How Ateon became Saudi Arabia's first blockchain systems integrator

Brand View: the first Blockchain systems integrator in Saudi Arabia and among the first in the region
How Ateon became Saudi Arabia's first blockchain systems integrator
Husam M Yaghi is President of Ateon and Chief Information Officer at Alhamrani Group.
Tue 27 Feb 2018 05:32 PM

Tell us about Ateon

Ateon (www.ateon.net) was the first Blockchain systems integrator in Saudi Arabia and among the first in the region.  It was registered in Saudi Arabia in August 2016 and in Dubai in June 2017.  Ateon is a member of the Alhamrani Group; which has been serving the Kingdom and the region since 1957. Sheikh Abdulaziz Abdullah Alhamrani is the CEO of the both the Alhamrani Group and Ateon, while I am the Chief Information Officer of Alhamrani Group and the President of Ateon.  Our technology sister company, Alhamrani Universal (www.universal.com.sa) has been serving the financial sector since 1976; which is one of our great assets.

Why Blockchain?

Blockchain is the future as it offers infinite solutions to many of our unsolved problems and allows for an increase in speed and security in them.  Blockchains are resistant to data modification since the alteration of one block requires consensus across the recorded chain or ledger. By allowing digital information to be distributed but not copied, blockchain technology created the backbone of a new type of internet.

Ateon’s sister company, Alhamrani Universal, is a leader in the traditional payment space.  Yet the world is going mobile and Blockchain is the new technology on which most services will be delivered.  The Alhamrani Group has always been an integral part of the modernization of Saudi Arabia.  Ateon was created to continue this heritage.  We want to assist the Country and the region in the digital transformation journey.  Blockchain is our platform of choice for this transformation.

Explain Blockchain to my 83-year-old mother and why is it so transformational?

Blockchain is a decentralized ledger. There is no single database to hack and no middleman.  Just like the internet facilitates direct exchange of information, Blockchain facilitates direct exchange of value between parties, without the need for a trusted intermediary. With Blockchain, cost of operation could be reduced, dependencies could be eliminated, and transparency and single version of the truth are guaranteed.  It is a paradigm shift in the way information is transacted between untrusting parties.

Financial transactions are its core implementation at the moment… what services/solutions are you offering your financial services/banking clients now?

Yes, Bitcoin was the first application to utilize the power of Blockchain.  Then came cross border transfer and p2p payment.  With such applications, antiquated processes were eliminated, intermediaries were elimination.  Later on, startups began to pop out all over the world with innovative Blockchain based products.

At Ateon, we focus on identity management, health records management, documents management, student academic records, court proceedings, land registry, and financial inclusion.  We also offer, Single Sign On, Immediate settlement and reconciliation of financial transactions; management of VAT, taxes, Supply Chain, and Logistics.

How is Blockchain enhancing the Fintech space and when will it become the “new normal”? Are banks who don’t adopt it writing their own suicide notes?

I am certain, that businesses which do not start implementing Blockchain will receive the Nokia and Kodak curse. Change is inevitable and those who do not adapt will surely be left behind. Blockchain is here to stay, because it is the value layer of Internet.

Traditional banks are slowly becoming obsolete as digital banking and Blockchain-based solutions have rendered them uncompetitive.  Kodak was once the pioneer and leader in the photography space for many years.  Why did Kodak fail? Simple, they failed to adapt. The common phrase goes: “history always repeats itself”. The same will happen with banks. Some leading financial organizations have admitted the impact and threat of cryptocurrencies.  Some regulators; like SAMA in Saudi Arabia and the Government of Dubai have paved the way for businesses and government agencies to offer Blockchain based services.  We have noticed that after the Saudi Arabian Monitory Agency signed a partnership with Ripple; the adoption of Blockchain applications is accelerating.

Where does it leave the likes of Visa/Mastercard?  Can Blockchain provide the complete end-to-end payment solution?

Blockchain is a technology; like the Internet.  Solution providers like Ateon build applications which utilize the power of Blockchain.   We have the first in the world card scheme on the blockchain rails, from our technology partner, Sofitto.  Not only does our solution provide end-to-end digital payment services, but it also supports traditional payment tools as well.  With a solution like ours, payments are settled instantaneously and for a very small transaction fee.  In addition transactions are automated and secured in real time to eliminate fraud, increase transparency and automate taxes collection if needed.

The rise of cryptocurrencies has proved that credit cards as we know them will disappear soon.

What other industries are beginning to use blockchain and what solutions are you offering to help them?

Blockchain has no bias and is being used in multiple industries, form financial to medical to legal.  Blockchain has touched several industries. At Ateon we offer endless solutions to our customers.

We have implemented a financial inclusion system and social cryptocurrencies for IRTI of the Islamic Development Bank; which was reported on by Reuters, New York Times, NASDAQ, and several regional press organizations.  We implemented the first of its kind in our region, a Blockchain based Identity Management System for Bank Aljazira.  In addition to the banking sector, some of our solutions are for voting, document management, VAT management, consortium loyalty system, and university student records management.

We are negotiating with an Arab country the digitization of their fiat currency.  In addition, our software engineers are working on few exciting and innovative ideas for POS and ATM machines, which have not yet been done anywhere in the world.

Now tell us a bit about yourself?

I see myself diligent, someone who works on a project with all his energy and tools.  I am blessed to have a supportive visionary educated boss, a homogeneous Ateon family, some of the best Blockchain technology parts, and visionary aggressive clients.

What’s your greatest fear?

As a President, I have to deal with the fear of others and convert them to positive energy.  Personally, I have too many worries to list, yet they motivate me to work harder. My job is to conquer fears and to place Ateon where it belongs, at the top.

What’s your ‘secret sauce’ for success?

Confidence and knowledge is my secret sauce. I was able to foresee success at a time of economic adversity.  Also, it is essential to work with the best team, partners, and clients.

What do you think are the most important attributes of successful people?

Passion, determination, and having a supportive wife and kids.

Do you have any regrets?

Even though it is my choice, I regret over-working and the lack of balance between work and family.

What’s the most challenging thing about the business you’re in?

Building the right team who are as passionate and dedicated. Ateon offers Blockchain custom solutions. Blockchain worldwide is still at infancy.  It’s hard to find fervent believers who can peddle with you.

Where do you see Ateon in the future?

The Blockchain leader in the MENA region.

What do you most enjoy about your work?

Homegrown innovation, technologies hot out of the oven.  I enjoy being able to forecast where the world is heading and seeing Ateon as number 1. I enjoy the prospects of leaving fingerprints in lives.  I am blessed to have the full support of both the Chairman and CEO of the Alhamrani Group. Building a new company within a conglomerate is a great advantage: I am able to capitalize on a well-established brand and to focus on quality of service before revenues.

What’s your greatest achievement so far?

At a professional level, I challenged the status quo and got Ateon in international press before its first anniversary. At a personal level, I raised teenage entrepreneurs who pitched to Fadi Ghandour at age 13 and 14.  My daughter is into social philanthropy with her Smiles Initiative.

Your advice on adoption of Blockchain

Early adopters will be in the lead.  Change is inevitable, so you may want to start now with a small project then grow it, but don’t wait.  The Blockchain technology is advancing rapidly, competition is compounding, and you could be destroyed if left behind.  My advice to solution providers: be innovative and an honest advisor.  To regulators: Blockchain adoption worldwide is developing rapidly; there will be both opportunities and risks which should be considered; therefore, take action now.

Finally, I wish to give credit to Sheikh Abdullah Alhamrani, Sheikh Abdulaziz Alhamrani, Alhamrani Universal Company, ShoCard, SettleMint, Sofitto, EduChain, Ameyo, and our distinguished cyber security solution providers.

Husam M Yaghi is President of Ateon and Chief Information Officer at Alhamrani Group

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