Wednesday February 21st, 2024
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Nuqtah: The Saudi Web3 Startup Fueling MENA’s Digital Creative Economy

The future is bright, big and bustling for Saudi’s young entrepreneurship ecosystem, and if Salwa Radwi, founder of Nuqtah, has her way, it will all be on the blockchain.

May El Habachi

Saudi-based Web3 startup Nuqtah is on a mission to empower creators and businesses to unlock new opportunities on the blockchain. Founded in 2021 amidst the NFT and Web3 craze, the startup allows users to build, deploy and monetize digital collectibles without having to navigate complicated blockchain infrastructure, and is now focusing on becoming an infrastructure builder to support the development of Web3 in The Kingdom.

A creative at heart, founder and CEO Salwa Radwi initially came up with the idea of Nuqtah for her graduation thesis at the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD) in Canada. Although she got accepted to the program, she decided not to enroll to her family’s surprise to explore her new business idea instead.

“I am like, listen if I don’t do this now, I’m going to spend the rest of my life saying, what if. Do you want that for me?” Radwi tells #StartUpScene over a late night coffee in her sleek Jeddah office on the eve of an HQ move to Riyadh. “My dad had three rules. You visit us twice a year, you show us the house you’re going to live in, and you make sure this company is a success.”

And making the company a success is what she did. Since launching two years ago, Nuqtah has worked alongside the government of Saudi Arabia and the private sector, with some of its latest work being featured at LEAP, Saudi Arabia Ministry of Tourism, and the Saudi Research and Media Group amongst others.

GROWTH OF WEB3 INDUSTRY

Web3 is the next generation of the internet, focusing on decentralization, blockchain and openness as its key concepts. With Web3 providing highly interactive advertising opportunities, the sector is poised for growth in the region, particularly with businesses embracing the new technology to further enhance user experience and increase customer engagement. Its market size was valued at $3.32 billion in 2022, and is projected to reach $38.14 billion by 2029, growing at a CAGR of 41.9% from 2023 to 2029, according to data by BlueWeave Consulting.

“Nuqtah is Saudi’s first licensed blockchain infrastructure builder,” says Radwi. “With a market worth more than $38 billion, Nuqtah believes in enabling businesses and the government to become more innovative across three major fronts- ownership, IP, and customer engagement. With tokenization of assets to prove ownership and IP, to sale of reward and gifts through NFTs, Nuqtah’s B2B dashboard acts as a tool to track, map and enable customers through a transparent blockchain network.”

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are digital assets that come in the form of art, music, videos, or other collectibles that can then be bought and sold through online marketplaces. Owners or artists of these digital assets can trace their artwork with full details available on a public ledger (the blockchain), which cannot be manipulated.

INVESTOR INTEREST

Since the Web3 industry is expected to grow exponentially in the next few years, perhaps it comes as no surprise that Nuqtah was able to attract investor interest, even before officially launching. “Abulla Ellas, the co-founder of Careem, was the first person to send out the pitch,” says Radwi. “And he’s like, I think you’re onto something. I think investors want to invest in your company. I’m like it’s a thesis. It’s not a company yet. He said, no just wait and see.”

Sure enough, Nuqtah was able to successfully close its pre-seed round led by Shorooq Partners and joined by strategic angel investors in late 2021.

In January 2022, Radwi entered the 500 Global accelerator program after being invited to enroll by none other than Amal Dokhan, General Partner of the VC firm in MENA. “I started getting these phone calls, and Amal Dokhan from 500 Global said you need to start like now,” adds Radwi. “We have a cohort in two weeks.”

Following the success of its previous investment, Nuqtah raised a seed round in March this year from leading Web3 companies, including Animoca Brands and Polygon, along with regional investors, to further scale the startup, and empower local artists and technical talent to continue developing Saudi’s growing Web3 industry.

Today the startup is joined by co-founders Wajd Badawi, who previously worked at Careem, and Majid Almansouri, who was a blockchain consultant for government and private companies in Saudi Arabia.

FUTURE TECHNOLOGIES

Nuqtah’s trajectory would not have been possible without Saudi Arabia’s commitment to developing its technology sector.

Earlier this year at the second edition of the LEAP conference, Saudi Arabia attracted over $9 billion in investments in future technologies to accelerate the country’s transition to a digital economy.

The country is also setting regulatory frameworks to direct the country’s digital transformation. While it doesn’t have specific regulations governing blockchain technology yet, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) and the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) are taking steps to encourage the adoption of blockchain in the country. SAMA launched a blockchain-based platform for interbank money transfers, and CITC issued guidelines for the adoption of blockchain technology.

“As the region continues to spend billions towards the digital economy, and continues to pour efforts into making the digital economy more transparent, efficient and fully owned by the government, Nuqtah believes it is in just the right position to enable this digital revolution,” expalains Radwi.

Looking to the future, the startup is eager to play a leading role in the country’s development of new technologies. “We want to continue to advocate for this ground breaking technology, continue to experiment, continue to learn, grow and most importantly play our role in aiding our Kingdom’s vision of leading in the forefront of technology.”