Put on your virtual reality headset and enter a new dimension.
That is the message that Shaffra, the Metaverse platform-as-a-service, aims to convey to the UAE and wider Gulf region.
The startup focuses on how large organizations, such as businesses and government agencies, can benefit by using today’s metaverse technologies.
The company has offices in the Dubai International Financial Center Innovation Hub, the region’s largest concentration of fintech and innovation companies.
Metaverse-as-a-Service (MaaS) can be simply described as an enterprise solution that allows businesses to penetrate the Metaverse with their own virtual worlds for various uses.
Shaffra’s 3D engine provides an affordable solution for government agencies and businesses to build their own virtual worlds, thereby simplifying the process for anyone to enter the metaverse.
The immersive interface aims to transform the traditional way of engaging with customers in a virtual space, Shahra said.
Through the startup’s 3D technology, users can interact and collaborate with each other and with digital assets in real time.
“Our platform enables organizations to deliver more engaging and memorable experiences for their customers, employees, and partners,” said Shafra Chief Metaverse and Operating Officer, one of the three founders. says Alfred Manasseh.
By using a customized Metaverse platform, organizations can “reach new audiences,” he says.
You can also “increase engagement” and “deliver new and exciting experiences” while growing your business and maintaining cost-effective operations.
The idea for Shahra, which means “code” in Arabic, was born when one of the clients of Manasseh’s side business, a legal advisory firm, was considering obtaining a cryptocurrency license in the UAE.
“At that time, I contacted my university friends of 20 years, with whom I studied in Canada, and decided to set up a cryptocurrency exchange,” said Manasseh, a Lebanese national. 37 years old) says.
“But then we thought about how do we actually differentiate ourselves from the other major crypto exchanges out there, which at the time were mainly Binance and Coinbase, but also local startups? There were also some companies.”
They decided to use different types of metaverse technology for businesses and corporations “because there’s really nothing like it out there,” he says.
“Cryptocurrency exchange is still in our minds, but then it could become part of our overall or comprehensive solution. “We completely pivoted the idea of ,” he added.
The company is registered with the DIFC Innovation Hub, which allows it to seek investors.
As with any startup journey, the beginning was difficult for Shahra.
“I don’t know how many VCs there are.” [venture capitalists] Or how many investors have you met? That was around the same time there was a big crypto winter and a big crypto crash. As such, anything emerging, new, or connected to the Metaverse was considered risky. We were turned down many times,” says Manasseh.
The company then began leveraging the UAE government sector ecosystem.
“There was a whole-of-government effort when it came to the Dubai Metaverse Strategy. And we started hearing about Abu Dhabi, we started hearing what they were doing in this space,” Manasseh says. .
According to PwC, the Metaverse could contribute around $15 billion to the GCC economy by 2030, with Dubai alone expected to generate $4 billion and create 40,000 new jobs over the next five years. . Dubai He launched the Metaverse strategy in July 2022.
This growth is being driven by factors such as increasing internet penetration, growing demand for virtual events and conferences, and the growing popularity of gaming and social media, the consultancy said.
According to Gartner, by 2026, at least 25% of people will spend at least an hour each day in the Metaverse for various purposes such as work, shopping, education, and even entertainment.
Manasseh said that in December last year, Shahra successfully raised $220,000 in investment from an accelerator funded by regional startup accelerator program Flat 6 Labs Abu Dhabi.
“This allowed us to start working on MVP.” [minimum viable product]” he says.
In March, Shahra was awarded the first tender to build the Metaverse for the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism, after which the company attracted a lot of interest from Saudi investors.
The company is currently in the process of completing a seed round, or pre-Series A round, of approximately $1.5 million.
The company aims to close the round by the first quarter of 2024, with a target valuation of $100 million.
Omantel, Oman’s largest mobile phone operator, is another company in the region that Shahra works with.
“Investors in this region have a vision, and that’s what I like about them,” Manasseh says.
“Our pipeline is growing strongly, but when we first started, we knew recruitment was a big issue in this region.
“Our philosophy is that the Metaverse should really be an extension of business operations. We’re not reinventing the wheel or reinventing something that’s already out there. We want to integrate all the solutions out there and improve the user experience.”
Shahra is initially focused on governments and large corporations. He has two customers with the company and is actively negotiating with more customers.
“By the end of this year, we will have seven to 10 active customers, ranging from various telecom companies, various government departments, and even banks and the events sector,” Manasseh said.
“Initially, these customers will allow us to build the capabilities needed for specific industries. This also applies to banking, law enforcement, and all kinds of service-oriented industries.”
He said the company operates on subscription fees ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 per month, but will become profitable and self-sustaining once it has more than 10 customers.
In the future, Shahra plans to start operations in Saudi Arabia. “We have very good traction in terms of sales pipeline in Saudi Arabia, and the same in Oman,” Manasseh says.
He added that the company is also in the process of filing a patent application in the United States.
The next area Shahra plans to enter is the gaming industry.
“Our focus is on accessibility, so we built our engine to be usable on many devices, including web browsers, VR headsets, desktops, and mobile applications. USP of [unique selling proposition] It’s the flexibility of hosting,” says Manasseh.
“No other platform is as device-agnostic as ours.”
Q&A with Alfred Manasseh, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Shafra
What other successful startups are you glad you started?
I have always been fascinated by Tesla’s vision and commitment to sustainable energy. If I could have joined another venture, Tesla would have been my top choice. Their approach to integrating cutting-edge technology and sustainability really resonates with me.
What is your next big dream?
My next big goal is to democratize access to talent around the world and revolutionize the learning environment through the Metaverse and AI. I envision a world where geographic boundaries become irrelevant and everyone, anywhere on the planet, has access to first-class education and skills development opportunities.
By integrating Shaffra’s Metaverse technology with advanced AI tools, you can create hyper-realistic, interactive, and personalized learning environments. This not only makes education more immersive, but also tailors the experience to your individual learning style and pace. My dream is to close the global knowledge gap and ensure that everyone, regardless of location or background, has the tools and opportunities to reach their full potential.
What new skills have you learned since launching Shaffra?
Launching Shaffra was a transformative journey for me. In addition to strengthening my technical knowledge and understanding of the metaverse, I learned the importance of developing resilience, adaptability, and a customer-first mindset.
Every day brought new challenges, and experiencing the evolving landscape of the metaverse strengthened my skills in strategic planning and visionary thinking.
If you could start over, would you do anything differently?
If I had the opportunity to start working with Shaffra again, I would prioritize developing parallel solutions. One will focus on government-centric applications, and the other will focus on the Shaffra builder tool for democratizing metaverse access.
Who is your role model?
Leonardo da Vinci. He’s a polymath! He combined art, science, engineering, and imagination in a way no one had ever done before. In many ways, the Metaverse is a modern-day canvas, combining art, science, and engineering in ways limited only by our own imaginations.
Where do you want to be in 5 years?
In five years, I see Shaffra becoming the go-to platform for cross-industry metaverse integration. Personally, I aim to be at the forefront of metaverse evolution and contribute to research, development, and building a global community around this technology.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to remain constantly curious and adaptable. The business landscape is dynamic and the only constant is change. Also, always remember why you started your journey. Your passion and vision will be your guiding light in turbulent times.
Updated: October 2, 2023, 4:13 AM