DUBAI: An inspiring tale of unwavering passion and determination, Michael Zhao’s story is a testament to the power of hard work, innovation, and a global mindset.
With a rich Asian heritage, a childhood spent in the United States, and extensive international travel, Zhao is a true global citizen who has turned his attention to the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region. Through the creation of two ground-breaking businesses, he is setting a shining example for aspiring Asian entrepreneurs who seek to make their mark in these rapidly growing markets.
“The secret to success lies in the relentless pursuit of excellence, the courage to break new ground, and the ability to adapt to an ever-changing environment,” Zhao says. “As entrepreneurs with diverse backgrounds, we have the unique advantage of cultural diversity, which allows us to connect with people from different backgrounds and create opportunities for mutual growth.”
Zhao’s journey began with an impressive academic background, earning a Master’s degree in Electronic Engineering and Finance from the University of Florida and an EMBA from Shanghai Jiao Tong University and many other executive CEO programmes. His career in banking and investment spans nearly two decades, including senior positions at UBS Investment Bank, China Merchants Bank, and Banca Intesa Sanpaolo. Furthermore, Zhao has also served as a central bank official at the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) and as a trading director and portfolio manager at the world’s largest sovereign fund, China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange, with assets exceeding $3 trillion.
In addition to his financial industry ventures, Zhao has also been at the forefront of the digital asset space since 2016. In 2021, he co-founded the world’s first regulated virtual asset-focused SPAC, Crypto 1, and successfully raised $230 million, subsequently taking the company public as its CEO on the NASDAQ stock exchange.
Concurrently, Zhao also became a co-founder of the world’s first secondary market fund based on compliant digital currencies, C1 Fund, with an impressive fund size of $500 million.
This experience and thought leadership in the digital asset space have lent even more credibility to Zhao’s decision to focus on the MEA region. His global perspective and insights into the rapidly evolving world of digital assets have enabled him to identify the unique opportunities and potential that the MEA region has to offer in this domain.
His first venture in the MEA region was KLICKL, a regulated digital asset custody and payment platform. With an acute understanding of the region’s unique needs, Zhao sought to develop a platform that provided simple, secure, and efficient digital asset custody and payment solutions for retail, corporate, and institutional investors. This trailblazing venture has gained a reputation as the “Shopify of the digital asset realm” and set a new standard for user-friendly and compliant digital brokerage services.
“I’ve always believed that true innovation comes from challenging the status quo and being bold enough to create something that’s never been done before,” says Zhao. “KLICKL represents the perfect marriage of cutting-edge technology and a deep understanding of our customers’ needs, creating a seamless and enjoyable experience for everyone involved.”
Navigating the complex regulatory landscape and rapidly changing market conditions, Zhao successfully built a strong team of experts, secured strategic partnerships, and fostered a culture of innovation within KLICKL. His dedication and vision for the company’s future have been instrumental in establishing KLICKL as a trusted and respected leader in the digital asset space.
But Zhao’s vision didn’t stop there. Recognising the MEA region’s growing appetite for luxury experiences, he founded MyGolf Dubai, the largest indoor golf club in the Middle East. This luxurious venue offers members an unparalleled experience, combining advanced simulator technology with a comfortable indoor environment. MyGolf Dubai has become a hub for networking, relaxation, and the pursuit of excellence.
“When I first set foot in Dubai, I saw a city brimming with potential,” Zhao reminisces. “I knew that by creating MyGolf Dubai, I could bring people together and provide a space for them to enjoy the finer things in life while building lasting connections with one another.”
From identifying prime locations to negotiating partnerships with local businesses, Zhao’s tireless efforts were instrumental in the successful launch of MyGolf Dubai. The club has since garnered widespread acclaim for its impeccable facilities, unparalleled service, and commitment to fostering a sense of community among its members.
In addition to his business ventures, Zhao has also co-founded the UAE Chinese Golf Association, a platform aimed at promoting golf among the Chinese community in the UAE and fostering deeper cultural understanding and integration between the Chinese diaspora and the local society. This initiative has not only provided opportunities for social and professional networking but has also greatly contributed to enhancing the quality of life for many Chinese expatriates living in the UAE.
“Creating the UAE Chinese Golf Association was a natural step for me,” Zhao reflects. “I wanted to give back to the community that has welcomed me so warmly and provide a platform for like-minded individuals to connect, learn, and grow together.”
Under Zhao’s leadership, both KLICKL and MyGolf Dubai have flourished, solidifying his position as a pioneering entrepreneur in the MEA region. His unwavering commitment to innovation and growth, coupled with his ability to identify and capitalise on emerging trends, has made him a force to be reckoned with in the world of business.
As the MEA region continues to experience rapid economic growth and development, Zhao’s story serves as a shining example for other aspiring Asian entrepreneurs looking to make their mark in these thriving markets. His unique blend of cultural insight, global experience, and entrepreneurial spirit has positioned him as a true leader in this region, proving that with passion, determination, and vision, anything is possible.
“Embrace every challenge and turn it into an opportunity for growth,” Zhao advises aspiring entrepreneurs. “Believe in yourself, trust your instincts, and never be afraid to take risks. The world is full of possibilities, and the MEA region is a land of untapped potential just waiting to be explored.”
As Michael Zhao continues to break new ground and shape the future of the MEA region, his story serves as a powerful reminder that success knows no boundaries. Through his unwavering commitment to innovation and excellence, he is paving the way for a new generation of Asian entrepreneurs, inspiring them to dream big, take risks, and make a lasting impact on the world stage.