In an interview during World Blockchain Summit Dubai, with Kevin Soltani, co-founder of GIMA Group, we gained valuable insights into the crypto and blockchain landscape in Dubai. With a focus on pre-seed and seed investments in the blockchain and digital asset space, Soltani shared his perspective on the challenges and opportunities in the region.

Kevin Soltani, co-founder of GIMA Group
Kevin Soltani, co-founder of GIMA Group

Kevin Soltani, who has been in Dubai for seven years, emphasised the importance of Dubai as a hub for the crypto and blockchain industry. He discussed how the emirate is like both the godfather and the problem child of the industry, with a mission to figure out the best regulatory and licensing framework. While acknowledging the challenges, Soltani believes that Dubai is still the place to be, especially given its friendly tax environment compared to places like California.

One of the key takeaways from the conversation was the concept of ‘crypto tourists’. These are individuals or businesses that come to Dubai with the expectation of easily securing funding and then leaving once they’ve achieved their financial goals. Soltani pointed out that this approach is flawed, and those who don’t see the bigger picture won’t succeed in the long run.

He further highlighted the distinction between executives and developers. Dubai is an attractive destination for executives, offering an ideal environment for networking and building connections. However, the reality is that developers, who play a crucial role in innovation, often prefer to work remotely in their comfort zones, often located in cost-effective regions.

Soltani emphasised that Dubai is an excellent place for startups looking to establish themselves. The recent changes in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) regulations have made it more accessible for startups to get licensed, contributing to the growing startup ecosystem in the region. This flexibility, combined with the innovative and diverse environment, makes Dubai an attractive destination for entrepreneurs.

Challenges and opportunities

Furthermore, Soltani urged the industry to engage in more candid discussions and debates about the challenges and shortcomings in the crypto space. He highlighted the importance of distinguishing between real and perceived value in the industry, especially in relation to market capitalisation and liquidity.

Dubai, with its dynamic and ever-evolving ecosystem, is poised to create several unicorns in the coming years. While not all of these unicorns may be Emirati-born, many will be “made in the Emirates”. The region’s unique position as a melting pot of talent and capital provides a fertile ground for innovation and growth.

In conclusion, Kevin Soltani’s perspective on the crypto and blockchain landscape in Dubai underlines the challenges and opportunities that exist in this dynamic industry. Dubai’s journey to becoming a blockchain and crypto hub is ongoing, and while there are hurdles to overcome, the city offers a unique and promising environment for those willing to take the plunge and invest in its thriving ecosystem.

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