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Takeaways from GITEX Dubai and from our first business trip to this vibrant region

Earlier this month, GK8’s Chief Revenue Officer Mark Mayerfeld went on a business trip to Dubai, as part of an official delegation of executives from Israeli FinTech and hi-tech companies participating at GITEX – the largest in-person technology summit of 2020. This was no ordinary travel: in the wake of the treaty between Israel and the UAE, this was Mark’s very first visit in this region – as it was for everyone else in the Israeli delegation.

Here are his notes summing up this very special business trip:

Your first impression from Dubai is just how modern and cosmopolitan it is, a melting pot of countless languages, cultures and nationalities. As a native New-Yorker, it reminded me of Manhattan – only much cleaner and well-organized… Seeing this diverse and rich human mosaic was actually a very pleasant surprise for me.

From a business perspective, you encounter early on the virtues of patience. The Emirates gladly meet you and show genuine interest in what you have to offer, but don’t rush to do business. The need to get to know you first. One of the sayings over there is that a only after you get to meet someone’s mother, they’ll consider doing business with you. The importance of the human interaction and chemistry can simply not be overstated.

In that sense, the fact I had a chance to have face-to-face meeting was priceless. Zoom meeting are great to follow up with prospects and elaborate your offering – but it can’t be used to establish initial trust and cultivate relationships.

While in Dubai, I met with several banks, exchanges and investment funds. They all shared keen interest – I’d even say hunger – for technology. This passion for learning isn’t limited just to blockchain technology, but also span fields such as cybersecurity, agriculture, smart cities and mobility. There seems to be a widespread understanding in the need to shift from the oil-based economy to a more sustainable growth track. The local government seems committed to make the necessary investment to turn the UAE into a hub of innovation for the entire middle east – and beyond. While many countries around the word invest in digitizing its infrastructure and economy, Dubai seems to be aiming to transform itself into becoming a start-up nation. And as one of the richest counties with the highest GDP per capital in the world – it has deep pockets to turn this vision into reality.

Cryptocurrency is still not regulated in the banking space in Dubai, but everybody’s talking about regulation as something that’s eventually coming, similarly to other territories around the word. It’s mainly a function of timing. Even the central bank is working on a CBDC pilot, so there’s no doubt that blockchain technology will ultimately be part of the local financial eco-system, in some form. Some of the bankers I met were extremely knowledgeable of the blockchain space and the benefits it can drive in cost-efficiencies and in injecting liquidity to the market by digitizing traditional assets such as real estate and gold.

While the traditional banking system is carefully planning its blockchain strategy, crypto exchanges are already fully regulated in the country, with about a dozen of exchanges operating from the UAE and serving customers globally. From what I’ve learned, these exchanges are very focused on stepping up their security measures, in light of growing scope of hacking incidents. As such, they were very interested in our solution that can keep their digital assets safely out of reach of hackers.

There was a lot to absorb in those four intense days in Dubai. I have a strong feeling that it won’t be long until we’ll be headed back there, or better yet – host some of these potential customers in Israel.