.

Earlier this week, Layer 1 blockchain, MANTRA had announced that it has applied for a license in both the UAE and HongKong as it aims towards making real world asset tokenization mainstream. MANTRA’s layer1 blockchain, known as MANTRA Chain, is designed to facilitate the issuance and trading of tokenized RWAs. MANTRA is on a mission to onboard financial organizations and other commercial enterprises that seek to tap into the many benefits tokenized RWAs have to offer.

Tookeez, a Moroccan Blockchain loyalty startup, has raised $1.5 million from Azur Innovation Fund, a public private seed capital fund in Morocco.

As per the press release, the startup plans to use the funds to expand into Morocco and the MENA region. The funds will also go into technical development for its blockchain technology system. The fintech startup is a universal system that aggregates loyalty points from a wide range of brands into a single wallet. This wallet enables transactions to be carried out across a wide network of shops and brands, making the platform a source of additional value and complementary income for the ecosystem.

Following this, tookeez plans to expand into other African countries by 2026 to reach 4 million active members by 2028.

Hicham Amadi, Wiam and Siham Emejjad founded tookeez with an aim of eliminating the challenges associated with loyalty point conversions and transforms the royalty program ecosystem. The biggest challenge is point accumulation which is usually slow, while redemption is also difficult.

Siham Elmejjad, CEO of tookeez, comments, “We are humbled by the trust of our investors. This fundraising marks a crucial step in our development. Our goal is to reach 4 million active members by 2028. To make tookeez a true ecosystem of economic and financial inclusion for our continent.”

tookeez collects loyalty points from multiple brands and stores them in a wallet, which users can then use to transact across a large network of stores and brands. Brands use tookeez to allow their customers to pay with accumulated points.

Azur Innovation Fund noted that it is proud to collaborate with tookeez, recognizing that the startup is redefining the customer loyalty ecosystem. “Our ambition is to support entrepreneurs who have a significant impact on the world, and tookeez embodies this vision perfectly,” Adnane Filali, President of Azur Innovation Fund, said.

The loyalty market in Africa and the Middle East is expected to reach $6.48 billion in 2024. Between 2019 to 2023, this market recorded a CAGR value of 12.1%. It is predicted that this market in the region will continue to grow at a CAGR of 9.7% between 2024-2028.

IO research, a, blockchain and AI startup, founded and headed by Ahmad Al Shadid, has raised $30 million in a series A funding, valuating the company at $1 billion.

IO research, the creators of Depin, is a Solana based decentralized AI compute cloud. IO Research launched DEPIN in November 2023. At the time this was considered as an opportunity for cryptocurrency miners in possession of underutilized GPUs, as well as clients requiring a scalable and affordable computing solution amid rising costs.

In November, Founder and CEO Ahmad Shadid has noted, “This is a monumental moment for io.net and the entire decentralized computing community. We are not simply launching a platform; we are pioneering a global movement towards optimal utilization of computational resources. Our vision has always been to bridge the gap between underutilized resources and rising computational demands facing AI and ML engineers, not to mention crypto miners. I believe we can make a significant contribution to the AI revolution over the coming months and years.”

With deployment speeds of less than 90 seconds, io.net will enable ML and AI engineers to deploy massive enterprise-level clusters to power models for training and inference. io.net is said to be up to 90% more cost-effective than traditional GPU providers such as AWS and Azure.

Few months later, March 2024, IO.net, DEPIN has received $30 million in funding spearheaded by Hack VC in collaboration with several angel investors including Multicoin Capital, 6th Man Ventures, Solana Ventures, OKX Ventures, Aptos Labs, Delphi Digital, The Sandbox, Sebastian Borget of the Sandbox, and others.

In addition, there was investment from Matty Taylor, Ian Krotinsky (founder of Tiplink), MH Ventures, Amber Group, Arkstream, Modular, Continue Capital, Foresight, Longhash, SevenX, and Delphi Digital.

According to sources familiar with the Series A funding, the funds were raised in tranches coupled with the fact that it is structured as a simple agreement for future equity (SAFE), with token warrants in a 1:1 ratio. The first tranche happened in January but it was not until recently that the final one was completed.

The CEO and founder of io.net Ahmad Shadid, explained the terms of the investment, stating that investors have a minimum one-year lock-in period for tokens.

This $30 million fund will help the Artificial Intelligence (AI) protocol enhance the aggregation of blockchain distributed GPUs.

The BackPack group continues to move from one success to another. After receiving its crypto exchange license in UAE, and expanding to 11 states in the USA, BackPack has now raised $17 million in a series A round led by PlaceHolder VC.

Other select strategic investors includedHashed, Robot Ventures, Amber Group, Wintermute, Selini Capital, Delphi Digital, and founders of leading web3 ecosystems such as Solana, Tensor, Jito, Zeta, Marginfi, Drift, Monad, Galxe, and other influential supporters worldwide.

Armani Ferrante, CEO of Backpack commented on the news states, “The history of finance is littered with scandals, but Backpack is doing things differently. Over the past year, we’ve set the foundation to build a crypto-native financial institution, and with the conclusion of this round, with trust minimization and compliance as foundational principles, we begin a new chapter for ourselves and, hopefully, for the rest of the industry.”

The Backpack ecosystem comprises several products and services, including the popular Backpack noncustodial wallet, Backpack Exchange, a fully regulated global cryptocurrency exchange with industry-leading speed, security and functionalities, and Mad Lads, currently the top NFT community in the Solana ecosystem. Backpack is also the creator and developer of Anchor, the Solana smart contract framework, the executable NFT (xNFT) token standard, and others.

Backpack’s strategic fundraising was led by Placeholder VC. “We’ve been impressed with Backpack’s ability to not only deliver high-quality applications, but also build a strong community around their ecosystem,” said Joel Monegro, General Partner at Placeholder VC. “After building a relationship with the team over the past year, we’re convinced they have the skill, ambition and drive to create one of the most trustworthy global exchanges in the industry with a strong focus on performance, compliance, and auditability.”

The round also attracted strong interest from other leading web3 ecosystem players. “The Backpack team is a great example of what happens when crypto natives are also strong builders. They understand that crypto is not just the underlying technology, it is also the culture that forms around it,” said Evgeny Gaevoy, founder of Wintermute, one of the largest liquidity providers in digital assets, “For me, Backpack is having the success I would expect, when a team figures out the intersection of tech and culture. I’m excited to see them continue to grow.”

Exverse, a UAE Web3 blockchain gaming project, incubated by launchpads that include KuCoin Labs, Seedify, Epic Games, and ChainGPT, has raised $3 million in a private round led by Cogitent Ventures, Cointelligence, and Moonrock Capital.

It also had additional support from industry leaders such as KuCoin Labs, Epic Games, Seedify, and ChainGPT. The funding will power preparations for the game’s testnet and token launch, forge additional strategic partnerships, and expand its marketing efforts in the APAC region.

Before closing its private seed round, Exverse forged strategic partnerships with a wide range of entities to ensure the startup has a full arsenal of tools to develop the strongest possible game, alongside a robust business model and marketing strategy. Seedify and KuCoin Labs provided guidance and mentorship via their incubation programs—with ChainGPT preparing Exverse for its upcoming launch —and Maven Capital advising the startup on its go-to-market strategy.

Spanning three planets, the Exverse ecosystem offers gamers an immersive experience and advanced gameplay by focusing heavily on competitive and intuitive mechanics, a fluid physics engine, and dynamic visuals. Exverse’s three planets—Social, Quest, and Battle—cater to different playing styles while remaining interconnected within a single timeline, where users compete in cycles known as seasons, lasting eight weeks.

The blockchain game is designed to foster community by allowing players to engage in social events and even develop user-generated worlds within an ever-expanding universe.

Built using Epic’s Unreal Engine 5, Exverse utilizes blockchain technology to strike the balance between enjoyable, realistic, and immersive real-time gameplay. The game prioritizes skill over pay-2-win mechanics, enabling players to earn rewards by staking tokens before a season’s kickoff, with top performers receiving a share of profits from in-game NFTs such as cosmetics and skins.

Ahead of its upcoming alpha launch with a 5,000-player tournament set for March, Exverse has already surpassed 65,000 verified signups. The deathmatch-style tournament occurring on the game’s Battle Planet precedes Exverse’s token launch and gives early wait listers an exclusive chance to test their skills.

“We see ourselves as pioneers in the gaming industry because we’ve built an AAA-quality, classic first-person shooter with Web3 elements,” says Fei Ooi Hoong, CEO of Exverse. “Our hybrid approach is the result of our understanding that for NFT or blockchain games to succeed post-bull market, they need to appeal to gamers in the same way as beloved titles like ‘Call of Duty,’ ‘Halo,’ and ‘Counter-Strike’ have. We decided to focus our efforts first on developing a fun and visually captivating game, and only then strategically working in the token mechanics in a way that rewards skill—all before conducting an IDO.”

“We are excited to be invested in such a promising gaming project like that of Exverse, who gracefully blends the best of Web2 with Web3,” says Sayantan Mitra, partner at Cogitent Ventures. “They boast a strong and visionary leadership along with a talented group of developers, and we are excited to see their project advance over the next several months.”

“It’s been a great pleasure working closely with the Exverse team during their incubation period with us,” says Esport Manager at Seedify. “They had a great vision, talented leadership, and an impressive team of developers that allowed them to get the most out of our incubator. Seedify continues working closely with Exverse to prepare the team for their testnet launch as well as providing a wide array of support, guidance, and infrastructure.”

Crysp Farms, a UAE based innovator and operator of decentralized blockchain enabled vertical farms, has secured a $2.25 million ‘Pre-Series A’ round structured and led by Gate Capital with participation from regional investors, including those from the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The homegrown ‘Farming as a Service’ provider builds and operates bespoke onsite hydroponic farms catering to hospitality groups, healthcare facilities, restaurants, and hypermarkets. Notably, its high-quality produce is served in venues recognized by the leading awards and guides, such as Gault & Millau and Michelin.

The funding round will focus on scaling the company’s expansion strategy across the region and delivering committed contracts internationally.

Crysp Farms,is  the only Blockchain enabled hyperlocal farming provider in the region. Each farm provides continuous access to onsite fresh produce and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, supporting the outcomes of COP28. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), between 30 and 40% of total food production is lost before it even reaches the consumer. Through Crysp Farms, there is close to zero spoilage.

With the current funding round, Crysp Farms will continue its strategic expansion, introducing new farms in prestigious hotels and resorts managed by global leaders like Hilton Worldwide, Jumeirah Group, and Marriott International, among others.

 In the last month, Blockchain enabled Crysp Farms partnered with five new properties, bringing its sustainable farms to more than 20 locations across the UAE, with many more in the pipeline across regional and international destinations, including the Seychelles and Maldives.

As per the press release, the business will target expansion into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, enabling and enhancing local food production through innovative technology, in line with Saudi Vision 2030. The business aims to support the hospitality and healthcare sectors across major cities and new development projects in the Kingdom.

Speaking about the investment round, Maan Said, CEO and founder of Crysp Farms, said, “This financial and strategic investment opens up opportunities and enables the business to scale exponentially across our target markets. Through our partner relationships, we are eager to create a more sustainable world through hyperlocal farming. We are proud to receive the support of Gate Capital and other leading investors in this round, as we look forward to sustainably scaling our operations.”

Munther Hilal, Chief Executive and Founder of Gate Capital, said, “Crysp Farms has grown from an innovative idea to disrupt agriculture into a tangible green investment opportunity, with sturdy unit economics and a strong foundation paving the way for scalable growth. Gate Capital’s continuous commitment to ESG-led businesses is a testament to identifying impact investment opportunities.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saudi headquartered Blockchain Fintech startup, Takadao, has raised $1.6 million in pre seed round led by Draper Associates. Other investors include BIM, Core Vision ventures, Prince Sultan Bin Fahad bin Salman Al Saud.

Takadao builds community-owned financial services on the blockchain, with two flagship products in savings and loans (Takaturn) and cooperative life insurance. Takadao’s products are Shariah-compliant and target the Muslim population globally.

According to the Pew Research Centre: “Globally, the Muslim population is forecast to grow at about twice the rate of the non-Muslim population over the next two decades – an average annual growth rate of 1.5% for Muslims, compared with 0.7% for non-Muslims. If current trends continue, Muslims will make up 26.4% of the world’s total projected population of 8.3 billion in 2030, up from 23.4% of the estimated 2010 world population of 6.9 billion”.

Islamic finance grew 17% in 2021 to $4 trillion and is forecasted to keep growing in double digits for the next five years. Takadao extends the reach of Islamic finance by providing shariah-compliant loans and insurance through the blockchain, enabling global access even in countries where populations are largely unbanked.

Co-founder and COO, Sharene Lee, states: “Many of us, Muslims and otherwise, live in countries with unstable economies, weak currencies and high inflation. There is low access to the traditional banking system coupled with increasing distrust. Banks and insurance companies exist to increase shareholder value and this takes priority over consumer well-being. At Takadao, we build community-owned financial services whose shareholders are the users themselves. By vesting ownership with the end users, we ensure that their well-being is the primary focus. Furthermore, shareholder profits get redistributed among the end users. The only way we can do this is through the decentralized blockchain and cryptocurrencies.”

To this end, Takadao has two complementary products, Takaturn and Takasure. Takaturn is based on the ROSCA concept, commonly known as Jamaiyah in the Middle East, Ballot Committee in Pakistan, Tontine in parts of Africa, and chit fund in India. Takasure is a cooperative insurance product based on the Takaful model; it is still in development with an anticipated launch date of June 2024.

This marks the first investment for Tim Draper in a Saudi-based startup. Draper’s investment track record in Baidu, Skype, and Hotmail all precipitated significant changes in consumer behavior that have become the norm today, whether it’s email, search or voip. In recent times, Draper has backed Robinhood and Coinbase and significantly, he is an outspoken advocate of Bitcoin and decentralized finance.

On why he decided to invest, Draper said: “Takadao is one of those companies that you don’t know quite where it’s going to go, but if it succeeds, it’s going to be really impactful and make a big difference in the world and this is a world that I want to live in. The insurance business generally has become corrupted and Takadao is going right after the insurance business with something that’s very pure; the blockchain is pure, Bitcoin is pure, decentralization is pure.”

Takadao has a community of 10,000+ members that is growing by 5% week-on-week.