According to Angel.co, more than 1200 blockchain startups were registered from around the world, zero of them are located in Egypt. According to Coin Market Cap, The global digital asset market cap valuation has reached over $200 billion, of which zero were produced in Egypt. According to Coin Schedule, over 200 ICOs have collected over $3.2 billion in funding. That's about $16 million per ICO! Again, none of which were launched from Egypt.
As I write this blog post, the number of Ethereum decentralized app (dApp) developers around the world has reached over 50,000 but we couldn't find just one to hire in Egypt after searching for weeks. The government of Dubai has announced its Blockchain City 2020 plan where all government transactions will be moved to the blockchain within the next two years. In addition to Russia, Estonia and Lebanon, Dubai has also announced its intention to launch its own blockchain-powered cryptocurrency. Meanwhile, government-backed initiatives continue to spread traditional copypasta fintech startups all over Egypt, but the Central Bank of Egypt declared that it has no intention of allowing cryptocurrency trading in Egypt.
Why does no one care?
While Egyptian authorities seem to have already deemed blockchain technology and digital assets as purely bad and unwanted, the rapidly-growing local tech community should, at least, think otherwise. Instead, it seems to me like most people of concern are so busy developing on top of the late 90s technology that they didn't even notice the appearance of blockchain technology for the 8 past years. There is not even one blockchain project in progress in Egypt that I know of, apart from those we're working on at Lamarkaz.
While the level of denial seemed outrageous to me at first, this actually has two very valid explanations.
1. History repeats itself
When it comes to innovation, Egypt is almost always late to the party. For instance, while the dot-com bubble ended in 2001, Egypt seems to have had an 11-year delay. Only starting 2012, Egyptian tech startups started to really come to the surface. But many entrepreneurs here seem to like comfort a little too much. The vast majority of recent local startups seem to almost exactly replicate foreign successful versions of themselves. It probably won't come until blockchain has reached global widespread adoption 10 years in the past that we start to see blockchain startup replicas appearing in Egypt.
2. Blockchain is hard
It isn't easy to explain what blockchain is and how it is different from traditional cryptographic systems to a senior software developer, not to mention a regular person. In order to fully understand blockchain architecture, one needs to fully understand so many different concepts such as modern cryptography, game theory, economics, distributed systems and secure programming. You can't expect a PHP maximalist to end his lifelong relationship with the 90s groundbreaking technology and become a game theorist, cryptographer, economist and distributed networking expert. On the other hand, the code ninjas out there have no incentive to move to something new. If they are foolish enough to spend months learning all 5 skills they'll end up finding themselves within a market that offers no demand for their acknowledgeable skills. Again, like I already mentioned in my statement to the tech community, investors and entrepreneurs must create demand for there to be any incentive for developers.
A mission to defy history
It's been almost two months since I decided to start Lamarkaz. Lamarkaz, simply put, is a high-risk venture that aims to try and defy the infamous history of innovation in Egypt. It is the first blockchain research and development startup that I know of in Egypt. We seek to research and develop blockchain software and apps that serve global users. We also seek to push the local tech community to become early adopters of this technology instead of waiting for it to come into the country on its own. To be very honest, it's a pretty long shot to a point where we can't risk anyone's money in it. And for this reason we decided to turn down a couple of seed investment offers that have come our way. We will continue to do so until our work starts to show some signs of potential success. Maintaining financial independence is also important in order to continue to do research freely without pressure from nosy investors. For the time being, Lamarkaz will be independently funded from my own savings.
A strategy to pretend like we live in Dubai
In order to pursue our mission despite our finite resources, there's something we need to take into consideration. It would be foolish to target growth serving a local market that (A) has absolutely no interest in what we're doing and (B) believes that it is bad and unwanted. So for the time being, we won't. What we are developing are projects that serve global users. We're not going to create blockchain apps that are intended primarily for local use because we need to try and avoid any encounters with the national financial system and legal authorities.
The first generation of projects developed by Lamarkaz will be intended for the existing global blockchain market. These projects will aim to accelerate blockchain global widespread adoption, whether by solving some of the core problems in the technology or by offering new use cases for it. By contributing to the global advancement of blockchain technology, we hope to present a good example for the local authorities and regulators to follow and praise.
What's happening right now
Lots of research & development
At the moment, we're working on Dcourt, our first and most exciting project. Dcourt will be a decentralized court system that functions as a conflict resolution layer for decentralized applications. Dcourt should be useful for decentralized content rights management, trustless terms of service, trustless arbitrary off-chain agreements and other applications. We will soon release more information on Dcourt as soon as it is out of the research stage. Another very ambitious dApp is still in early development and will rely on Dcourt specifically for decentralized content rights management. It will be released after the release of the Dcourt white paper.
We are concluding our initial hiring cycle and our team is set to expand significantly in the next couple of weeks. The hiring process took us more than a month, but we're very happy with our upcoming crew. We will introduce each of our new team members as soon as the selection process is fully complete.
Upcoming blockchain meetup
We're very happy to have already made connections with some blockchain enthusiasts that have come our way. So we're looking to set up and host the first blockchain meetup in Egypt inside our office within the next month. If you're looking for an invitation, feel free to contact us through our website.