US-based cryptocurrency exchange Gemini, founded by twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, is now seeking a UAE licence to serve customers based in the Emirates after experiencing “hostility and a lack of clarity” on regulations in the USA.

The brothers became globally famous after a legal dispute with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, but having turned their attention to cryptocurrency, they used Bitcoin to pay for a space trip, founded their own exchange and then became the first Bitcoin billionaires. 

In an exclusive interview with Zawya during their UAE visit, the brothers said they have been encouraged by what they had seen and heard during a series of meetings with virtual assets regulators, investors, and customers and will apply for a licence following meetings in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. 
“There is a lot of customers and amazing investors here,” Tyler told Zawya, between meetings with the UAE’s virtual asset regulatory bodies. 

Cameron said there is no clarity or consistency in the US about regulations regarding digital assets.  "It is actually very hostile to crypto companies. To keep building, innovating, is not going to be happening. There is a lot of headwinds. It is just hard to get things done in the US.”

Impact of FTX debacle

Cameron also talked about how the FTX debacle has affected the industry. 

“We have been there for almost a decade, engaging with regulators, but post FTX, everything changed. We had nothing to do with FTX, but suddenly that was an excuse to sour on the whole industry.”

Their experience of the UAE has “met if not exceeded expectations so far” Tyler said, with both brothers saying they, as founders of Gemini, have always made efforts to contribute to the regulatory process. 

“We have been doing this the right way for almost a decade. We are excited to see more regions embracing crypto and understanding the need to get regulation right,” Cameron told Zawya. 

“You don’t want the Wild West, but you also don’t want a wall or a gate to innovation, getting that balance right builds the healthiest markets. 

“We have always believed that, always pushed that, and always tried to get that message across to the regulators to provide that clarity and consistency in guidelines, because we think that the outcomes are just so positive,” he said, adding that the city of Dubai itself, is “a triumph of policy”.

The twins declined to comment on whether they are applying for a license in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

Last week, the brothers named Dublin as the European HQ for Gemini crypto exchange. 

Also, last week they applied for an application to dismiss a US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) lawsuit which claimed their company had sold unregistered securities through Gemini’s Earn programme. 

Cameron brushed off the legal challenge, saying, “Every licensed good actor in the US has been sued or is about to be sued by the SEC.” 

Tyler said Gemini is “not giving up on the US” and that a “changing of the guard in a year or two” could change the environment. He added that they were “long term optimistic” but “short-term pessimistic” about the US.

(Reporting by Imogen Lillywhite; editing by Seban Scaria)