Metaverse and gaming VC firm Animoca Brands is gearing up to enter into a partnership with Saudi Arabia's NEOM Investment Fund to support its aspirations as a futuristic tech hub.
Metaverse and gaming VC firm, Anna Moca brands is gearing up to enter into a partnership with Saudi Arabia's Neom investment fund to support its aspirations as a futuristic tech hub. Joining us now to discuss is Anna Moob brands, co founder and executive chairman Yat. So welcome back to the show. Ya. Thank you for having me. It's always a pleasure to be here. Always a pleasure having you here. Now, all anyone can talk about this morning is Sam Bateman Fried's conviction. So we got to get your comments right at the top of this segment. Uh How are you feeling? What are your reactions to that sentence coming through last night? Um I'm somewhere between celebration and cheering it on, right? I mean, to me the sort of SPF episode really cast a really dark shadow over the entire industry and it was representative really, it was like the finale of the year 2022 in terms of everything that it represented. And this sort of judgment made a few things clear, I think for people, the first one, something that we in the industry certainly understood. It was just simply a case of fraud. It wasn't a case of the industry having an issue because in some ways, you know, certain media outputs were trying to make it such that crypto was the cause. And that, you know, Sam is maybe not such a bad guy after all. But anyway, it turns out that, that it was just plain old fraud that we knew. And I think it's just the end of sort of a chapter and let's move on And I hope to hear very little of SPF in the future. I know it will still keep going. But for the time being, you know, it's sort of the, the sort of tapering off of that. So I think it's a really good thing. It's a new beginning. But the other thing that I think is also positive, it kind of sends another message, which is that in some ways people used to think that if you enter the crypto space, you can kind of get away with stuff, right, with all the scams and the rug polls and, you know, all that kind of stuff. And I think this demonstrates that actually you can't get away, there are consequences. And I think that in and of itself gives people a certain sense of, sort of more safety which I think our industry needs in terms of reputation. And does this affect, do you think nonetheless, do you think that this affects in some way, uh, the ability for firms to, uh, raise money? Uh for, for, for uh different players to raise money in this industry. Obviously, it's been a kind of a quiet period in terms of volumes over the past, since the FTX collapse. Uh the, the reduction in, in, in leverage trading, et cetera now a conviction. So what happens with investors who maybe aren't that savvy but have a lot of capital when they're looking at crypto and they say we don't understand it still. And we saw a guy who, who made it a who made it almost a circus, a AAA show of how smart he was and how we didn't get it and look what he did. Does that affect, does that affect people from fundraising now that, you know, he's kind of ruined that uh image. So if you're already kind of thinking that crypto is a scam and you actually didn't really have much faith in it, then I don't think this event or any other event is going to change your mind until you absolutely have no choice, right? I mean, we have those groups of people and I think we generally have to for the time being write them off. But there's another bunch of people there kind of that are on the fence or maybe people within the various groups and industries that actually really want to push this. But the SPF issue has been actually a problem because of the narrative around it. And for them, I find that we've got basically this correct narrative for the people, for the champions inside these funds that say actually we should be sort of having sort of an alternative sort of investment strategy. We should be investing in sort of web three companies. And now they can at least have a defense on this. They can say, hey, this guy was really just, you know, fraudulent, just look at the verdict just, you know, they have, I think it would have been worse. For instance, if maybe some of the, some of the sort of sort of the judgment was maybe not as clear or it would have taken a long time, it would have cast more doubt. I think the fact that it happened so quickly as well, I think is a, is a positive thing. And certainly that's a sentiment in Asia, Asia moved along from the whole sort of SPF saga much, much faster than the US. In fact, it was, it was kind of a non in terms of sort of sort of talking about what happened. And as a result, I think also that's the reason why Asia healed broadly. I mean, it's more progressive in terms of Web three, it's more progressive in terms of investment funds. I mean, you know, there is funding, not only we are investing but actually a whole set of sort of web three funds that have emerged in Hong Kong and of course other regions as well. So I don't think it's really going to affect those groups. Yet, speaking of investments in regions outside of the US, um advancing past the SPFS A and Moa Bryant says $50 million from Neom to build this futuristic tech hub, talk to us about practically what this means. What is this futuristic tech hub that Saudi Arabia has its sight on? And what does that mean? Practically for folks who are maybe going to be visiting Saudi Arabia or folks who are living there? Yeah. And actually just a funny side story. The very first time I actually met SPF was actually in Saudi in Riyadh at FI I and it was literally weeks before all of this happened. Um And I just remember sitting next to him and he was sort of twitching his leg. That was the most notable feature that I remembered from him. But anyway, it was just kind of serendip. And at the time, you know, at the time, we had sort of a conversation with groups and we had sort of talked about it and of course, you know, it's astounding to see that exactly one year ago, you know, all of, you know, um despite everything that took place and everyone knows that SPF was in Saudi trying to raise money, right? Um And then obviously, he, he didn't succeed that actually, um they still had conviction to actually go and invest in the space, which to me is just proof of the fact that if you believe in, in a general future of where this is going, then you'll see through the fact that, you know, who's a Baghdad who does, who's a Baghdad and who's not because people do their due diligence, people do their work if they're serious about it. Right. It's not just sort of, sort of a, sort of something that you just kind of feel you have to do, you have to do the due diligence anyway, what it means for the region is and what it means for companies like us and any other web three companies. At first, it's, you know, if you look at their comments, you can say you can see that, you know, web three and Blockchain is a, is an important part of Neom strategy. What is Neon? Neon is essentially a new special economic zone, almost constructed like a new nation and sort of, you know, sometimes the commentary, we make it a little bit of a sort of tongue in cheek. But I think quite relevant is that Neil is perhaps the physical metaverse to the extent that we're building the virtual one, they kind of tie quite nicely in. So in some ways, I would say that the region is actually quite sort of attuned to the idea because they are literally building up a new sort of infrastructure in new CD, literally from, from the ground from, from San and other things like that, like physical sand and I think the other thing, of course, it means is that Saudi, which is really sort of one of the most, sort of perhaps the most influential sort of nation, the kingdom being sort of in the Middle East is now entering the space and basically makes it possible for people to look at funding opportunities as well, you know, and people used to focus on UE and that's still a very good market, but now you have Saudi to consider as well and is serious about this. And I think a lot of people outside of, have never really considered the kingdom. But, you know, so stats, I mean, you know, 80% of the population is under the age of 36 most of them are super avid gamers. And um you know, even, even the crown prince himself is known to be a very active gamer. You know, it's the only country in the world that I think has a sovereign gaming fund over $30 billion for instance, right? So it's a very digitally native place, but it's often sort of, you know, ignored just because people don't know that Saudi has modernized tremendously over the last five years. Um And num is one of its key sort of projects around it trying to build the city of the future. And now we know there's also the media based and built with Web three and Blockchain in mine. Now this ne is located on the Gulf of Aqaba. It's right now as you know, there, there seems to be uh things going on not far away, uh just on the other side of the Sinai Peninsula. And thinking the thinking here, at least for, for many who follow this is that this was done on purpose to upset, not, not just Israel and Hamas and that situation, but really to put Saudi Arabia in a defensive position and to prevent peace. because that area for Nim to really succeed, requires a comprehensive peace agreement with the, with the neighboring countries, Jordan, Israel and Egypt. Um Does the current conflict put that on hold or hold back? Uh Any of that development is there, is there at the very least some sort of pause if you will until that conflict is resolved? Uh Well, no, so I'm not sort of on boots on the ground in the. So I can't exactly tell you that part, but certainly our conversations on the sort of, you know, web three side of things and on the Blockchain side of things. Um Actually, that's progressing very, very rapidly. So that's one thing. But the other thing also, you know, Saudi, certainly in our experience has always demonstrated an incredibly long term vision in that sense, they have sort of similarities to our experiences, for instance, where people are building in China. So they take long, long horizons. I mean, you know, vision 2030 is a vision for 2030 Neon's you know, construction goes, you know, they have plans that go all the way to sort of, I think 44,045. I mean, you know, we're not talking about the next, the next two or three years we're talking about sort of decades out. And so while it's very unfortunate that there is obviously a big crisis and conflict in the area, I don't, you know, this is not necessarily going to stop the development. Certainly we haven't seen that because they've got long term, long term plans on, on, on in mind. And yet you, you mentioned Hong Kong earlier on in this segment, you are on the Hong Kong task force promoting Web three. Now, uh you're part of this project in Saudi Arabia, talk to us about how the views on Web three maybe differ between the two jurisdictions or are they quite similar? Well, I think what they share is the vision that Web three and Blockchain is very critical and important and it's kind of something that neither of them want to miss on. And they also view it as a way of attracting talent and really in some ways the future of technology and development. So that's, that's where they share similarities. The difference between the two is that Hong Kong is far more advanced for the time being in its view on some things like tokens, he gives a license out to exchanges, for instance. Um you know, it's got a framework for that. It's got a number of tokens that are now on an approved list for retail trading. So Saudi isn't there yet, right. So in that sense, I would say from a regulatory standpoint in the mena region, obviously Dubai is ahead, but Saudi is obviously learning from the region and sort of this is, you know, really, I would say their first big commitment in the area. you know, we started investing earlier in the year in a number of projects in Saudi to help educate the space. NOQ is an NFT marketplace, for instance, that is run in Saudi, you know, and, and that's, you know, so we've done these things to sort of help educate and grow, grow sort of knowledge in the space there. Um So for instance, things like specifically tokens and crypto in Saudi is currently something that is under review and discussion, but there is no framework around it. Um And it's obviously something that people are still trying to understand better. Whereas in Hong Kong, I think that there's a pretty clear view on, on that. Yeah, we got to leave it there, but it's always a pleasure having you on the show and hearing your perspective on what's happening in web three outside of the US. So thank you so much for joining us this morning. Thank you for having me. That was Anna Moran's chairman, executive chairman, sorry and co-founder Yu