In the shadow of Dubai’s sail-shaped Burj Al Arab hotel, cryptocurrency executives rubbed shoulders with Emirati royals, Wall Street bankers and Instagram influencers.

The festivities in late March were organized by Binance Holdings Ltd. in its de facto home of the United Arab Emirates, which is fast becoming a global hub for digital currencies. Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Changpeng "CZ" Zhao skipped the event as he recovered from COVID-19, but he was top of mind for partygoers, who said they aspire to replicate his rapid ascent from software developer to one of the world’s wealthiest people.

Following Zhao’s lead, many are flocking to the UAE, which he has called the "Wall Street of crypto.” The euphoria even has local bankers, lawyers and big tech executives pondering career pivots of their own to cash in.