From the dazzling heart of Dubai, Edge of NFT had a chance to attend the Future Blockchain Summit to cover the forefront of a digital revolution. Josh Kriger met with industry leaders who are figuring out how to build tomorrow's Web3 highway and catalyze the success of their partners using the latest cutting-edge technology. On the list are Will Riches of Sui Foundation, Prakash and Vasseh of Enjinstarter, and Gracy Chen of Bitget. If you don't know about Sui, then you will want to get the latest scoop on this Layer 1 which generated a record-shattering 65 million transactions in a single day. We learned the latest trends in AI and blockchain from one of the top launchpads in the Web3 space. Lastly, stay tuned to a fresh perspective on the crypto macro-climate of one of the key voices in our industry and learn what it was like for her to be a judge on one of the first-ever crypto reality shows.
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Dubai's Crypto Odyssey: AI, Gaming, And Blockchain Marvels Unveiled With Sui Foundation, Enjinstarter And Bitget
From the dazzling heart of Dubai, Edge of NFT had a chance to attend the Future Blockchain Summit to cover the forefront of a digital revolution. We met with industry leaders who are figuring out how to build tomorrow's Web3 highway and catalyze the success of their partners using the latest cutting-edge technology. We also dig into the vibrant UAE ecosystem and what types of projects are trending. Did someone say AI?
On this show, if you don't know about Sui, then you will want to get the latest scoop on this Layer 1 which generated a record-shattering 65 million transactions in a single day. Next, we learned the latest trends in AI and blockchain from one of the top launchpads in the Web3 space. Lastly, stay tuned to a fresh perspective on the crypto macro-climate of one of the key voices in our industry and learn what it was like for her to be a judge on one of the first-ever crypto reality shows. Leap into this extraordinary realm of Web3 and the metaverse with us where you're dynamic co-pilots on this digital journey, and you're tuned into the Edge of NFT.
It's great to be here. Thanks.
There's a lot going on. It's pretty early in the day, and this place is bustling.
There are a lot of activities. It's our second day here. A lot of these conferences start quite slowly in the morning but I've been surprised how many people make their way in the mornings.
For those that don't know, and we're going to know, this is your first trip here and my first trip, Dubai has quite the scene with any type of food you can imagine and any type of nightlife you can imagine. I get the sense it's a work-hard play-hard culture.
I haven't had a chance to play hard yet personally working at the conference. It has been great fun.
Before we get into it, I want to give the audience a sense of your background, which is interesting. You're the Head of Developer Relations at Sui Foundation. For those who don't know, it's a leading platform for Web3 development with over a decade of experience in cybersecurity and a strong background in mathematics. You played various roles in blockchain, cryptocurrency, and cybersecurity. Why don't you tell us a little bit about Sui Foundation?
Sui Foundation is the foundation behind Sui, a new Layer 1. In terms of the actual foundation itself, we launched before Mainnet, which is quite unusual. That demonstrates how important the community is in supporting builders from day one, which is something we have been strong on. Sui itself is a new Layer 1 that launched earlier in 2023. The background goes back quite a few years before that. The Facebook team was looking into Web3, especially on the Facebook platform.
You have a lot of micro-transactions and things like that. Web3 was a huge area of interest for Facebook. They led a lot of research efforts there, which resulted in a number of initiatives. One was a blockchain that they were developing, as well as a smart contract language. From there, the research team spawned after that project was killed internally within Facebook. This created the Sui blockchain.
You joined in 2022. What got you pumped to be part of this?
I've been interested in Web3 for a number of years. I have a background in math and cybersecurity, as well as finance and investing as well. All those areas come together. I'm very interested in Web3 and blockchain, particularly in Sui. I have been working within Web3 already for a year or two before. For me, the developer platform in Sui was attractive. It can be hard to develop on blockchains.
A lot of people, when they first discovered blockchain, they saw it purely as a financial instrument. It was the same for me when I discovered the Bitcoin white paper. Ethereum opened everyone's eyes to the fact that it could be a lot more than that. It could be a computing platform but it has been very difficult for people to realize that promise by being able to develop applications that can utilize the power of having a decentralized computing network.
One of your major initiatives to make all this easier is the zkLogin. Break that down for us.
It's very important for developers to be able to develop easily on the platform, but also for users to be able to use the applications. If they're not user-centric applications, then developers also won't be excited about creating those applications. For us, the actual user onboarding is critical. One of the features we have released is called zkLogin. That enables you to log into services using a Web2 social login like Google or Facebook. What that means is you don't have to have a separate application that creates a wallet for you. You don't have to store a private key or remember a seed phrase or something like that. You can log in with a Google, Facebook, or Twitch account.
Is there a wallet that's being created for you in the background? Is that a fully decentralized wallet? How does that work?
For that question, it's useful to break down what a wallet is because a lot of people say, "My MetaMask wallet," as if that is the wallet itself, but the wallet is something that exists on the blockchain itself, and a wallet is an interface for you to be able to access that address or that account that already exists on the blockchain.
It's there and it's just tapping into it. It's a key.
This is another method for you to be able to access what is on the blockchain. If you log in with a Google, Facebook, or Twitch account that you haven't used already in zkLogin, an address will be derived from your token when you log in. That's using a zero-knowledge proof, which means there will be no strong link between the social login and the address, so people can't derive one from the other. It's automatically created for you. There's no setup required or anything like that.
What happens if I lose that email address? Is my account gone? Is there a way to retrace my steps there?
If you lose your actual credentials to, for example, your Google login, or it's compromised, you would have to go through the usual methods of recovery for that service. We would strongly recommend that if you're going to be using a Google account, you have two-factor authentication on that account and all the usual practices. It's not a magic bullet because if there was an easy way for you to be able to recover it, that would also be a risk of someone being able to compromise your account.
Can you have multiple logins? Can you tie it to multiple accounts?
Behind the scenes, the way that this works is when you log in, it's using the token from your Google login, plus the actual application is adding a sort on top of that as well. People from a Web2 background might be familiar with sorts and how that adds protection to hashes. It's a very similar process to that. Different applications can use different sorts that they apply. You can have different accounts for the same login.
That's another option for creating that continuity, de-risking, and whatnot. There's always some nuance you have to pay attention to with any product or any login experience for Web2 or Web3. You had a pretty successful hackathon with over $125,000 in prizes. Were you instrumental in that? What were some of the exciting results?
That's a strong focus of ours at the foundation. We have done a few hackathons so far but this was a little bit different because it was for liquid staking. Not only is there the price pool that you mentioned but there's also $25 billion of Sui tokens that we are going to be staking through those platforms. In some ways, it's nicer than the prize money because, for a lot of these DeFi platforms, the challenge is bootstrapping, getting momentum, and getting liquidity on their platforms.
I ran into many of those entrepreneurs. They have a great product but getting to that minimal viable level of liquidity is essential. What were some of the winners and the types of things that they were building? Were there any surprises along the way in terms of what novel solutions came out of the hackathon?
We had five different solutions. Some were doing the actual liquid staking itself and having interesting ways in how they select validators and things like that. Some were doing some derivatives on top of that with lending and borrowing. The key part is that all of these were non-custodial liquid staking token-derived solutions. The key for us was to ensure that these early solutions from these talented teams were non-custodial and using liquid staking in the correct way because we weren't going to bootstrap that initially. You always end up with innovative platforms that are good for the users but are custodial. That was the situation we didn't want to get into.
Did non-fungible tokens fit into the mix at all at the hackathon?
There wasn't anything specifically for non-fungible tokens although we have done other hackathons based on that, and we've got some more coming up. If you are in the NFT space, then keep a close eye.
What are some of the use cases in the NFT space that you're particularly excited about?
On Sui, NFTs are interesting because everything is an NFT. We have an object model where every single thing is an object, and fungible tokens are a special case of objects where they can be divisible.
In terms of the pyramid, NFTs are the foundation.
Doing interesting things in NFTs is natural. We have things like dynamic NFTs and composable NFTs, which don't use huge numbers of lines of smart contracts. They're very much built into the actual object model and the smart contract language as a core principle of the platform. You can do things like attach objects to another object. If you think of that in terms of image NFTs, you might have a character that you attach a hat to. In the Ethereum space, when you do those things where you upgrade an NFT, normally, you burn the NFT and then create another NFT as well. You try and do that in an opaque way so the user doesn't see that happening on the front end. It looks like you're upgrading the same NFT.
In this case, can you detach them as well?
You can detach them as well. There are a lot of advantages to that. It's a lot more natural for the developer to program in that way. It's a lot easier on explorers as well because you're not burning NFTs. Following the history of the blockchain becomes a lot more natural as well. For the users, it saves a lot of money on gas because when you're attaching something compared to destroying it and creating something else, it's a lot more efficient and cheaper.
It's more environmentally sustainable as well. When we think about the new era of non-fungible tokens, this is the type of technology that mainstream brands need to be able to do what they want to do and not deal with the baggage of that 1.0 or 2.0 version of NFT technology. That's exciting. I'm sure we can dive into that more in the show at some point in the future. We're here in the MENA region. Something compelled us all to be here. I'm curious about what Sui's perspective is on the importance of this region and what you hope to get out of being at the Future Blockchain conference.
It's my first time here personally. It's exciting with the buzz here and the amount of talented people that you're talking to. I feel like I'm the least smart person in every conversation, and that's quite a good feeling when you're in a place like this. From what I know of the region, it's loose in regulations in the right way but has a lot of very strong regulations in other ways.
I've been speaking to some of the operational teams behind exchanges here and things like that and asking how they found it in the region, and they found it easy because there are thousands of pages of regulations that take them a while to read but they know if they follow everything to the letter of the law that they are within regulation. That certainty makes it a lot easier for people to build in the region.
There's a playbook. I'm based in Los Angeles these days. What's been interesting in some of the other regions of the world is a lot of people want the rule book, "Give us the rules, and we will work with them." This technology is pretty adaptable to a lot of different rules, and we in the industry are very creative and innovative to work it out. Having that playbook here helps encourage innovation.
It's great to learn more about what's going on in Sui. One more question in that regard is this. You've been with Sui for a year. A lot happens in a year in Web3. Time moves very fast. Are there any inspirational moments or things that have happened along the way in Sui that the general public doesn't know about or isn't as aware of that you think is particularly notable?
One that probably flew under the radar was a couple of months ago, we had the most transactions ever in a single day on a blockchain. It was 65 million, or something like that, transactions in a day.
What caused that? That's incredible.
We had a quest campaign. We had some challenges and things like that, and we were incentivizing people to get involved and to take part in games and things like that. It wasn't a synthetic test. It was an organic activity. It was something that we initiated. The impressive part was monitoring all the metrics, the validations, and things like that. It didn't blink at all. They didn't even register that number of transactions. It was so easy for them to handle. We can go way beyond that scale.
That's that moment when the SpaceX rocket takes off to outer space, and everything is smooth. Everyone in the control tower is high-fiving and cheering.
It was within the control tower because we didn't make too much noise about that. We're very developer-centric. We realize that's not relevant to developers at all. They just want to be able to build easily on the platform.
It was a testament to why you joined Sui and the effectiveness of the technology that you all are building. Congrats on that. I didn't know that. That's cool. I appreciate you hanging out with us, getting to know us a little bit better, and sharing what's going on with Sui with our audience. Where can folks go to learn more and follow along?
There are several places. If you want to read about the high-level stuff, then go to the main website, Sui.io. If you're a developer, search Sui docs. If you want to dive into some workshops, probably head to our YouTube channel.
Will, thanks a lot for hanging out.
Thanks a lot for having me.
Welcome back to Edge of AI live in Dubai. Thank you to the Future Blockchain Summit for hosting us. We're having some great conversations with new friends and old friends. In this case, we have Prakash, the CEO and Founder of Enjinstarter back, as well as a member of his team, Vasseh, who's the MENA Managing Director. It's great to have you both on the show.
It is great to be back on the show. We did it once in LA and New York, and now we do it in Dubai. I'm very excited to be joining and being on the show with you.
Here's a little bit of background on these gentlemen and then we will get right into it. Prakash is the CEO and Cofounder of Enjinstarter, merging two decades of experience and expertise in Web3 innovation, as well as digital marketing, gaming, and metaverse launchpads. Vasseh, your background is fifteen years of wealth management, as well as FinTech experience fostering you as a key player in the Dubai evolving metaverse and Web3 landscape.
For those that don't know, Enjinstarter is one of the foremost blockchain, gaming, and metaverse launchpads dedicated to accelerating the Enjin ecosystem projects and deepening community and commitment. They have been strong believers in blockchain, AI, gaming, and NFTs. We did cover the basics of Enjinstarter at this point but is there anything else the world needs to know about what you all are doing? Give us a sense of what throughput has happened on the platform over the last few years.
We started focusing on gaming and entertainment in the metaverse, but because of the bear market, we had to evolve. We started doing a lot of AI projects. With the general hype around AI, the Web3 community also wants to get exposure to that. That's why we started looking for AI-related projects.
Are these AI plus blockchain plus NFTs or some are completely just AI?
They're always AI and blockchain. They're trying to solve different parts of the equation. Some of them have done well. One of the exciting projects that we were proud to have hosted is a project called ChainGPT. They're creating a whole lot of AI tools backed by Web3. The community can come and create a whole lot of assets on them. They did more than 30X on the ideal price. We were proud to have delivered some of these good returns to the community, and they are now continuing to deliver a whole lot of good work.
We're seeing a lot more AI projects coming on but now, we are also a bit more discerning because, in the early wave, a lot of them were hype projects. They were riding on the hype but now, we're digging deep to make sure that they have the right toolsets. They're solving the right problems. Those are the kinds of projects that we are going to be bringing onto the launchpad.
Along those lines, it's easy to ride the train and create an AI component in your business that's relatively surface-level. What are the strongest use cases for AI you're seeing that have longevity where this isn't technology that can be copied and pasted by somebody else? What are some of the use cases that you're looking for? How does a company that wants to use AI with blockchain create a moat?
There's so much content creation that we all do, and AI plays a very important part in that. Even with our team coming out with the content and developing the content now is AI-driven. Projects like that and toolsets to make the whole content creation space a lot better interest us a lot. From a gaming perspective, there are toolsets that are creating MPCs and solving some of the ghost-town problems that we had with the early gaming and metaverse projects. That's an area of interest for us.
Lastly, what we have been seeing is AI plays a key role in trading where it helps people become better traders. Participating from a trading perspective is something that we are also looking at. We believe these are the kinds of infrastructures that we need to build in the bear market so that more people will come in the next bull wave.
A few of the other AI use cases I've seen are amplifying communities and helping manage your Discord and whatnot. I'm not so sure if those are meant to be token-based projects or whatnot. It's useful technology but it's more of a SaaS product. It's a great use case. I had the co-founder of Toonstar on the show in LA. They have an AI robot that manages their social media, and their engagement has gone up exponentially with the help of AI. That's exciting too in terms of social media engagement using AI.
As long as AI solves humanity or a real-world need that we have, that use case is going to be very important at this point in time.
We will get to your role and what you're doing soon but to touch on what brought you here, you have the new Impact initiative on Enjinstarter. You shared that with me, and I was curious. I've seen it evolve quite a lot but for our audiences at home, what is the Impact initiative all about? Why did you decide to take that approach?
I'll backtrack a bit. I'll start with our journey in Singapore. In being a Web3 company, it's important for us to be regulated. It's part of the growing-up process. We embarked on this journey into Dubai for more than a year now. We are in the process of getting a license with VARA, which is the regulator in this market. That's primarily what has been the focus for us. I pretty much spend 50% of my time here now in Dubai, and we see exciting things happening in this space.
What we have done is we have taken the last few years of experience with crowdfunding. We're now looking to apply that to a real-world use case. It's something that happened to us post-FTX. We challenged ourselves to say, "Where is Web3 going to be most applicable?" We feel that real-world utility is going to be that use case. That's where we are now in the process of preparing to launch a regulator launchpad here in Dubai. It's going to be the first. We are in the process of introducing our brand. The Future Blockchain Summit is where we are coming out and now sharing this publicly.
I love that we're covering a lot of things at the Edge.
It's important to come up with a plan to launch something. What we are focusing on is climate finance. We feel that there's a global gap in climate finance, and this is where crowdfunding comes in. We're going to start regulating so that we can bring in large corporations, accredited investors, and funds to participate in this. Two big expectations that we will be focusing on are project financing and looking at Web3 to crowdfund some of this, and content financing, specifically in climate-related projects.
This is not just NFT projects.
It could be an NFT project but if it's going to be supporting the environment, or if it's bringing up some awareness for a real-world issue that we are facing, our platform will be applicable.
It could also be fungible token projects.
It can be asset-backed. We are looking at tokenizing carbon. It could be tokenizing a fund or a fractional part of a fund. We are pushing the boundary. We're looking at doing more. Business as usual is going to stay. We continue to build in the gaming space, but this is a new brand that we have launched with a new target audience. We are building a new community for this.
Vasseh, tell us a little bit about this region and where Dubai fits into the overall economic landscape here. How long have you been in Dubai?
Where are you from?
Something brought you to Dubai, and Dubai is continuing to evolve very fast. What are you seeing on the ground here? What's the significance of the Future Blockchain Summit and events like this?
If you're a founder who needs to build, and you have good infrastructure that's available, this is the place to be. That's what's attracting a lot of people in the Web3 space to come to the UAE. You're easily able to register your business. You're able to get your financial situation sorted. You can meet a lot of investors here and then have the opportunity to get regulated if you need to. FBS or Future Blockchain Summit in itself brings hundreds and thousands of investors together.
I heard 200,000 over the course of this for GITEX is the estimate.
In 2022, it was 120,000 or 130,000 in one venue, and there was no space to walk.
To give folks a sense of it, the Future Blockchain Summit is a very large hall with 120 exhibitors approximately. There are 9 halls here, and then there are 35 other halls on the other side of town. That's 44 halls of emerging technology and advanced technology.
There's some fun stuff there as well with drones, electric vehicles, and everything. This is where all the Web3 and the blockchain action is. It's super cool to be here with a lot of our partners as well. We're showcasing here. It's a great week for us.
Why do folks who haven't been to the region yet know why Dubai is important in terms of one of the destinations they want to cultivate partnerships with?
That time is gone when people used to look at the UAE as a pass-through where we go in, spend a few years, earn some tax-free money, and leave. They have made a conscious effort to make this into a very sustainable place where people can live, bring their families, and retire. I keep going back to the infrastructure that has been developed here to be able to provide that.
That plays a key role in being able to build these communities and make them more sustainable as well. Even in terms of how they see the population and everything expanding here as well over the next few years, it's going to be critical. You see the clear goals. There's D33. There's the 2040 goal and the 2050 goal. It's all very clear. As a founder, that's exactly what you need when you go in, "I know exactly what I can work toward."
As a launchpad, are you all targeting more companies that are based in the UAE? What does that look like versus the global participation in your launchpads?
It has been quite interesting for us because we have been in the process of setting up and getting licensed but the existing business is still running. We have been able to partner with at least 40% to 50% of the projects from here now because a lot of the founders have been moving here, and it's very easy to meet them, sit with them, and speak to them. It has helped the launchpad bring in these new projects as well. It has always been good. With the Impact Launchpad coming in as well, we see already a lot of traction with founders here and people whom we want to work with.
It does have a bit of a family atmosphere. Folks have been very hospitable. I had a chance to do a show with two other shows, one from here and one from Latin America, which is also based here. Before that, we had a meal watching the India and Pakistan cricket game. You said you're from Pakistan.
We don't discuss cricket.
We have crossed the barriers here of what's off-limits but it was cool to see that type of experience here and to see folks from both unions or fandoms come together and cheer on their teams. It wasn't a very feisty environment. That was pretty beautiful.
Where I was watching it as well, both sides were pushing the agenda but the better team won at the end.
The better team always tends to win, whatever that looks like, in a given year. Prakash, are there any closing thoughts in terms of what else we can expect on your roadmap? What's to come? Where do folks go to learn more about both your current launchpad and the new initiative?
Let me start a bit with AYA, which is the new brand that we have created. What we have done is create a localized brand. AYA means miracle in Arabic. It's got a new website called AYA.Foundation. If there are any Impact-related projects out there, we can receive projects from anywhere around the world. We like projects that have a triple bottom line. It needs to be commercially sustainable. It needs to be good for the environment, and we need to all look good doing it. That's the criteria that we look at.
What's the advantage that we bring? We are the only launchpad out there that's going to be regulated and focused on climate finance and leveraging our platform. It's going to be a great way to launch into this region. The UAE has named 2023 the year of sustainability, and they are also hosting COP28. It's not just this event but it has now started this movement where they're going to be moving in a big way into Impact and sustainability. Any project from anywhere around the world can use our launchpad as a landing pad into the UAE and eventually expand around the GCC. That's the main value proposition that we will bring.
That's quite powerful.
Everything will be done in a fit and proper way. That's what to look out for. Maybe I'll pass it on to Vasseh for a few words too.
Thank you. What we want to achieve with Impact is to leave a lasting legacy. We want to bring people in so that there is enough awareness and education around climate change and the need for everybody to not only be aware of it but also to participate in it and do good. We're going to also work on what we call some phygital events where our community will be able to come in and participate in, for example, planting mangroves or doing some coral restoration work with an NGO that we will partner with in the future. It's to get everybody to rally together and then be able to talk about it as well.
I know Prakash is on X or Twitter. Are you also on Twitter? Where do people find you on X?
All my socials are my first name, @Vasseh.
There we have it. Gentlemen, thank you so much for spending some time with us. What you're doing in Impact is so important. I'm proud of the fact that Outer Edge had over 40 Impact projects that we sourced scholarships to do the event. We had a whole Impact Day, and we feature an Impact project every other week in our Edge of NFT newsletter. It's important stuff that you're doing, bringing awareness to the power of blockchain and Web3 to make the world a better place. The world is evolving whether we like it or not. We may as well make it better. Thank you for what you're doing. It's great to spend some time with you both.
It's a pleasure. Thank you.
Thank you for having us.
This is Josh Kriger, co-host of Edge of NFT, live in Dubai at the Future Blockchain Summit. We’re having some fun conversations behind the scenes with Gracy. We were like, "We should talk about this with our audience." Gracy, it's great to have you on the show and to meet you.
Josh, thank you for having me.
Here's a funny story, everyone. We were at the same party in Singapore for the Killer Whales launch, which was fun, with our partner, Casper. Gracy was one of the judges but we didn't meet each other at the party. I have to at least ask. We should say who you are, and then let's jump into it. Gracy is Bitget's Managing Director and a World Economic Forum Global Shaper. She drives your strategy for success and data-driven strategies, quadrupling its user base and mentoring Web3 startups on an upcoming reality TV series. What was it like doing your first entertainment project? Did you expect it to be reality TV?
Totally not. I was chatting with Josh earlier. I always thought my first TV reality show would be something different like a dating show or a tourism show. It ended up being this crypto show, and it might be the largest mainstream crypto reality show. It's not launched yet. It will launch probably in January-ish 2024.
That's what I thought. It's coming up. It's something exciting to look forward to.
There are some quite fun and interesting people. We have investors, influencers, and me running exchanges. I'm probably the only Asian female on that panel of 13 or 14 judges. Some people look at NFTs and security. We each have our superpower, which is a fun dynamic.
Did you feel like your personality shifted with the cameras in front of you or that you had to take a stronger point of view based on your perspective to give some color to these different startups and what they were up to? How did you resonate with all the different big personalities on the show?
They're very big personalities. When we were doing the production, because I was the only woman on that show, I was also sitting in the corner. Sometimes the producer will say, "Stop. Could you please be quiet a little bit and let Gracy speak more?" Although I'm a very active person, when it's that crew of very famous influencers who appear on CNBC all the time, I'm an introverted person already but one special value that I bring to the table is my technical analysis. I have this sharp laser eye when I look at projects.
When they were talking about users, "What are you doing? That's a fun activity. What's your background?" I keep asking questions like, "Tell me more about your growth strategy. What's happening here?" Given my background, I studied applied mathematics in my bachelor's degree. I'm also doing a degree at MIT. I'm a very technical person when it comes to research and investment opportunities or validating a project. That's what we do at Killer Whales.
We will delve into that a little bit more but let's start with your passion for making an impact for youth. I thought it was great that you have a new initiative, Blockchain4Youth. What's that all about?
Blockchain4Youth is an educational program that we ran already in 2023 during the summer. We hosted it at more than twenty cities around the world in Asia, the US, Europe, as well as the Middle East where we invited some guests to talk about blockchain and invited university students to attend those events. I'm also initiating something similar at MIT and Harvard given my connections there, which are two top schools. I'm also the Co-President of the MIT Sloan Blockchain Club. These are some of the educational CSR activities that my company is passionate about. We have investments and resources to make it true but it's also my personal passion.
We had a lot of impact projects at Outer Edge. We did something where we had over 100 youth throughout the city of LA educating them before the event, a one-day empowerment seminar. That steered my heart too. We will have to chat more about that.
Let's do something together.
You put $100 million into this fund. Is that correct?
That's another fund. For the educational program, it's about $10 million that we are investing in.
That's still a lot.
$100 million is for the EmpowerX fund. That's for the industrial investment landscape.
It's also to make an impact though.
It's to make an impact in a larger sense but we also seek financial impact and influential impact.
I love how you're investing in this ecosystem more broadly. That makes a lot of sense. You also started a wallet. Tell us a little bit more about the wallet. What inspired you to pursue that initiative?
I didn't start the wallet but I got to know Bitget's founder because I was an investor of BitKeep. That's our decentralized wallet. I made that investment at the end of '21, and the valuation was pretty low at that time. It was about $100 million at the time. Now, it's growing a lot. In Bitget Wallet, earlier called BitKeep, we serve more than 12 million users around the world.
I've heard some people say that it's data wallet technology that's going to inspire the next revolution. It's not DeFi. It's not rewards and whatnot. You think that wallet infrastructure is pretty important.
It's a decentralized wallet with multi-chain swaps and different products such as NFT markets, which have that Bitget Wallet. There are two concepts that I liked about the product when I made that investment, which sounds a little bit controversial. Number one is how to build a crypto-native wallet, and number two is how to give users a more centralized way of producing and operating because what we want to achieve is a smooth-as-silk great experience for our users.
That's quite a pendulum to balance. How do you do that?
If you know similar centralized exchanges, we all face big the issue of hacks. Hacking is a big problem that we should solve. For example, at Bitget Wallet, we also have similar issues to any other wallets. How we deal with it is we learn a lot from the centralized exchange part. The two teams work together in certain ways. We share the protection fund that Bitget has, which is a $350 million protection fund that's helping our users battle hacks, unstable activities, or system issues. There are lots of minor yet important things that both centralized exchanges and decentralized wallets work together with.
I would like to touch on your more macro-perspective. As an exchange, you see a lot of things. You've been doing a lot of travel. I thought I had been doing a lot of travel but it sounds like you've been hitting a lot more passport stamps than me. You gave a keynote on your outlook on the industry. I would love to start with this. Where are we in your mind? What are you seeing on the ground? This event is bustling. This is my first time in Dubai.
It's my fourth already within a year.
You're taking it all in. Where is this moment in time? Where are we in particular in this region of the world?
The Middle East is a very important region. I talked about four regions, the US, Europe, Asia, and the fourth one is the Middle East. Many parts of the Middle East are also part of Asia but we took it out from Asia in general because the other parts of Asia in the crypto space such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia, and East Asia act very differently. They have a big retail user base. Many cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen in China, Bangalore in India, and South Korea are also some cities for developers and retail users. Some centralized exchanges have a big market there including us but when you look at the Middle East, some people say it's a new gold mining that you need to dig hard to mine something out, which I agree with. I'm also starting to navigate the space.
You have your pick and your shovel.
In UAE, there is Dubai. There is also Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi's regulatory framework or institution is providing something quite similar or a competitor with Dubai's VARA but we think both are very important. We are working with both entities. There's Saudi Arabia, which is a filthy rich family and country.
They're trying to get into the mix as well.
They haven't had a mature enough regulatory framework but I have some friends who have a connection with the royal family. I'm aware that they are looking at the space very actively. They're putting some money into some Web3 startups already. They are interested in things like gaming, not a lot on crypto or even NFT but there are certain areas, technologies, and things that have a relationship with blockchain that they are actively looking into.
Similar to a family office, it's going to take a little bit of time for their comfort to mature and whatnot. Were there other things you touched on in your talk in terms of the overall outlook? We talked about where we are now. When you pull out your future crystal ball, where do you see us 2 years from now or 5 years from now? How do we get past this bear market? What's going to compel that?
First of all, what can drive the next bull market? Personally, there are two important things driving the next bull market. I have no financial advice but maybe the bull market will start in Q4 in 2024. The rationale is number one, when does the US Fed start to cut the interest rate? The benchmarking rate is about 5% to 5.25%. Is it anywhere more than 5%? It's unsustainable. You live in the US. The interest rate is too high.
Real estate loan rates are higher than I ever thought I would see them.
They still need to battle the inflation but this is going to change one way or another. The US interest rate decrease is one factor that will mainly drive the next bull market. Another thing is the approval of spot ETF.
That is much different than the perpetuals. People are like, "The perpetuals didn't move a thing." That's futures. Futures are very different than spots. You would know that better than anyone.
Once the spot ETF is approved, they will need to buy underlying assets in Bitcoin to hold it. We had the Cointelegraph news. That's quite fun and absurd. It's approved unofficially. That's what you see, immediately waiting 30 minutes or 2 hours. The Bitcoin price went up to $2,000 and came down again. That's the power of the approval of spot ETF.
Is there anything else to add?
If we look at the global landscape, there is a word that someone told me, which I find echoing. We call it Asia Rise, US Fall. I don't know if I fully agree with that term but this is something that people have been discussing after the FTX collapse, the SEC suing Coinbase and Binance, and the SVB and Signature Bank collapse, especially the unclear SEC regulatory framework.
I talked to some founders based in the US. That will be another episode. There's some sadness and some disappointment with where the US is, regulatorily. It's lovely to speak with you. I learned a lot, and I appreciate your perspective on things. I'm looking forward to seeing you on the show. In terms of where people want to go to learn more about you, follow along your journey, and then learn about your exchange, where should they go on the internet?
You're becoming very popular.
I'm flattered but still, be careful. I will never ask for money. Be careful about the scams in the space.
It's such a pleasure to speak with you. Thanks for your time.
It was nice meeting you.