UAE based Cypher Capital, a venture capital firm that invests in Web3, Blockchain, and crypto startups has invested in Bitcoin DeFi platform Velar.

Velar closed its seed funding round of $3.5 million from a range of notable Web3 investors. The round attracted participation from key ventures including Bitcoin Startup Lab, CMS Holdings, Black Edge Capital, GBV, Cypher Capital, Trust Machines SPV, Transform Capital, Maple Block and Samara Asset Group, among others.

Building on the unprecedented interest and growth in DeFi over the past few years that attracted over $100B in liquidity to the Ethereum network, Velar is deploying the world’s first perpetual decentralized exchange (PerpDEX) on Bitcoin.

Velar aims to unlock the $800 billion of dormant network liquidity to Bitcoin’s evolving DeFi landscape, and in doing so, offer BTC holders the same value proposition and yields that have been so successful in the Ethereum ecosystem.

The company is currently preparing for the mainnet launch of Dharma, the first ever Uniswap v2-inspired AMM built on popular Bitcoin Layer Stacks.

Velar intends to use the new capital to accelerate development of its PerpDEX Velar Artha. The platform will leverage Stacks to enable liquidity for DeFi dApps on Bitcoin, with Velar Artha due to launch in Q2 2024.

Despite initially launching on Stacks, Velar is a L2-agnostic protocol and will also integrate other leading Bitcoin L2s. Cem Özer, Co-Founder and CEO of Sovereign labs, and Alexei Zamyatin, Co-Founder of Build on Bitcoin (BoB), both prominent upcoming Bitcoin L2s have also participated in Velar’s funding round as angel investors.

“Velar’s successful funding round is a validation of our mission to make Proof-of-Work and Bitcoin the base layer of DeFi. Velar is set to redefine what’s possible, facilitating $800B worth of dormant liquidity to be used in DeFi; and we’re excited to invite the world to be a part of this groundbreaking journey,” said Mithil Thakore, Co-Founder and CEO of Velar.

“DeFi is the logical next step for Bitcoin. Introducing perps for Bitcoin and other assets that can be swapped in a decentralized way, and earn rewards will help unlock the $500B in untapped value on Bitcoin,” said Muneeb Ali, Co-Creator of Stacks. “This fundraise helps the team at Velar build a liquidity protocol that will be a major gateway for the usability being unlocked by sBTC on Bitcoin L2.”

Velar’s eventual product suite will include an AMM, project launchpad, and PerpDEX, with the latter enabling institutions to utilize their dormant BTC holdings as collateral in a non-custodial way. Velar launched its AMM testnet last May which saw over 165,000 testnet wallets created, a record for a Bitcoin-focused DeFi project.

UAE headquartered Fuze, a digital assets infrastructure provider, has raised a seed round of $14mn, the largest Seed investment in a digital assets startup in the history of the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA). The investment was led by Abu Dhabi-based Further Ventures, along with participation by US-based Liberty City Ventures. 

Fuze will benefit from the strategic capital and network of these investors, acting as a catalyst for the business as it builds the digital asset infrastructure that will drive the future of finance. 

A first-of-its-kind infrastructure provider in MENA, Fuze enables any bank, fintech or traditional enterprise to easily offer regulated digital assets products to their customers through their native apps.

Fuze was founded by an expert team of fintech, traditional finance (TradFi) and decentralized finance (DeFi) leaders, with its co-founders holding extensive knowledge from experience in global hypergrowth businesses. 

CEO, Mohammed Ali Yusuf (Mo Ali Yusuf) has held prominent roles at and Visa; Arpit Mehta (COO) was previously in the leadership team at fintech leaders like Simpl and Clear; Srijan Shetty (CTO) built algorithmic trading systems at Goldman Sachs and worked at tech leader Microsoft.

With a regional digital asset market worth $566bn, and growing at 48% YoY, Fuze co-founder and CEO, Mohammed Ali Yusuf believes the Middle East is the perfect home to establish a digital assets infrastructure business. 

Yusuf states, “We are excited to build the future of regulated financial infrastructure and digital assets out of the UAE. Regulations have played a pivotal role in propelling the UAE into a central position within the global Digital Assets industry. To receive the backing of Abu Dhabi-headquartered Further Ventures combined with the deep expertise of US-based Liberty City Ventures, confirms the relevancy and potential of Fuze’s mission to rapidly expand our cutting-edge infrastructure across the region.”

Further Ventures commented, “This is an important strategic investment into digital assets, one of our core verticals. The team at Fuze is highly experienced and has a clear vision to develop a trusted, world-class digital assets proposition. Technology that enables a range of stakeholders is vital for the future of the financial ecosystem and Fuze is well placed to be a leader in digital assets across the MENA region and beyond.”

In September 2022, Abu Dhabi’s ADQ and Further Ventures, an investment firm back by ADQ launched a $200 million fund focused on Fintech, digital assets and supplychain.

Fuze was founded in December 2022 and selected earlier this year to join Hub71, Abu Dhabi’s global tech ecosystem through its Company Building Program. Its white label solutions handle the complexities of blockchain and regulatory overheads for enterprises, enabling these organizations to readily offer digital assets such as stablecoins, cryptocurrencies, CBDCs and tokenized assets.

The funding will propel Fuze’s growth as it obtains regulatory licensing, adds strategic hires in key roles, continues to expand its technological capabilities, and accelerates its geographic expansion across the region. Its products, such as Fuze Trader and Fuze Loyalty, allow banks, brokerages and superapps to offer digital asset products in a simple, easy and trusted manner.

“We are building a suite of products that addresses the growing demand for regulated digital asset capabilities through trusted channels. Our technology first approach is a game-changer for the region and offers our customers a reliable bridge to the new era of investments and to the future of finance,” adds Yusuf. 

In a recent report by Singaapore funded UnaFinancial, the group said that Fintech funding in UAE could reach $2.8 billion in 2028 from $1.8 billion in 2023. This is boosted by a strong economy and favourable environment.

Saudi’s first NFT marketplace platform, Nuqtah has raised a seed round of millions of dollars from Blockchain platform Polygon and Animoca Brands. As per the release the new funding will scale Nuqtah’s business over the next 12 months.

In 2022, Nuqtah had announced it was planning to raise $5 million in upcoming seed rounds.

Licensed by the Saudi Ministry of Communication and Information technology and the Ministry of Investment, Nuqtah aims to to empower its creators, businesses, and users to unlock the new opportunities that the Web3 space offers to the region. Nuqtah allows individuals and businesses to easily build, deploy and monetize NFT collections without having to navigate complicated blockchain infrastructure.

Yat Siu, the executive chairman and co-founder of Animoca Brands, commented: “Our investment into Nuqtah is another meaningful step in our commitment to build up the Web3 industry in MENA as well as develop our own capabilities in the region. Nuqtah is an important pioneer and we anticipate that it will greatly help to boost Web3 and NFT adoption in the Middle East. We will continue to expand our operational presence and collaborate with local strategic partners looking to adopt Web3.”

In February of this year Nuqtah signed an MOU with Saudi telecom group to tokenize photographs fro STC’s Sarha project. 

Nuqtah is helmed by Salwa Radwi, an award-winning photographer, artist, and Web3 and blockchain advocate. In 2021 she founded Nuqtah to serve as the first-of-its-kind blockchain technology provider and developer in the MENA region, making her one of the first female founders and CEOs in Saudi Arabia’s NFT landscape. Salwa is joined by co-founders who previously worked at major companies including Careem and Oracle, and whose extensive industry experience has enabled Nuqtah to become a prominent and respected advocate of Web3 in the Kingdom.

Salwa Radwi, founder and CEO of Nuqtah, noted in the release, “Watching Animoca Brands pioneer and enable the Web3 scene since day one has been so inspirational, and so we take great pride in the trust placed in Nuqtah through this investment. We look forward to working together to unlock the massive potential and opportunities in the Middle East.”

Speaking to LaraontheBlock, Salwa Radwi confirmed that the latest seed investment raises millions of dollars. She states, “ This new round of investment will open new lines of opportunities, not only financially but also through animoca and polygons extravagant network.”

Nuqtah had raised close to a million dollars in its pre-seed round from Shorooq Partners, according to Radwi.  At that time Nuqtah planned to build on the thriving NFTs space, and utilize the underlying blockchain technology to spearhead innovation in other verticals such as media and entertainment.

Animoca Brands, the creator of sandbox metaverse and other Web3 projects has been very interested in the MENA region. It announced it would be entering Dubai through its metaverse Dubaiverse, and it also signed an MOU with Saudi government at beginning of 2023.