Startup Betting on Crypto Appeal in Islamic World Raises Funds


Fasset, a digital-asset gateway, is planning a major expansion in some areas of the Islamic world, as it seeks to boost the adoption of cryptocurrencies in places where it is still viewed with suspicion.

The company closed a $22 million Series A funding round led by Liberty City Ventures and Fatima Gobi Ventures, it said in a statement, adding that regional family offices from the Middle East and South Asia also participated. The money will go toward product development and market expansion, the company said.

“We have been working with some of the most prolific and well known Islamic finance jurists and thought-leaders to educate the masses on how Muslims can interact with this emerging asset class in a Sharia compliant manner,” said Mohammad Raafi Hossain, the company’s co-founder and chief executive officer, who’s also a former adviser to the UAE Prime Minister’s Office.

Some corners of the Islamic world have shown skepticism about cryptocurrencies. Indonesia’s National Ulema Council declared it forbidden in November, even though the government has been supportive of crypto assets, allowing it to be traded alongside commodity futures as an investment option and pushing to set up a crypto-focused exchange by the end of the year.

A different narrative appears to be taking hold in some jurisdictions. Places such as Dubai have been wooing digital asset firms, and the strategy has been working. Bybit just moved its headquarters to Dubai from Singapore.

Fasset said it plans to launch services in Indonesia and Pakistan soon. In Indonesia, the firm said it’s set to be granted an approval to operate as a full service crypto exchange next month, while it’s ready to offer digital asset services in Pakistan. The company plans to double its headcount by the end of the year. 

“We have seen multiple use cases come to the fore such as ‘zakat’ payments on crypto being championed by Islamic charities in Europe,” Mohammad said in an email interview, referring to an Islamic levy. “We will continue to see this trend as adoption and awareness increase.”

Still, not every country in the Islamic world looks as promising for crypto at the moment.

“Different jurisdictions are adopting distinct approaches,” said Jaime Baeza, CEO of Miami-based crypto hedge fund ANB Investments. “Countries such as the UAE or Bahrain, with their pro-crypto approach, clearly recognize the value of the industry and are pushing to position themselves as global leaders. Alternatively, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait have a more restrictive view.”

But, as ways that crypto and decentralized finance can be used in real life increase, they may become more tempting. Financial inclusion has been a narrative in digital assets for years, with proponents saying the innovations will help lift people out of poverty, gain economic security and participate in the global financial system. Indonesia and Pakistan are among countries with millions of “unbanked” people.

“Fasset is all about bringing multi-faceted digital asset use cases that connect home markets to their diaspora,” Mohammad said. “Digital asset-driven remittance corridors can unleash a new wave of socioeconomic prosperity.”