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Biblical Dubai floods can’t douse spirit ahead of crypto bonanza: ‘I’ll do my keynote virtually’

Biblical Dubai floods can’t douse spirit ahead of crypto bonanza: ‘I’ll do my keynote virtually’
People & culture
Credit: Andrés Tapia
  • Dubai saw a year’s worth of rainfall in a day, flooding the city.
  • Stranded vehicles and people dotted the city.
  • It also created a premium for taxis and transport.

Dubai’s pristine marble streets were turned to riverbeds this week, soaking and stranding those in town for a crypto industry event.

While some have cut their losses, leaving town before Token2049 officially kicks off on Thursday, others are riding out the storm.

The two-day event, which will feature presentations by Binance CEO Richard Teng, Telegram chief Pavel Durov, and former BitMEX CEO Arthur Hayes, was preceded by record rainfall, which stranded taxis, grounded planes, and threw attendees’ travel plans into chaos.

The weather was enough to send at least one CEO packing.

“I cut my losses and went back to Singapore,” said Alex Svanevik, CEO of data analytics platform Nansen. “I’ll do my keynote virtually.”

Flooding in Dubai ahead of Token2049.

It also spurred on heroics.

Given the density of crypto folks in the submerged capital, Garrison Yang, chief strategy officer and chief marketing officer of Io.net, said that many rallied together to help.

“Multiple groups like alfaDAO offered to drive out and rescue stranded people,” he told DL News. “People jumping through hoops to make it out here.”

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AlfaDAO, an online crypto community, sponsored a car to drive to the city’s airport for its “first stop.”

Footage flooded Twitter over the past 48 hours, showing images of sedans submerged up to their windows throughout the city.

“It was complete madness — Ubers, taxis, and the metro were shut down yesterday evening, leaving people stranded,” Jack Lipstone, consultant and founder of Rari Capital, told DL News.

“I was able to get an SUV after hours of searching, and if I was in a smaller car, I would’ve gotten stuck on the roads.”

Rainfall is rare on the Arabian Peninsula. Dubai, which sits on the northwest coast of the country facing the Persian Gulf, typically experiences a mere 94 millimetres annually.

On Tuesday, however, rainfall skyrocketed to 142 millimetres overnight, causing flash floods and stranding vehicles — and many conference-goers — throughout the city.

“People were walking on the highway and abandoning their vehicles,” said Lipstone.

With so many taxis out of commission, a premium emerged on transportation.

Michelle Kang, head of marketing for the blockchain network Somnia, said she and two other attendees paid over $350 to get from the airport to Dubai’s Palm Island, a 45-minute ride under normal conditions.

Normally, it costs roughly $55, Kang said.

Taxi Line in Dubai.

Besides heavy rainfall, fierce winds have lifted furniture from the city’s famed high rises.

Videos shared by other founders, placed safely high in penthouse suites, show a grey, dreary skyline punctuated by streaks of lightning and more heavy winds.

“The door in the lobby of my building just broke because of the winds,” tweeted Lito Coen, growth lead at Socket Protocol.

The harsh weather has also grounded many flights or diverted others to neighbouring Oman and Saudi Arabia.

The official Twitter account behind the event has been posting weather updates and sharing a seemingly dry conference hall amid the chaos.

On Wednesday morning, Aave’s Marc Zeller told DL News, “life is good, don’t trust media,” sharing a picture of white sand beaches, blazing sun, and the city’s famed Burj Khalifa along the cityscape.

Liam Kelly is DL News’ Berlin correspondent. Contact him at liam@dlnews.com.