The Hashgraph Association (THA), the Swiss-based organization at the forefront of global Blockchain digital enablement, has during the Swiss Economic Mission to Saudi Arabia in the presence of the Swiss Federal Councillor, Guy Parmelin,signed a strategic partnership with the Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia (MISA) to launch a “DeepTech Venture Studio” in Riyadh worth $250M USD over five years (2024-2028).

As part of the Swiss Economic Delegation traveling to Saudi Arabia under the patronage of Guy Parmelin, Head of the Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER), The Hashgraph Association, which fosters the Hedera Blockchain ecosystem, will launch a custom-designed DeepTech Venture Studio to enable local Saudi companies, as well as international portfolio companies seeking to establish operations in the Kingdom, to develop innovative solutions, leveraging deep tech such as AI, DLT, Robotics, IoT, VR, and Quantum Computing.

Dr. Munirah Alaboudi, General Manager, Human Capital & Innovation at the Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia, stated, “The Ministry of Investment welcomes the launch of a DeepTech Venture Studio in Riyadh by The Hashgraph Association. With human capital and innovation at the heart of the Saudi Vision 2030, we look forward to the empowerment of entrepreneurship for a vibrant society in Saudi Arabia.”

The DeepTech Venture Studio, which aims to onboard and empower over 500 companies during the five-year program, will receive dedicated support from the Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia through the facilitation of entrepreneurial licenses and the entrance of companies under Saudi laws and regulations, including connecting with key government stakeholders, strategic partners, and investors. With an investment commitment of $50M USD, THA will be working closely with MISA to onboard other co-investors to participate in this global deep-tech venture-building studio.

Kamal Youssefi, President of The Hashgraph Association, adds, “We are delighted to sign this major strategic partnership with the Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia. We are committed to investing in a digital future through our DeepTech Venture Studio in Riyadh that will positively contribute to the three pillars of Vision 2030 and foster a thriving digital economy in Saudi Arabia.”

The DeepTech Venture Studio, which will provide technical engineering, training and certification, project delivery, product development, business strategy, commercialization, marketing, legal and regulatory compliance, and venture capital investments – including IPO listing support on the Saudi Exchange (“Tadāwul”) – will be managed by The Hashgraph Group (THG). THG is the service delivery organization of The Hashgraph Association that currently oversees the delivery of the Hashgraph Innovation Program, a professional training and innovation program launched out of Canton Schwyz worth $165M USD over five years (2022-2026). The program is focused on enabling startups, enterprises, and government institutions to develop enterprise-grade solutions and decentralized applications on the Hedera DLT/ Blockchain network. The partnership will also include a cross-border “Entrepreneurship Exchange Program” to facilitate knowledge-sharing and the exchange of entrepreneurial, engineering, and management experience.

Urs Durrer – Head of Office for Economy, Canton Schwyz, said: “We welcome this strategic partnership between THA and MISA to launch a DeepTech Venture Studio in Riyadh, fostering knowledge-sharing and technology innovation through a Swiss-Saudi entrepreneurship exchange program out of Canton Schwyz.”

The initial phase (Phase A) of the Venture Studio will focus on ramping up local operations within 12 months and onboarding the first batch of 100 projects. The second phase (Phase B) will focus on accelerating the Venture Studio over 24 months and ensuring steady-state operations, while onboarding and investing in a new batch of 200 projects. The final phase (Phase C) of the five-year program will focus on scaling up the Venture Studio operations into new strategic markets globally, and onboarding the next and final batch of 200 projects. Startups qualifying for the program will receive up to $250,000 USD in venture capital investment, with enterprises receiving up to $500,000 USD.

Stefan Deiss, Co-Founder & CEO of The Hashgraph Group, noted “We are excited to launch our Swiss/Saudi government-endorsed DeepTech Venture Studio in Riyadh that will empower the next generation of Web3 entrepreneurs through technological, business, and capital-enablement programs, while leveraging the power and convergence of deep technologies.”

With an experienced team of over 40 professionals and practitioners, THG will begin recruiting and onboarding local talented engineers, industry experts, and professionals, as well as forming a robust local ecosystem of leading Saudi-based technology partners, academic institutions, and international organizations, including leveraging its existing partnerships with IBM, BCGX, and many other leading firms. Interested applicants, partners, and investors, can already register their interest on the registration webpage of the DeepTech Venture Studio: hashgraph-saudi.com.

The Hashgraph Association, also partnered with Tunisian Dar Blockchain to nurture projects, facilitate growth, and profoundly shape the MENA technology landscape

In a recent survey entitled “MENA Investor Survey 2022-2023 for crypto Blockchain sector” carried out by laraontheblock with 83 MENA venture capitalists, fund managers, and family offices, 50% of those surveyed stated they will be allocating more funds to blockchain and crypto projects and entities in 2023. 19% of those surveyed stated in 2022 they had invested more than 50% of allocated capital and funds into crypto and Blockchain projects.

The findings of the “MENA Investor Survey 2022-2023 for crypto Blockchain sector” sheds light on the different areas of interest for MENA investors which will give startups and entities a better view on whom and where capital will be heading by investors in the MENA region.

This comes as cryptocurrency adoption has skyrocketed in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. According to a survey by blockchain analytics platform Chainalysis, MENA countries have the fastest-growing cryptocurrency industry in the world, accounting for 9.2% of global digital currency transactions from July 2021 to June 2022.

Vast Majority of MENA VCs invested in crypto and Blockchain in 2022

75% of survey respondents confirmed that they invested in crypto and blockchain entities in 2022, while only 25% stated they hadn’t. The MENA region has become the center for crypto trading, investing and regulation. The UAE led crypto regulation in 2022 and was the first country in the region to launch a blockchain strategy back in 2017.

The stance taken by MENA investors in the survey is in line with global figures. In 2022, despite the slowdown in crypto VC funding, it exceeded the figure for 2021. Cointelegraph Research’s VC Database showed that a total of $36.1 billion was raised in 2022. This is in contrast to the $30.3 billion worth of funding in 2021.

Crypto projects globally attracted $19.9 billion in venture capital (VC) investments in the first nine months of 2022, 41% higher than a year ago, according to Pitchbook data.

Crypto and Blockchain entities are the Future

54% of respondents replied that they invested in crypto and Blockchain entities because it is the future, while 42% stated it was because these technologies solve real business problems. Only 18% believed that it was because while risky the return on investment was high. ( note that more than one response for some respondents

The MENA region witnessed sizable investments in crypto and Blockchain entities in 2022. For example crypto exchange RAIN received $110 million in investments and included investors from MENA such as MEVP. BitOasis also raised $30 million with UAE based Wamda Capital and others.

Significant developments in the UAE such as the launch of Dubai’s Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA), and the announcement of the Dubai metaverse strategy, which aims to attract more than 1,000 blockchain and metaverse companies as well as support more than 40,000 virtual jobs by 2030 has also played a role in enticing investors towards blockchain, crypto and metaverse as did the launch of Crypto Oasis ecosystem and the DMCC crypto center bringing in 1400 crypto and Blockchain entities to the

19% of surveyed spent over 50% of their capital on Blockchain and crypto entities

Interestingly when asked what percentage of capital or funds available in 2022 was invested in crypto and blockchain, a whopping 19 percent stated that they had invested more than 50 percent of funds into crypto and Blockchain entities. While the majority 33% invested between 5-15% of their capital into crypto and blockchain entities. 

27% invested between 1-5 percent of their capital into crypto and Blockchain, while 21% invested less than 1%. 

While the percentages maybe small compared to other areas, Nickel Digital Asset Management noted that UAE institutional investors, family offices, and wealth managers plan to increase their exposure to crypto dramatically by 2023. And while sovereign funds do not yet see digital assets as investable with just 7% of global sovereign investors have any exposure to digital assets through investments in blockchain companies, this is changing.

In May 2022, J.P. Morgan’s global investment strategy outlook elevated digital assets as the preferred alternative asset class alongside hedge funds for 2022. For the first time in history digital assets displaced other alternative strategies. In the report it is noted that digital assets are expected to offer the greatest potential for generating alpha and hedge funds expect as much as 10 percent of their strategy to include crypto.


A PWC Global Crypto Hedge Fund report in August 2022, found that more than a third of traditional hedge funds now invest in digital assets, this was double the figure of 2021

Global crypto leader at PWC left his role to set up a $75 million digital assets fund Nine Blocks Capital in Dubai UAE. Henri Arsalanian, founder noted that it was Dubai’s crypto openness that influenced his decision. 

Majority of MENA Investors invested in Blockchain infrastructure

MENA investors surveyed were asked where they allocated funds in 2022. 64% of respondents stated that capital was invested in Blockchain infrastructure projects. Following Blockchain infrastructure was DeFi. 38% of respondents stated they allocated funds to DeFi projects. Equally 33-36% invested in metaverse and crypto assets.

In addition 22% replied they invested in Non-Fungible tokens or NFT projects, while 17-18% of respondents stated investments went into e-gaming, tokenization projects, crypto mining and blockchain crypto payments.

Only 8% stated they invested in decentralized messaging and social media platforms. 

The findings of the survey fall much in line with Cointelegraph’ s recent blockchain funding VC report which found that blockchain Infrastructure projects took half the pot of investments in November 2022. While the Web3 sector saw the most deals closed. The global blockchain infrastructure sector secured $483.9 million in venture capital in 2022.

According to Galaxy Ventures, Crypto and Blockchain sector saw $5.5 billion of venture capital invested in Q3 2022 through 518 deals. Despite the QoQ (quarter on quarter) decrease, the $5.5 billion invested in Q3 is $2 billion greater than the 7-year average of $3.1 billion and more than $2 billion higher than the 2020 peak.

MENA investors will invest more in 2023

51% of those surveyed stated they would allocate more funds to blockchain and crypto entities in 2023. Only 15% replied they would not. In addition 33% were unsure. This means that potentially 84% of those surveyed could be investing more in blockchain and crypto in 2023. 

Already investment companies such as TradeDog Group, the parent company of TD VC, have launched new funds. TradeDg Group launched their $100 Million Web3 blockchain special situation fund. The fund will re-structure and invest in projects with good products and businesses but struggling token markets.

Even UAE Cypher Capital VC announced in December 2022 the launch of a new $200 million fund which will focus on infrastructure and middleware investments in Web3. At the time they had invested in Rekt Studios and Fenix Games, while UAE Shorooq Partners also announced in March 2022 that they would be investing $150 million in Web3 startups. Many other investors across the MENA region have been following suite including Mubadala and G42 both based out of UAE.

Global players such as Goldman Sachs plans to spend tens of millions of dollars to buy or invest in crypto companies after the collapse of the FTX exchange hit valuations and dampened investor interest. Goldman has invested in 11 digital asset companies that provide services such as compliance, cryptocurrency data and blockchain management.

MENA investors view Blockchain infrastructure as biggest growth sector in 2023

According to 29% of survey respondents, Blockchain infrastructure projects will witness the biggest growth in 2023. Data gathered by BuyShares.co.nz, found that the global spending on blockchain solutions is expected to surge by 235% and reach $14.4bn by 2023.

Following, 21% view metaverse projects as high growth sector technology. This is in line with findings from Grand View Research, which states the global metaverse market is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 39.4% from 2022 to 2030. 

Meanwhile 18%  of those surveyed think DeFi will witness strong growth. DeFi has been the largest market cap activity within Web3, with a peak total value locked (TVL) of over $175 billion in 2021 shrinking to $39 billion in 2022. Yet Digital asset research firm Reflexivity Research in its recently published 2022 Annual Year in Review / Forward Outlook 2023 believes that given the blow to trust in CEXs, investors will be drawn to decentralized alternatives. The report believes DeFi TVL could make its way back to $75 billion or $100 billion.

12% of those surveyed view blockchain and crypto payments as one of the growth sectors for 2023. Cross-border payments and settlements are considered the most prominent blockchain use case. According to the IDC Worldwide Blockchain Spending Guide, Blockchain enabled cross border payments accounted for 15.9% of the $4.67-billion blockchain market in 2021. Juniper Research estimates that B2B cross-border payments on blockchain will account for 11% of the total B2B international payments by 2024.

When it comes to investment in tokenization projects 8% of those surveyed believe that tokenization sector will be a growth sector in 2023. 5% of those surveyed believe NFT sector will grow in 2023, only 3% of those surveyed believe crypto mining will be a growth sector.

Conclusion

In conclusion from the responses of 83 VCs, investment funds, across the MENA region that included names such as Oman Investment Authority, Equinox, Synaptech Capital, CypherCapital, Helion Ventures, Carter Capital, AlIImtiaz Investment Group, True Global Ventures, Roshan Investments, Crypto Oasis, Ghaf Capital Investments, Vault Investments, and many more, the reflection is a positive outlook when it comes to crypto and Blockchain and a growing interest in investing in projects. So while 2022 might have been one of the toughest years on crypto and Blockchain, it has not killed the appetite of investors in MENA!