Gulf Crypto Insight exclusive
BitOasis is a Dubai-based cryptocurrency exchange platform. Created back in 2015, it is perhaps the oldest crypto company in the region. Today it allows traders and investors to buy and sell digital currencies such as bitcoin, ethereum, and others against fiat currencies and other virtual assets.
Earlier this year, BitOasis’s ADGM entity received the Financial Services Permission from FSRA (Financial Services Regulatory Authority) and intends to launch operations under the regulated entity in ADGM in 2022.
After this interview was done, it became known that BitOasis had closed its $ 30 million Series B funding round, led by venture capital firms Jump Capital and Wamda. The participants included both current investors of the platform: Pantera Capital, Digital Currency Group, NXMH, as well as new ones: Alameda Research and Global Founders Capital.
The exchange will use the funds raised to expand its business in the Middle East and North Africa, said Ola Doudin, co-founder and CEO of BitOasis. According to her, in addition to geographic expansion, the company plans to partner with local government agencies to raise public awareness around crypto-security.
We spoke to Mahdi Belbeisi, BitOasis Head of Community Engagement
– Could you tell us about your organization’s history, how it was founded and who stood at its origins? What major milestones have you already passed?
– BitOasis was launched in 2015, making it the first homegrown digital asset exchange to set up operations in the region. The company is headed by CEO and co- founder Ola Doudin, who started her journey into the crypto world when she stumbled upon a post on Bitcoin years ago. After an intense period of researching, exploring, and networking, Ola was convinced of the immense potential of digital currencies.
Over the last six years, BitOasis has achieved many milestones, marked by launches being rolled out in several regional markets, as well as the launch of new digital tokens to meet the ever-growing investment appetite of its users. One of the most noteworthy milestones in our journey came about in April 2021 when BitOasis’s ADGM (Abu Dhabi Global Market) entity receiving the Financial Services Permission from FSRA (Financial Services Regulatory Authority).
This is only the beginning. We see a lot of potential for future growth as crypto awareness increases. People are interested, but they need to understand that cryptocurrency is worth their trust. And we at BitOasis are creating an entire structure to win that trust.
– BitOasis has recently closed a $ 30 million Series B funding round. Who were some of your investors? To what projects are you planning to direct the acquired funds?
– Our Series B funding round was co-led by Chicago-based venture capital firm Jump Capital and MENA-based Wamda. The participants included new investors like Alameda Research and Global Founders Capital, as well as current investors like Pantera Capital, Digital Currency Group, and NXMH.
The incoming capital provides us with the resources we need to build the region’s largest and most reliable cryptocurrency platform.
We strive to grow our local presence while maintaining high compliance standards. We are actively working with regulators throughout the region and are looking to acquire new licenses. The new funding will also help us build an excellent tech team that will support us in enhancing our service offering for our retail and institutional clients across the region.
– You are based in the Middle East. But as far as I can tell, the BitOasis team also has experience in crypto markets of other regions. How is the Middle East different? Is there something about the client mentality or the specifics of cryptocurrency transactions?
– The crypto market dynamics are generally better in countries with high cryptocurrency adoption levels, such as Nigeria, Kenya, Vietnam. The use of cryptocurrencies there allows people not to worry about the instability of their local fiat currencies.
In other countries, such as India, the adoption levels are also high, but several negative factors reduce the demand for cryptocurrencies. The Middle East is still in the early stages: people are just getting an idea of cryptocurrencies and are starting to invest in them.
Regular investors in our region usually put money in traditional assets such as gold, stock markets, companies from rich countries. So there is still a need to raise awareness around the merits of including cryptocurrencies in investment portfolios. But it needs to start with helping retail investors understand an asset like cryptocurrencies and its true potential.
– How would you assess the Gulf countries’ potential in terms of crypto business? What are the prospects here? How soon, if ever, do you think the region could become one of the big players in the industry?
Cryptocurrency adoption across the region as a whole is still low. Again, a lot of work needs to be done to raise awareness among people and build the cryptocurrency community from the ground up. There is also work to be done in terms of building trust in the crypto ecosystem with the support of regulators. These two aspects complement each other and together will drive mass adoption of cryptocurrencies.
– You are currently operating in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco. Do you have plans to expand your activities to other Islamic countries (e.g., Turkey), non-Islamic regions, or the countries of the former USSR?
– Our vision at BitOasis is to build a transparent and inclusive financial system in the region, using cryptocurrencies as building blocks. Our future growth ambitions involve geographic expansion along with strengthening our presence locally and improving our products in growing markets where we already operate.
– It is obvious that crypto culture and crypto relations should be built into the future of the region. Promoting crypto culture is a mountain of work that must involve all crypto market participants. Are you taking any steps in this direction? Do you do anything to promote crypto culture in the UAE in particular?
– BitOasis is the pioneer and the leading crypto asset exchange platform in the region. We have set ourselves the task of helping people and businesses understand what cryptocurrencies are and how they can revolutionize the way we think about money, transact and invest. Our main goal is help build an open financial system, and to grow the regional crypto ecosystem.
I understand that there is still a lot to be done to make cryptocurrencies more easily understandable, and accessible to everyone in the region. We need people to learn the basics of cryptocurrencies and how the blockchain technology works.
It’s a whole journey. We are creating a financial system entirely different from the one that has existed for hundreds of years. You can’t just go up to people and tell them “invest in cryptocurrencies”. You must start by answering the first and most basic question “What’s the point of it?”.
– What is your relationship with government regulators? Has their attitude towards the crypto industry changed in recent years?
– Since our inception in 2015, we have been working very closely with key policymakers and regulators to build trust and transparency into the regional crypto ecosystem. We realize that having the right regulatory framework will motivate retail investors to put their trust into cryptocurrencies to really take advantage of their growth potential.
Even before a regulatory structure was in place, BitOasis meticulously self-regulated to ensure the platform was at par with some of the best digital asset exchange platforms in the world. This has also helped regulators recognize us as an established and trustworthy entity, making them open to have that regulation-building conversation with us. We’re lucky to call the UAE our home, where the leadership’s stance towards crypto assets and blockchain technology has been very progressive.
– What cryptocurrencies are the most popular in the Arab world? What is your attitude to NFTs?
– Among the digital currencies listed on the BitOasis platform, we have recorded the highest trading volume for Bitcoin, Ethereum, and XRP. Following the recent launch of Tether (USDT) on our platform, we have seen its trading volume pick up substantially this year.
We have also noticed demand for NFTs picking up, especially since the region is home to many budding artists and creatives. However, compared to the massive NFT transaction volumes we are seeing internationally, the MENA region is still at a very nascent stage.
– So what is the most common cryptocoin in our region? If you had to rank them.
– The region shows the same trends as the international crypto market.
– How do you build relationships with large investors? How do you communicate with them? Do you have to chase them, or do they go after you?
– As the crypto asset market edges closer to maturity, there’s been a noticeable spike in institutional investor interest. Our goal is to build a platform that investors can trust. By focusing on compliance, and user experience enhancements, we are positioning ourselves as the go-to crypto exchange platform for retail and institutional investors across the region.
With a supportive regulatory framework in the works, the emergence of cryptocurrencies as a new asset class recording extraordinary returns, and a high concentration of HNW investors in the UAE specifically, there’s a growing acceptance of crypto assets as a way to diversify and grow portfolios.
– Could you identify any promising regional DeFi projects?
– At BitOasis, we have a dedicated team that is tasked with researching and exploring new digital tokens with the most reliable use cases that can bring the greatest value to potential investors. We have a rigorous selection process in place that involves several quantitative and qualitative qualifying criteria.
– Could you say a few words about yourself? How did you join the company? What are your main responsibilities?
– I am the Head of Community Engagement. My role, and the task of my entire team, is to build bridges between BitOasis and the crypto community as a whole. My responsibility is to shape this whole community, to bring it all together. By building trust into the platform, I want to position BitOasis as the go-to place for people looking to invest in cryptocurrencies. My aim is to build a true sense of community among our existing and potential users. And we are doing this by giving people the freedom to access BitOasis through multiple online and offline channels, be it social media, community management, or through channels we create ourselves – meetings, events, and workshops for people to make them more aware, more cohesive within the whole community.
– What was the most challenging task you had to accomplish in this position? And what was your biggest success? What do you consider your greatest achievement?
– Speaking about my own experience (and I have worked in other industries before), I can say that the crypto industry is slightly different, but for the better. It is more exciting: every day you have a new piece of the big puzzle, a new challenge, a new problem or task. It makes for a great learning experience.
The problems we face are due to a lack of crypto-awareness among people and businesses. It is a common problem, especially in our region. At BitOasis, we understand both the crypto world in general and the region in which we work. So our job is mainly to find a balance between the global crypto world and how we can localize it and make it a specialized business for our region.
– Do you have an idea of the local crypto market in five years? Could you outline it?
– Our plan is basically to build a transparent, coherent crypto ecosystem in the region. It is still work in progress. And we are also trying to develop a cryptocurrency-based digital financial system.
And I hope that in five years, the adoption of cryptocurrency in the region as a whole will be much, much higher. I also hope to see people understand and trying to use cryptocurrency more in their daily lives, using it for transactions, and adding it to their investment portfolios.
– It is an outstanding achievement to become a pioneer in any field. You guys are real pioneers not only in the region, but globally as well. Can you imagine telling about it to your grandchildren? “I was one of those who created everything that you see around …”?
– It is fascinating to be at the forefront of tech and financial evolution. This idea charges us every morning to get up and get on with our tasks, regardless of whether it is a typical weekday or a weekend. Personally, I am very passionate about what we do and conscientious about our daily mission. For me, this is not a 9 to 5 job; it is a mission. I believe that it will make our lives much better, especially in our region, where it is really necessary.