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"We Got Funded!" Saudi Arabia's First NFT Marketplace Platform Nuqtah Raises A Seed Round Led By Hong Kong-Based Animoca Brands Nuqhta was founded in 2021 by Salwa Radwi, a photographer, artist, and Web3 and blockchain advocate, and one of the first female founders and CEOs in Saudi Arabia's NFT scape.

By Tamara Pupic Edited by Aby Thomas

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Salwa Radwi, founder, Nuqtah

Nuqtah, Saudi Arabia's first non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace platform, has raised a seed round of funding led by Hong Kong-based venture capital firm Animoca Brands with participation from blockchain platform Polygon and a few regional investors. The new investment will be used to scale up Nuqtah's business over the next 12 months in the areas of product development, marketing, talent acquisition, and other operations.

Nuqhta was founded in 2021 by Salwa Radwi, a photographer, artist, and Web3 and blockchain advocate, and one of the first female founders and CEOs in Saudi Arabia's NFT scape, and co-founders who boast industry experience by working for the likes of Careem and Oracle.

With a license from the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and Ministry of Investment in Saudi Arabia, Nuqtah quickly gained traction in the Kingdom given that it allowed users to easily build, deploy, and monetize NFT collections without having to navigate complicated blockchain infrastructure. "Nuqtah's traction has actually hit a groundbreaking 10,000 users this month, after our last investment announcement," Radwi adds. "We have a few thousand NFTs listed as well, and our B2B arm has been able to enable an even large audience via some of the largest art and media enterprises in the region, meaning that galleries and institutions can enable their own artists with their own NFTs, on their own websites, through Nuqtah's platform. That's the impact we believe in."

However, it has not always been an easy ride for Radwi and her team of 15 to develop Nuqtah. "Saudi Arabia ranks as one of the most tech-driven economies in the world with more than 68% of population being less than 30 years old, which really makes the entire Kingdom hungry for new innovative ideas and tools; however, despite this hunger and inquisitive mindset, I believe the full reigns of Web3 are yet to hit the region, making it our job to carry the torch of this extremely powerful industry for the region," she explains. But the potential of Nuqtah to empower local artists and technical talent to develop the Web3 industry in Saudi Arabia and the broader region is what has allowed it to secure the backing of Animoca Brands. "Our investment into Nuqtah is another meaningful step in our commitment to build up the Web3 industry in the MENA region, as well as to develop our own capabilities in the region," says Animoca Brands co-founder and executive chairman Yat Siu. "Nuqtah is an important pioneer, and we anticipate that it will greatly help to boost Web3 and NFT adoption in the Middle East. We will continue to expand our operational presence, and collaborate with local strategic partners looking to adopt Web3."

Related: "We Got Funded!" UAE-Headquartered COFE Raises US$15 Million In A Series B Funding Round Led By Saudi Aramco's VC Arm Wa'ed Ventures

When asked about her experience of pitching to Web3 investors, Radwi replies that she sees them as "true visionaries for trusting founders, and their instinct in this new and exciting industry." She adds, "Investors investing today are truly winners of the long haul, as they see the inevitability of this technology, and they can see and predict patterns of past success stories in different industries." That said, pitching in the Web3 sector requires a lot of grit, says Radwi. "Be ready not only to introduce the problem and solution, as most founders usually do, but also the technology itself, and how it has already began changing the world across borders," she explains. "Accept that you as a founder are here to innovate, adapt, and do whatever it takes to reap the impact of this new technology. Therefore, be open to testing, learning, and listening to your users. Most importantly, stick by your promise. Show these investors that you will not stop until this works, and that you will not rest until you are a major part of the history in the making of not only the world of blockchain technology, but also the region as whole."

With a number of reports indicating that the NFT market is getting back on track from the multiple crypto crashes in 2022, Radwi considers that the difficult period did some good by revealing the true enablers and projects of this sector. "The major trend and most exciting part of this current time is seeing NFTs and blockchain being used for real life solutions," she says. "Really cranking how this technology is already enabling gamers for new lines of financial stream, empowering creators to create and own with ease, allowing media production houses not to lease, license, and IP their assets but to own and sell them for means. These are but few examples of real life needs that are being solved thanks to the NFT scene."

Salwa Radwi, founder, Nuqtah. Source: Nuqtah

And speaking of her expectations of the NFT space particularly in Saudi Arabia for 2023, Radwi draws her enthusiasm for the sector from some interesting statistics, starting with a 2022 report by Boston Consulting Group that showed that there are 23.5 million gamers in the MENA region. "That's almost 70% of the entire population, and so you can realize that these are generations already familiar with online purchases, assets, and interactions, and these are the interactions that the NFT market will use to grow in the region. As a result of that, we can see a 195% year-on-year growth in crypto transactions. That's insane. Plus, the government continues to promise billions of dollars towards new and innovate tech models, and so put all of the above in the equation, and my prediction would be that the growth of the NFT space is in the region is inevitable!"

'TREP TALK: Nuqtah co-founder Salwa Radwi shares her tips for creators aspiring to enter the Web3 arena

1. Don't stay in a boring 9-5 job "If you long to be a creative, the creator economy exists for you, and you should be an essential part of it."

2. Do a lot of research "This space can be intimidating, but you won't know unless you try, so getting in at the right time can compensate time and growth for years of a mundane posting."

3. Adapting for the region is key "Learning from the international market is great; however, what makes arts powerful is culture. Embrace our rich history, and flaunt it, because that in itself is a power that can never be overused."

Related: Reimagining An Industry: ReelStar Co-Founders Nick Bahl And Navdeep Sharma

Tamara Pupic

Entrepreneur Staff

Managing Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East

Tamara Pupic is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Middle East.

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