UNLOCK Blockchain two-day forum ended with the participation of 350 attendees, more than 58 speakers and announcements from du, UNLOCK, and other governmental representatives
Dubai UAE Jan 22nd 2019: The UNLOCK Company DMCC, a platform that provides information, intelligence, insights and news pertaining to the Blockchain sector held its UNLOCK Blockchain forum in Dubai on Jan 15-16, 2019 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel DIFC.
The UNLOCK Blockchain Forum was a great success with 350 participants from around the region. Osman Sultan, Chief Executive Officer of Emirates Integrated Telecommunication Company (EITC), the parent company of du, presented his keynote at UNLOCK which talked about the Blockchain Platform as a Service (BPaaS) that du is now offering and how it plays an essential role in the formulation of the Smart City Vision alongside technologies such as AI, Internet of Things as well as human influence.
Mr. Walid Abou Zaki, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of UNLOCK also announced the formation of a blockchain fund “We are pleased not only to be holding our second series of UNLOCK on the 10th year anniversary of Bitcoin & Blockchain but we also hope to continue to build the ecosystem and as such we are working with many partners to launch a $50 million fund in 2020 to further develop the blockchain ecosystem in the region. Regional private and family offices are keen to invest in the technology and digital assets but under proper terms and well-structured strategy.”
In addition to the very interesting panels and keynotes that covered the two-day event, more and more governments across the region are starting to carry out huge blockchain implementations. In the government panel on day one, Dr. Khalid Tahhan, CEO of Blockchain Solutions and services talked about Oman government strategy to implement blockchain use cases across 21 Ministries. Mr. Ali Hashmi Director of Technology & AI Lead at Deloitte talked about the importance of Blockchain adoption and alluded to a huge governmental blockchain project that Deloitte is participating in within the MENA region. In addition, Dr. Hesham Bin Abbas, Blockchain Technology Advisor, Ministry of ICT and Communications also discussed the KSA strategy for introducing blockchain across governmental and private entities, and the importance of building the talent base, the use cases, as well as better understanding of technology and investment environment.
According to Toufi Saliba CEO of Toda Network, “today Blockchain has only 0.2% penetration across the world and until all five attributes which include implementation, security, efficiency, confidentiality, scalability and interoperability are made available, blockchain implementations will not become widespread so we must work on this in the upcoming year.”
In addition to the panels that raised awareness on blockchain as a technology and its implications, du, from Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (EITC), and Dhonor healthTech, a leading national company focused on global healthcare blockchain solutions, announced they were entering into a collaboration to build the UAE’s first Patient Safety Blockchain Solution.
The use case in question will empower and enrich lives through the country’s first patient-centric safety verification blockchain solution. This solution is designed on du’s BPaaS in order to provide authenticity and compliance traceability that delivers the transparency and trust that has eluded the healthcare industry to date.
Finally, Lara Abdulmalak, project lead for UNLOCK Blockchain stated, “We are very proud to have held our second edition of UNLOCK despite the bearish conditions in the market today. We thank once again our esteemed speakers, our sponsors du, DarkMatter, Avanza Innovations, Deloitte, Centurion & Co. and our 20 plus startups for being with us this year. We hope to continue to grow the community and improve on UNLOCK year after year.”
To view the videos of the panels and check out pictures please visit www.unlock-bc.com/events/unlock/2019
UNLOCK Blockchain is a service offered by The UNLOCK Company DMCC. It is a platform that provides information, intelligence, insights and news pertaining to the Blockchain sector. We are one of the cornerstones in the evolution of the Blockchain ecosystem in the MENA region and globally. We encourage Blockchain’s disruptive innovation through our support of startups, investors, developers, and clients. Our main offerings include:
- A media platform for the dissemination of information, news, insights, reports on the state of Blockchain in the MENA region and globally
- UNLOCK Blockchain Forum, which is an anchor event in Dubai for Blockchain enthusiasts to network, exchange knowledge, and showcase developments
- Strategic Marketing, Public Relations and Communications services for Blockchain companies interested or currently present in the region
- Community Building to help connect developers, users, investors and advisors through various social media networks
- Advisory Services which include the organization of roadshows to introduce ICOs to potential investors and clients in an effort to facilitate adoption
- Blockchain Proliferation by encouraging businesses, governments and individuals to adopt Blockchain technology in an effective, efficient, and optimal manner
Top 5 Equity Crowdfunding Websites – Opinion
Crowdfunding has been around since 2008 with the launch of indiegogo, followed by Kickstarter which launched in 2009.
The early crowdfunding websites offered users free perks, and goods in exchange for funding their business venture. Most of these start-ups fizzled out after a few months but some of these were widely successful. One of the most notable success stories is the virtual reality headset Oculus which raised over $2.4 million on Kickstarter in a campaign that also caught the attention of Mark Zuckerberg. Shortly thereafter Oculus was acquired by Facebook for $3B. This was a monumental acquisition for a start-up with a great vision and zero profits.
Unfortunately, while the Facebook acquisition of Oculus was life changing for the Oculus team, the early backers of the project on Kickstarter received nothing, as no equity was offered for their initial backing of this project.
In 2012 the JOBS Act passed which opened the doors to crowdfunding websites offering early investors equity. Now investors from all over the world have the opportunity to support start-ups who are too small to access traditional venture funding.
These equity crowdfunding websites serve an important purpose as they are directly responsible for nurturing entrepreneurs while offering investment opportunities to investors who are not based in Silicon Valley.
Below are in my opinion the top 5 equity crowdfunding websites. As a disclaimer, I’m an equity owner in 3 of the companies listed below (WeFunder, Microventures, StartEngine).
#1 – SeedInvest
SeedInvest differentiates themselves by focusing on only having handpicked start-ups in upcoming industries. If you want to invest in the future of tech this is one of your best options. The industries that are often featured include:
- Augmented Reality
- 3d Printing
- Artificial Intelligence
- Space Technologies
They’ve helped over 150 companies raise capital, and the team is great at filtering out most companies that apply, to offer investors a curated list of world class companies to invest in.
#2 – Microventures
This website is different than the rest of this list as they offer two different focuses and they target accredited investors only.
The main focus is on Late Stage companies. Some of the late stage companies which have been featured include:
- Honest Company
This offers the easiest possible route to investing in phenomenal late stage companies which are often only a few years away from going IPO. The minimum investment is often in the $5000 to $50000 range, with the minimum depending on the interest level and the company.
They also offer investment opportunities in Early Stage companies with minimum investments in the $3000 to $5000 range. These companies are often in Fintech, robotics, 3-D printing, etc. The quality of these Early-Stage companies is high and is also handpicked.
#3 – WeFunder
They were responsible for helping to write the JOBS Act, and are one of the oldest companies in the crowdfunding space. There’s been some huge success stories on this website.
In April 2013 Zenefits raised at a $9M valuation, and only 2 years later in May 2015 they raised an additional $500M and were valued at $4.5B. This means if you had invested $10000, you would have received a cool return of $500,000 in a 2 year period.
WeFunder came out of the Y Combinator accelerator program, which is the most famous and successful accelerator program in the world. Some success stories from here include AirBNB, DropBox, Stripe, coinbase, etc.
The reason this is important is that Y Combinator companies support each other in what is a giant ecosystem. Many of the start-ups on WeFunder are Y Combinator graduates (such as Zenefits).
#4 – Fundable
One of the oldest platforms on this list, Fundable launched on May 22, 2012. Since then they have been offering access to a notable list of companies in every industry that you can conceive of. I’ve seen everything from solar power fields to revolutionary 3D printed prosthetics.
Fundable is a crowdfunding website which offers an extensive live of companies to choose from.
#5 – StartEngine
Over 90M has been raised by 265+ companies. They even recently successfully raised a$10M STO for themselves.
While this is a great platform they are not as selective as the rest of the equity crowdfunding websites on this list, so you do have to be more careful and perform extreme due diligence in who you invest in. That being said there are some gems to be found. Hackernoon recently successfully completed a $1.07M raise. I do find that they have too many companies listed, which makes perusing the list a bit exhausting.
These are the top 5 crowdfunding websites which I believe offer investors the best access to investment opportunities. You should always perform proper due diligence, and understand that Early Stage investing is high risk, and that you are more likely than not to lose access to all of your capital. You should also expect that it takes 7 to 10 years to earn a return on any of these investments.
Securities.io is not is not licensed by or registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, FINRA, or any other financial services regulator. Specifically, Securities.io is not a FINRA registered Broker Dealer and does not offer or sell securities, or engage in any other Broker Dealer activity. Nothing in this website constitutes an offer, distribution, solicitation, or marketing of any security.
Furthermore, Securities.io is not an exchange, alternative trading system, escrow agent or transfer agent. Securities.io does not provide legal, accounting, tax, or regulatory advice, or hold custody of any cash, virtual currency, security token or other digital asset for or on behalf of any third party.
Ed Tuohy, CEO of MERJ Exchange Limited – Interview Series
Edmond Tuohy is the CEO of MERJ Exchange. MERJ Exchange is an innovative end to end, multi-market global financial exchange for equities, debt and derivatives.
MERJ is soon to launch its Digital Assets and Security Token markets along with the opportunity to invest in MERJ Exchange.
Antoine: MERJ Exchange is a securities exchange that currently offers an Equities, a Derivatives, and a Debt Market. What’s the inspiration with expanding to digital securities?
ED: We strongly believe in the potential of digitization to transform the capital markets. Quite simply we think it is the future. There are 3 headline reasons why we are moving in this direction:
1) This technology can streamline everything we do in the securities markets, from issuance, to shareholder registers, compliance, distributions, voting etc. The opportunity to streamline big chunks of this workstream is very attractive and would benefit everyone involved.
2) We can dramatically reduce frictions for people who may not have participated in the capital markets in the past. By frictions I mean you won’t need a computer, or a stock broking account, or even a bank account. Many emerging markets have been empowered by the “mobile first” revolution. We want to build an access point to the capital markets that integrates seamlessly with that ecosystem.
3) We are perfectly set up for it. We operate a Regulated Market with integrated post trade infrastructure, which is quite unusual If you look at other Regulated Markets around the world, they are tied into a central clearing / central depositary model. This means lots of disparate organisations are going to have to agree on exactly how to process digital assets. We have the infrastructure and regulatory approval to bring both institutional and retail investors into the world of digital assets in a way that is compliant from end to end.
Antoine: What does the name MERJ symbolize?
Ed: I’m glad you asked that. I love the name MERJ. As much as we strongly believe in tokenization, we also strongly believe in the principles of securities laws, investor protections and regulation. MERJ is a reference to the idea of combining the best of the old world and the new. The best of traditional market protections with all the potential benefits of this digital technology. It is also a reference to the idea of merging all the layers of the settlement and custody chain. Instead of multiple reconciliations taking a few days we can look forward to one almost instantaneous transaction.
Antoine: MERJ Exchange Limited is currently the only licensed securities exchange in the Republic of Seychelles. What made you choose this domicile versus other popular offshore jurisdictions?
Ed: We are a Regulated Market – in that we provide the same function in the Seychelles as the LSE in the UK and the NYSE in the US. It’s not so much that we chose the Seychelles, more that the Seychelles needed a stock exchange and we were the right people to do it. This story began post GFC, when the IMF and the World Bank sat down with the Seychelles government and encouraged them to develop the financial services sector here. Part of that was to establish a stock exchange. We put ourselves forward to do it and have been working hand in hand with regulators here since 2011 to build an international exchange. Our listings now account for more than 20% of the national GDP, which is a key metric in evaluating the maturity of an economy. The FSA Seychelles is now an associate member of IOSCO and MERJ is an affiliate member of the World Federation of Exchanges. These are not trivial achievements and are very important when it comes to institutional investment mandates, so we are able to open this market up to widest possible pool of global capital.
Antoine: How many securities are currently listed on the exchange?
Ed: 29 equity and 2 debt. We have issuers from 5 continents and investors from 7.
It takes time to build the kind of infrastructure and regulatory standing we have here – and there are no shortcuts. We now have a great foundation for a very exciting phase of growth.
Antoine: Most of the companies listed on the MERJ exchange are African, which makes complete sense since Seychelles is often portrayed as the Cayman Islands of the African continent. Most investors in Europe will be familiar with Seychelles, but the same cannot probably be said for North American and Asian investors. Do you believe that you will need to educate STOs on the benefits of being listed on an exchange in this jurisdiction?
Ed: We adhere to the standards of IOSCO and the WFE, international investors don’t mind whether we are in London or Seychelles. We already have issuers from North America, Asia, Australia, Europe and Africa. We are going to be providing something that isn’t available elsewhere and Issuers will go where the liquidity is.
Having said that the Seychelles is actually a great story of international cooperation. There are so many reasons why Seychelles is a good jurisdiction and any STO issuer that is serious will do their research and quickly realise that. In the last 10 years the Government and regulators have worked with international agencies like the OECD and FATF to bring the Seychelles up to the highest international standards. The OECD now ranks it with the UK, Japan, Germany, USA and Australia. Since the IMF and World Bank stepped in the country has gone from a B- rating to BB. That really underlines the trajectory of the economy. Our view is that the STO market is likely to be quite borderless, but issuers are not going to want to go to a jurisdiction that doesn’t meet these high international standards, because it will attract greater scrutiny from other regulators. In the securities markets there is no regulatory arbitrage, people want clarity and simplicity, not added hassle. The Seychelles offers that in abundance, as well as an advantageous tax regime, many double tax agreements, a thriving corporate services sector, competitive pricing. If all of that isn’t enough for you it’s not the worst place to have to visit for business.
Antoine: What will be the onboarding and listing requirements for new STOs?
Ed: Our onboarding procedure follows the same KYC/ AML process as for clients wishing to trade any listed securities. As for the listing requirements, the chosen token standard has to be to be compatible with our regulations but otherwise they are exactly the same as for our traditional securities. We have 3 equity boards, a main board, an SME board and a venture board. An STO would have to choose which board was most appropriate and then meet the listing requirements. We work on a sponsor advisor model, so STO’s will work with one of our global network of sponsors to prepare them for listing. The sponsor undertakes responsibility for due diligence and making all the relevant disclosures. This is the same process that an issuer would go through to list on AIM in the UK or the Toronto venture exchange in Canada. We think it’s a great model and will work well for STO issuers.
Antoine: You recently announced that you will be launching your own security token, which will then be traded on your own exchange. What’s the expected date of this STO launch? Also do we know the hardcap yet?
Ed: First we have to list our equity by introduction on the exchange. This is imminent, and when done it will be the first equity to be listed on a national stock exchange in tokenized form. It’s really quite a major watershed point for the digital asset community. The subsequent STO will be a public offering of ~15% of that tokenized stock. We don’t want to launch the STO into peak summer so we will probably wait a couple of months now. The funds are for growth capital, largely to bring more people on board. We are very confident of our pipeline and we need additional people in operational and compliance roles to service the demand.
Antoine: What benefits will investors receive from this investment?
Ed: The benefit is a stake in an exchange which we think is one of a kind. We have the flexibility to trade, clear, settle and register securities ourselves, or plug into any other global infrastructure if it makes better sense. This in itself is unusual, and a deliberate piece of Seychelles law, which was designed to be outward looking. Consider our regulatory status, licenses, permissions, the structure of our business, the combination of regulated exchange/clearing/depositary entities, the clarity provided by our regulator and the fact Seychelles is a well respected jurisdiction with a modern financial services industry. When you look at all these factors in combination, you realise it is a very compelling, and entirely unique proposition. We have an opportunity here to build a truly world class piece of infrastructure for the next generation of capital markets. Our competitors around the world are the likes of LSE and NYSE and they are not in a position to move so quickly and decisively. There are big fish and there are little fish, but we like to think we are a fast fish! Our investors will own an equity stake in a very exciting company that is spearheading the next generation of financial markets infrastructure.
Antoine: When do you expect your first security token offering to go live?
Ed: We have a number of issuers that are keen to push the button as soon as possible. I am quietly confident that we will have done a handful before the end of the year and a couple of dozen within the next twelve months.
Antoine: Is there anything else that you would like to share about MERJ Exchange?
Ed: We have a tremendous team based in the Seychelles, Cape Town, Johannesburg and London. We are looking for experienced market professionals to join us and help deliver on our vision. If anyone would like to work in the Seychelles or Cape Town, or represent us in another region then drop us a CV at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Antoine: Thank you for the great interview. Anyone who wishes to learn more should visit Merj Exchange.
BitBond Finance BmbH STO Hits €2.1 million
The enterprise lending solutions provider, BitBond Finance concluded its STO this week. The public crowdfunding event officially started in March of this year. In total, BitBond secured €2.1 million in funding from the STO. Interestingly, this event was the first regulated STO held in Germany.
Now, BitBond seeks to expand its platform’s service to include a host of other digitized products. These products are first to include tokenized bonds. Tokenized bonds, much like tokenized shares, utilize blockchain’s efficiency to reduce delays and costs associated with transactions.
The STO propelled BitBond into the spotlight. The media coverage alone was impressive with the company receiving over 1000 articles covering the event. Unsurprisingly, BitBond’s STO saw participation from 87 countries. Most of which, the firm has issued loans in.
Earlier in the year, the German securities regulator, BaFin, approved BitBond’s application. As one of the first platforms to be licensed, BitBond represents a shift in the traditional business systems employed. As part of the approval, the platform gained an International Securities Number. This number allows BitBond to remain compliant across borders. This is critical to the company’s all-inclusive strategy.
BitBond Finance Investors Benefits
Investors received BB1 tokens for their contributions. Token holders receive a profit share from the company’s new platform. According to STO details, investors receive 4% per annum to start off with. After a specified time, these returns will go up to as high as 8%. In total, 60% of BitBond’s future profits are earmarked for investors.
BitBond entered the lending market in 2013. At that time, it was among one of the first instant lending platforms to offer services worldwide. The company currently issues €1 million in loans a month. Now, BitBond intends to leverage its positioning to enter into the tokenized bond market in a major way.
BitBond will issue tokenized bonds using its own proprietary software. As part of the new licensing, the company handles, clearing, settlement, and custody of these digital assets. Tokenized bonds clear much faster than traditional bonds. For comparison, tokenized bonds can clear in hours, versus days. Now investors have a better alternative to consider.
BitBond’s lending platform has seen great success to date. The platform utilizes a blockchain-based peer-to-peer protocol to facilitate near-instant loan approval. The company provides access to funding to medium and small-sized businesses. The speed and global reach of the platform were previously unimaginable prior to the advent of blockchain technologies.
Traditional Financial Institutions
BitBond also works with traditional lending institutions. Earlier in the year, the firm partnered with a German online bank to send funds internationally. The program was a huge success which helped cement BitBond as a major player in the tokenization marketplace.
BitBond has shown that it has a strong understanding of the global marketplace and how blockchain technology can increase efficiency. More importantly, the firm continues to be a pioneer in the digital economy. You should expect to hear more big developments surrounding this platform in the coming weeks.
- Top 5 Equity Crowdfunding Websites – Opinion July 19, 2019
- Ed Tuohy, CEO of MERJ Exchange Limited – Interview Series July 18, 2019
- BitBond Finance BmbH STO Hits €2.1 million July 17, 2019
- How to get an STO approved by German regulators – Thought Leaders July 16, 2019
- DigiMax & Entoro to Collaborate as Advisors on Digital Security Offering July 16, 2019