In the 24th episode of Encrypted, Ahmed and Faisal were joined by a very special guest from the Middle Eastern bitcoin and blockchain community, Ola Doudin, CEO of Bitoasis.
Being the only exchange in the MENA region with on-ramp and off-ramp (i.e. exchange fiat for crypto and vice versa), Ola shares her background and past experiences before launching Bitoasis. We were impressed by it and we’re sure you will too!
First, we wanted to clear misconceptions and confusion around the ‘Virtual Currency’ ban in a policy paper that was issued by the UAE Central Bank in early 2017. With Bitoasis already being an established digital assets exchange, Ola explains how they reacted to this piece of news and how they made a clear path forward.
How can you get a crypto exchange license in the UAE?
This led the discussion to the subject of obtaining a crypto exchange license here in the UAE when there was no clear guidance or laws on running crypto asset exchanges. Ola explains their approach with licensing in the UAE, their approach with lawyers and regulators and most importantly, how they dealt with compliance. For those budding exchange entrepreneurs looking towards the MENA region, you’ll definitely learn a thing or two from Ola’s experience.
Oh and what about a bank account?
Getting bank accounts as a crypto company is not an easy task here in the UAE. Ola, however, has showcased to the region that it is doable. She explains the journey Bitoasis had with their banking relationships, the challenges they encountered and how they resolved them. Yes, relationships played a key role, but make sure to listen in to hear what else Bitoasis had up their sleeve to secure stable banking relationships for their exchange.
Ola emphasises that after the ADGM issued its exchange guidelines, regional banks have taken a more accommodating approach to banking crypto companies.
Regulatory and competitive landscape
Ola talks about her experiences engaging with regulators across the region and GCC stating that we are at a point where most crypto companies and exchanges have to classify themselves as a financial services companies and thus have to be regulated accordingly. Faisal tries to understand how Ola is trying to scale Bitoasis in the region as well as her thoughts on the regional crypto exchange competitive landscape as more exchanges are actively trying to set up shop in the UAE.
Ola shares the demographics of Bitoasis’ platform; particularly the persona of their users and their most active regions. She also highlights that the main crypto communities are UAE, Saudi and Kuwait.
She also mentions that users are not only on the exchange to trade and invest but their users use their platform as a means of payment and micropayments through their wallet product.
Being a crypto entrepreneur in the Middle East – wait a female crypto entrepreneur
Here we try to understand Ola a bit more and how she persevered in a niche space during a time when blockchain and crypto was unheard of and typically rejected. Vision, their stakeholders, execution and being in the right city to experiment (want to hazard a guess where they experimented?) were the main factors behind their growth and success. This is an interesting part of the episode, so do make sure to tune in!
Decentralisation and data hacking
We diverted our discussion to data, how dangerous centralised data stores are for society and more specifically the paradigm shift that needs to occur to prevent incidents such as the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica case. Ola asks an interesting question: when a huge data leak happens, what is the role of government and public services?
We clearly see that it’s just a matter of time that these problems will be solved using blockchain. So if you like to hear about the philosophical side of blockchain and why it can solve the above problem, then you wouldn’t want to miss this one!
Building the infrastructure and what should be done in the region?
Ahmed asks Ola where does she see Bitoasis in 5 years time? Will they do an ICO, be an STO exchange etc?
‘Building the infrastructure; particularly the liquidity pool and education that’s needed to build an industry’ – was her answer. Very visionary and powerful!
Faisal follows up to hear Ola’s thoughts on what she thinks should be the government’s role to aid the industry and especially what should be done in the UAE and Dubai? Well, do tune in to find out.
As you can see, we talked about a lot of things and so all of the above and more will be on this week’s episode of Encrypted!
If you liked what you heard, please do leave us a review on iTunes and the other platforms. Don’t forget to support us by spreading the word!
Special Guest: Ola Doudin.