Block Gemini: UAE is at the top of the blockchain enterprise and regulation space

    20 Oct 2021

    Please tell us about your company, you’ve been on the market since 2017, its entire lifetime in the crypto world?

    I was blessed and very lucky to be an early investor in bitcoin. In fact, I didn’t know I was investing in something. I just sort of got dragged into it. And to be honest, it’s hard and nowhere. At the time, did I have the same feeling about bitcoin as I do today? Right. So it was a lot of misconceptions. It was something so new it was hard to understand. But when things changed was around late twenty sixteen, early 2016, when in theory, when you when the first smart contract was uploaded on a blockchain, which was the Ethereum project. Right. So one smart contract started getting uploaded on blockchains. I started noticing a lot of enterprises and businesses around me who were more than interested in bitcoin. They were more interested in what is this blockchain technology and what are smart contracts? How can that benefit my business? And these are companies that are in the oil and gas sector. Telecommunications, fintech, financial services, cross-border remittances. So to sort of like a wide array of businesses, started paying huge attention to this. Immediately after that, we started working with the numerous local enterprises here in the UAE. We ended up winning quite a few awards, and that’s when I realized, OK, this is the business. This business is something I’d like to invest in, and we scaled our operations tremendously into what you see block Gemini as being today.

    You work in the realm of the blockchain, most companies in this area deal with the financing of the cryptocurrencies. On the other hand, your specialty is blockchain based, a solution for supply chains and logistics for RAG-TAG or fintech and others. Why did you choose this particular segment of the market?

    I mean, it’s one we are privately funded Block Gemini is a privately funded company, so we’ve never had any need to raise capital for us to build any of our products. So what you’ll notice is a lot of the companies that are going out there and launching coins, a lot of them, the investment that’s coming in from the sale of those coins is going in towards their technology. From our perspective, we are more or less looking at the process, re-engineering and tokenizing of certain documents, paperless strategies and sort of using, distributed, stakeholder management automation tools to, simplify and automate a lot of the processes within enterprises.

    And I think a lot of focus is going into to sort of raising, selling coins in exchange for building state of the art high transaction per second or highly efficient.

    So I think there’s clear difference. A lot of people are going out there and trying to build the super innovative technologies and mostly focusing on sort of public blockchains and high transactions per second. And sure, there are definitely a lot of enterprise use cases there. But I think from our side, we’ve been sort of exploring doing proof of value, proof of concept, doing deployments with numerous customers of ours and seeing that simply even just with small consortiums of stakeholders, we are able to establish these trusted blockchain networks and then sort of streamline a lot of their compliance or streamline a lot of their decision making and even automate so many of the things that were sort of done by human humans, right? And that’s been sort of the focus is for block Gemini is. To find ways and create products and solutions for enterprises to literally save, save huge percentages on their top line, right? So, some of our clients are seeing full percentage points coming off of them spend by using this technology, right? So some of that is as simple as sort of just setting up private blockchain consortium networks and having customized and automated workflows.

    Can you tell us a bit more about your personal role in the company and probably a few words about the team working with you?

    I’m very blessed, to be honest. I’ve been a part of the bitcoin talk and bitcoin community since well before 2012, maybe even as early as 2010. And I made a nice network of friends and colleagues. And then, by the time two thousand sixteen late 2016 came around and I wanted to create Block Gemini, I already knew who would be on this all-star team. So I already knew who to call. I already knew what I wanted to do. They were already advising me and we already knew how to bring value to some of these enterprises. So what the plan was to get everybody in the same room and me being from Canada, that was not entirely possible in Canada, right? Canada has got a very strict immigration policy. Everyone that I knew from this community was sort of scattered all over the world. They were in India and Russia and in the U.K. and U.S., etc. So how you’re working on a technology which probably most people today are looking at like, OK, this is like the Albert Einstein of inventions. How do you do that with everyone sort of all over the world and you got to get everyone in the same room, at least initially? So initially, what blockchain really did was we created at our office in Dubai. And because Dubai has a very advanced immigration system that allows us to immediately bring skilled talent into the country. So we assembled our team here and that’s potent. And it was actually the Dubai government and smart Dubai’s initiatives and a lot of the workshops being involved in able to work, involving us in so many different groups and projects that we realized that Dubai is the crypto world headquarters. I mean, this is where the enterprise projects are going down. This is where the government has made a push to be a blockchain enabled government. This is where you’re seeing all of the major conferences and everything going down. And everybody’s sort of fighting for that prize of being the top crypto hub, and it’s clear that Dubai is among the top crypto hubs in the world, which absolutely, I think the offspring of that is block Gemini. The reason why blockchain is what it is today is because the Dubai government set the framework and put the right correct mandates in place for to make companies like us exist and thrive in this market.

    How did the Covid19 impact your business, you and your development?

    So initially we were just based out of Dubai and then we were able to establish hubs in global competency centers which are trying to develop. So, we have Bangalore, we have Dubai, we have Toronto, which is up and coming and then we have Luxembourg. So now I guess that’s M&A before our business is more defined and we’re able to structure in such a way where we have these hubs across the world. So, from COVID actually has. Sure, I mean, we’ve, assured that there’s been some challenges with operations of our office in certain locations in Europe and India. It took a long time for us to reopen over there. Toronto, actually, we’re still not reopened, however, in Dubai. We had only a two-month impact on sort of working from the office. But, as far as the business goes it being an online business, and, we the work from home went very smooth for us. The only thing that we that we sort of missed was maybe the conference rooms and all of us sitting together having coffee. But they actually what happened was our business has grown tremendously due to COVID. I mean, I assume so. I assume it’s because of COVID. We were already on a very high growth. We’ve been we’ve been growing at a minimum. I don’t want to give anything official, but I would say at a minimum of 30 percent per year year on year. So if not a lot more, actually. But, I don’t want to sort of say that that’s because of COVID, because it is it is because of blockchain, right?

    And how big is the market for major blockchain based enterprise a solution in your estimate? What are the dynamics of this development?

    There’s not too much statistics that I’ve come across, but if you look at sort of the enterprise sector at a lot of the blockchain projects that have come around in my experience in 2017, what you had was a lot of people who are doing proof of concept or a lot of research and development. I think that continued on into twenty eighteen nineteen. I think what I’ve noticed is, uh, and it’s pretty funny. If the price of bitcoin is down, then I’ve noticed a small lesser of an interest from enterprises. As the price of bitcoin goes up, more enterprises are interested in blockchain technology, which I which I find awfully. I can’t. I can’t seem to find the correlation there, but I think a lot of the hype has senior executives wanting to sort of more interested to dabble in the technology, which is great because there’s no lost time or wasted time there. So I would say that in 2017 there was quite a bit of an enterprise push. And in growth in those two years, I would say 18 and 19, at least for Block Gemini was was not to say flat, but lower growth. And then I would say in an enterprise. And then I would say 20, 20, 20, 21 extreme growth in enterprise discussions and deploy and deployments from our side. Even some of our clients, their critical infrastructure. I’m talking about multibillion dollar companies. Their critical infrastructure is being run using blockchain related systems. So yeah, I think, uh, I think I think it’s at a point right now where where all the enterprise, almost every single fortune five hundred enterprise has this on their radar. We’re in touch with some governments as well who are working with central CBDCs. I think there was a report that came out that 100 plus governments are looking at launching a CBDC. So barely scratching the surface. You’re right. They’re still they’re still if you look at sort of the banking instruments there’s banks now that are putting securities on the Ethereum blockchain or corporate bonds on the blockchain. I think that whole ecosystem, as has, is just about to kick off, right? I mean, so tomorrow if Coca-Cola is putting out a corporate bond to a triple AAA rated bond or a rated bond, there’s no need for them to put that out. I mean, they could they could continue to do it the traditional way. But now they have even more options where they could perhaps push their corporate bond on the Ethereum blockchain and allow people all over the world to read it to purchase their bond.

    I think it’s already it’s in progress. I mean, I can’t say much, but we are already discussing numerous different players with banks who are looking into providing corporate bonds and different sorts of protocols which have a fixed return very similar to what they’re doing on paper. But having that, all sort of digital and somewhat to a certain degree decentralize. So that’s all I’ve already seen a huge increase in new cases on that. I think what was what’s missing and what’s sort of been holding back everything has been regulation. So that’s also picking up steam as well as you can see, regulation is what’s holding back a lot of these big banks and enterprises from being able to provide these solutions. So. Yeah.  whichever government or jurisdiction is able to properly regulate this and bring and bring this these solutions to life or there’s a future to life is probably going to be the next crypto hub. And we and I’m fairly confident that Dubai is the UAE rather is in the top three, if not at the top.  if you look at the announcement from DFS, the Dubai Financial Services Authority, today, in the next two months, we’ll have crypto regulation in Dubai firm regulation. I personally know they’ve been working on this for years.  a lot of other governments are only starting now. And here we are sitting in a country where this is something that they were talking about in 2016 when bitcoin was well under 4000, right? So well under even right. So right. So  it is. It is. It is Dubai, Abu Dhabi, the UAE is in my eyes. It probably is going to be even with their immigration laws going to be the right place for all the blockchain related projects to be based out of

    On your website says that implementing blockchain take organization to new heights. Can you give an example from your customer experience? How did they transform the business with the blockchain?

    I mean, I won’t be able to focus on particular client, but I’ll give you some examples. So if you think about just sort of know pricing agreements right now, if I’m a. If I’m if I’m purchasing something right, let’s say I’m purchasing some, some used vehicles.  you’re most likely having discussions with the supplier back and forth on email, on WhatsApp, you’re having phone calls with that person. OK, I’d like to buy 10 cars from you. Right? And you’re negotiating back and forth. Right? And then sometimes that negotiations is done by maybe 10 or 15 people in a company. Right. So what’s challenging is that you’ve got a lot of different humans and different information in everyone’s hands, and not everyone’s aligned to a blockchain allows you to do is sort of create these create these environments where everybody is on one single source of truth or everybody is on one one ledger read with facts. And then every time a company would like to submit their pricing or go back and forth on pricing. They don’t need to go through through Skype or they don’t need to go through WhatsApp. Then what they should be doing is having transactions much going back and forth transaction hashes, going back and forth and saying, OK,  what? These cars are not good or this car at this price is not good or I need this car to have this engine and sort of the negotiation should all be on that ledger. So once you’ve sort of created that ecosystem and you’ve got that, you’ve got that in place, you remove late, you collapse layers of bureaucracy, right? Because in the past what you’re doing is you’re going through so many different people and contracts and paperwork and protocols to negotiate and agree on pricing. And here you’re doing that together. So this is one example of sort of how you could integrate supplier networks. And yeah,

    It’s very clear you give a very good description of the blockchain technology. But my question was about the real cases when your customer’s benefits from switching to the blockchain technology itself, or probably you can say that it’s right. Let me let me let me start what could be disclosed information. So let me

    let me try another example maybe supply chain related to pharma related.  not many people know this, but a big portion of the medicine in the pharmacies are fake, right? This is a growing problem. It exists. Most people think it only exists in Africa, but it actually exists everywhere, right? And now if I were to ask you and say, OK, what if the medicine was real and the salesman who was who had that medicine, he put it in his briefcase, and he threw that medicine in his trunk for 30 seconds and it was 50 degrees outside, right? So what happens to the medicine is it becomes as good as fake, maybe even worse than it being a fake medicine. Because when you store medicine at those temperatures, in some cases it could be it could be lethal. So, it’s very important to the customer number one to know, OK, is this real medicine, right? That’s the first thing. Number two is this is this has this been kept at the right temperature? And then three, this sets an expiry date on here. I know a lot of people scratch that off and print a new expiry date. Is this expired or not? Right. So with blockchain and then some of the serialization projects that block Gemini’s involved, then we are taking existing medicine and even vaccines, which I can’t get too much into DNA and sterilizing that. And then as and then we have blockchain related supply chain platforms that track the movement of this cargo trucks that which it’s stored at. And then we have a blockchain hash printed on each and every single medicine bottle. And as and when that user scans that block in hash, they’re able to see it’s real. It was kept at the right temperature. And yes, this is it’s not expired. So these are some. And then from there, you can imagine how you can leverage that right? If you think about data, right? I mean, now some people are getting side effects from this medicine. And of course, the pharma companies would like to get as much information on that as possible. People, maybe tomorrow you could have some incentives where these people could contribute their experience with the drug on the block, on the blockchain and maybe get rewarded with some sort of tokens for that or some sort of vouchers. Right. So there’s so many different. Use cases from patient data to serialization to and they all sort of fall under one category, which is ideally.  the identity of an item or an individual, right, so once you’ve once you’ve sort of registered that and giving it a unique identity on the blockchain, then you’re sort of opening up once that once that’s out of the way, then you have a whole ecosystem of different use cases that can tie in there from perhaps even electronic prescriptions.  the blockchain issued E prescriptions, maybe even you could get delivery of your medicine without having to visit the pharmacy because of some sort of biometric check, etc. So I mean, we haven’t reached that stage. But I mean, at the current stage right now, what we are doing is we are sterilizing medicine, stamping it on the bottle, updating that on a on a on a on a blockchain, updating the temperatures at which it store that. And then we have a customer out or that customer can go in and scan that QR hash and see all of this information being referenced from a permissionless, decentralized blockchain.

    How could the blockchain technology could be implemented in the real life? And what can you say about the key technological innovations of long Gemini?

    Block Gemini, a lot of companies that are that are that are I think in the crypto space are focused on one sort of protocol blockchain or one.  sort of just sort of building that foundational layer, right, and then the use cases will come and then one thing you’ll notice with Block Gemini is we have more use case driven, right? So we do have numerous different blockchain platforms as a service blockchain management tools. We’ve built our own custom blockchain influence cloud as well. So, so from our side, yeah, we’ve got numerous different tools that help enterprises manage their complex blockchain networks. We’ve also sort of quite agnostic, to be honest.  if we if we are building a project, we won’t just build everything on Ethereum because it’s our favorite coin and it’s not our favorite coin. I’m just saying something for some people. They build everything on Ethereum because they nothing else is acceptable for them. But from our side, we consider numerous different blockchains in a project. We look at the use case and we say, OK, this is the use case, and this is why we can’t use that blockchain. And this is why we should use this blockchain. We short list and oftentimes it ends up in a debate. But by the end of it all, we’re very agnostic. So we were working with all different kinds of blockchain related technologies, not just one. We don’t favor one because we it’s it’s ours or we have some incentive there. We have no incentive to work with any blockchain other than it having the best capability. And yeah, that’s basically that’s basically our position.  we we come in, we step into organizations, we understand their process, we make suggestions. If they approve those suggestions, we go into a small proof of concept or a sort of discovery phase. And then if that if we see value at the end of that discovery phase, which oftentimes we do, then we go into building a full product or an MVP. And that’s how that’s sort of how our engagement start.

     What solutions do your clients usually look for, what the problems do they mention most often?

    Right, so some of our clients are having issues with disputes at the end of the year. Maybe there are some reconciliation efforts on both sides of the table.  one company might say, Oh, you owe me $9 million. The other company will say, you, owe me $1 million. And then sort of always the data on both sides of the table are mismatched. So these are clear instances where they should collaboratively have some sort of ledger that they can both sort of call as fact or respect, right? But you’ll still find everyone sort of going through disputes on. He said this and she said that so. So in dispute resolution, blockchain really sort of simplifies everything because it’s the blockchain way or the highway. If you’re if you are able to work that way some of our some of our clients are moving around dangerous chemicals, fuel, right? So you could imagine their concern in the case of a driver speeding while transporting dangerous people. He’s very tired. He’s it has. He slept enough as he certified things like this. So tracking that behavior and tying it to a smart contract so that if any of those service level agreements such as the speed or  any of the conditions that those drivers have to accept are not, are not honored or not are not, then that smart contract would apply penalties accordingly, or it would handle things there. So most of our clients are looking for ways to do sort of prove. We’ve done something else where we put carbon, our car at one of our clients carbon footprints. We put it on a blockchain, right? Because it’s so much carbon credits industry is full of fraud, right? So, so it’s things like that, people looking to provide transparency. We have clients who are coming from a compliance perspective who are tying KYC documents to tokens, working with securities tokens to also sort of inform the regulator of certain things. So there’s a whole range of different things people come to us for at the current time. It was not always this way, but yeah, I think one most people are looking for just a better way to integrate and a better way to sort of automate things without the need to worry as to whether the data is having been tampered with or not. So, yeah, I hope I answered your question correctly.

    And what part of your clients comes from Arab countries? If it’s not secret, of course,

    We don’t have any official numbers handy. But I would I would say about a 50 plus percent of our business is just from the GCC. And we were quite active out here. I mean, I don’t want to speak unofficially, but I mean, we’re one of the most well known blockchain firms out here in the region, our European offices, the Europe is also a very big market for us. And then, of course, North America, it should be our biggest market. However, our expansion is only taking place now over there and we’ve got some business going on there. But I would say the majority of our businesses in the Middle East and Europe at the moment.

    What is the future of the blockchain industry and for the Gulf region? And how strong is potentially is it possible for Gulf region to became one of the world’s leader of this industry?

    Yes. I mean, I wouldn’t being from North America and also sort of I’ve been living in Dubai now for 14 years. So I mean, I won’t be able to speak really outside of the UAE. But to my knowledge maybe other than Bahrain, I don’t see much going on in the blockchain space in the GCC, to be honest. Maybe in Israel, if you want to consider that part of the Gulf there’s some activity going on there. But  I think the UAE is like probably way ahead of any of the other countries in this domain internationally as well. The UAE is at the top of the blockchain enterprise and regulation space, in my opinion. So I would say that other than the UAE and perhaps maybe Bahrain, I don’t I I’m not sure. I’ve always thought that cryptocurrency is illegal in Doha. I’m not sure on that. I’m not sure of the same question in Saudi Kuwait also. So yeah. So from a crypto perspective that’s one thing from an enterprise perspective. Yeah, we’ve actually worked on quite a few. We’ve been invited to quite a few different RFPs from all over the Gulf and and actually done quite a few that. So enterprise related, it’s smooth sailing, full steam ahead. Crypto wise. Yeah, an extreme delay and figure out a way to bring that to life. But one of the things also that everyone here in the UAE has issues with is OK. The best investment known to man ever is bitcoin. And if you live in the UAE and you’d like to purchase bitcoin, well, OK, tell me how I got it all my bank account getting shut down, right? So if you look, if you compare that to more developed markets like the United Kingdom and the US. Right?  you’ve got probably a thousand different applications all the way from PayPal to Venmo to Robinhood to so many Coinbase $100 billion companies being created out of this. And and yeah, it’s unfortunate that the Middle East is lagging behind in crypto regulation, but from. But that’s coming. And I wouldn’t say crypto lagging behind in crypto regulation. I would say we’re lagging behind in in the exchange market.  it would be great if it was easier to purchase bitcoin. But yeah, I think I think at this stage right now, it’s tough to comment on the entire gulf.  for me, it’s UAE. It is the only place that I’m really able to see this sort of industry actually flourishing and having a having a clear, clear understanding of it. I’m not I’m not too sure about I don’t have all the answers on elsewhere, but yeah, it’s open. Answered your question.

    Recently, there were to be crypto summits in Dubai for the Future Blockchain Summit and World Blockchain Summit, but as observers noticed, there were no major players presented on these events and most of the companies are just growing up. So from your point of view, why the major ignored these two big events in Dubai?

    I don’t know if they’ve ignored it. Actually, with regards to the Future of Blockchain Summit, we were informed that there no space left. So I believe maybe they were sold out. We have a very big space requirement, we sponsored the Future Blockchain Summit at a pretty high level.  a few years in a row, however, when we tried to it’s one of it’s our most favorite summit in Dubai. We tried to sponsor it this year. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to accommodate us. So I’m not sure why that that is the case. Maybe there’s a lot of capacity issues due to the expo they weren’t able to make it a bigger event this year. And yeah, I think the I think that that could be a reason, but I think another reason could be that a lot of the bigger enterprises and companies are still on a work from home model. They’re still sort of adjusting to COVID and travel. And they’ve got a they’ve got a harder time to sort of to get back in a face to face environment at the moment. However, I see that changing, but from block Gemini’s personal perspective, we would have loved to have been a part of it. However, they were sold out and I don’t see any reason why I’m not surprised. It’s a wonderful event.

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