“We are aware of the importance of the small and medium enterprises sector and the entrepreneurship sector, especially startups that are based on innovation, artificial intelligence, and advanced technologies. We are training young people and enabling them to take advantage of the opportunities offered by this vital sector to be a basic building block in the national economy.”
Oman’s capital, Muscat, is making huge strides to establish itself as a hub for tech entrepreneurs. Oman 2040 sets out a vision for the transition from an oil-and-gas–based economy towards a more diverse, knowledge-based one. Oman Future Fund, $5.2 billion available for investment across sectors of economic diversification, and $26 billion National Initiative AI were launched in early 2023. Muscat was chosen as the Arab Digital Capital 2022.
The Rising Omani Startups Programme has a goal of enabling innovation, supporting the establishment of startups, linking founders with business opportunities, and identifying investment opportunities for expansion outside Oman. The Omani Start-ups Program provides support for entrepreneurs at all stages. Omantel Labs works in partnership with the Central Bank of Oman (CBO) to host a growing Fintech sandbox and provide a six-month accelerator for startups working on solutions within 5G, IoT, Cybersecurity, customer experience, and Big Data. ITHCA Group is an investment arm of the government focused on building Oman’s IT infrastructure and digital capabilities. Oman Technology Fund offers OTF Techween, a pre-seed fund program that provides funding, coworking space, and mentoring.
Local startups include payments platform Thawani Technologies, IT consultancy Rihal, IoT-enabled logistics company Emushrif, and transportation app Otaxi. Crowdfunding platform Beehive connects investors with startups, and Ethisx is an investment platform focused on impact-driven crowd-investments and financing. In 2022, Qatar’s Snoonu acquired Omani food-delivery platform Akeed and Mexican car-buying platform Kavak bought Muscat’s Carzaty for an undisclosed sum. Saudi Healthtech labayh acquired OTF-funded Nafas in March 2023.
Ecosystem by the Numbers
By 2025, the value of Oman's Ecommerce market is predicted to reach $868 million. The sultanate has an estimated internet penetration rate of over 95.2%, and has high mobile broadband penetration and a robust 4G network. Tanweel, Bon, and X Garage are some notable Ecommerce startups from Oman. Delivery Hero's regional startup Talabat has operated successfully in the country since 2018. Floward is an ecommerce platform for flowers and gifts.
Oman is rapidly building out its Cleantech infrastructure, targeting $140 billion investments to develop the green hydrogen sector alone by 2050. The Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology has a goal of all new vehicles being electric or hydrogen-fueled by 2050. At Oman Sustainability Week 2022, Oman Shell and Oman Airports Management Company announced Shell’s Green Hydrogen for Mobility project, Oman’s first hybrid hydrogen station. Carbon mineralization startup 44.01 was the winner of the 2022 Earthshot Prize.
The Central Bank of Oman (CBO) is working on Open Banking and digital currency initiatives. The country’s roadmap envisions several accelerators, a regulatory sandbox, a cloud-computing framework, and an e-KYC initiative. CBO and Omantel have partnered on a Fintech accelerator for high-potential startups. Participating companies receive space at Omantel Innovation Labs and gain access to a network of over 100,000 investors, corporates, and mentors. Muscat Fintech startups include Bima, Thawani, and Wadiaa.
Reasons to Move Your Startup to Muscat
Muscat is at a key position on maritime routes linking Asia with Africa and Europe, providing trade connections and ample opportunity for advanced technologies in port operations, logistics, supply-chain management, and supply-chain finance. The nation’s free-trade zones include Duqm Free Zone, Sohar Free Zone, Salalah Free Zone, Maziona Free Zone, Innovation Park Muscat, and Knowledge Oasis Muscat.
Companies registered in Oman only have to pay a 15% corporate tax. No personal income tax applies, and goods move free of customs duties in the GCC. Invest Oman offers free investment advisory services. Oman scores high in the IPRI ranking for IP rights, at #4 in MENA and #32 in the world. The nation has many trade agreements, including the U.S.-Oman Free Trade Agreement, which allows U.S. investors the same rights as Omani investors.
The Rising Omani Startups Programme provides programs, funding, and networking opportunities. The Oman Talent Hub offers work experience in advisory and technology fields. Invest Oman promotes Oman as a base for businesses and provides soft-landing support. The Ministry of Higher Education Research and Innovation (MOHERI) provides comprehensive higher education, leading to a knowledge society.
Selected Startup Organizations
Startup Genome Members
The Rising Omani Startups Programme
The Rising Omani Startups Program is a three-year national program aimed at stimulating the ecosystem of emerging startups based on advanced technology and innovation in the Sultanate of Oman, contributing to spreading the culture of startups in educational institutions, enhancing community awareness of their importance, and escalating the Omani startups to the regional and global markets. The programme has three main pillars: capacity building, financing and investing, and a supportive regulatory framework.
Key Ecosystem Players
Authority for SME Development
The Authority for SMEs Development has registered over 100,000 SMEs and startups. It offers six incubation programs to empower innovation and technology based startups, and supports youth orientation toward entrepreneurship to achieve sustainable growth of the national economy. The authority provides funding to guarantee the continuity of SMEs managed by Omanis. It has loaned OMR 100 million to SMEs and startups. The 190,000 SMEs in Oman contribute 26% of Oman’s GDP.
The Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology
The Ministry strives to make transport and logistics the second source of national income and within the top 10 in logistics performance at the international level by 2040. It is also responsible for formulating and implementing digital strategies and programs, including the National Digital Transformational Program, the National Space Program, the National Digital Economy Program 2021-2025, and Sas Accelerator Program.
Omantel Innovation Lab
Omantel Innovation Labs engages a community of startups, corporate partners, academia, investors, and government entities to create a holistic ecosystem. It offers a six-month accelerator program that provides specialized technology and entrepreneurial support to technology startups working within 5G, IoT, Cyber Security, customer experience, and Big Data.
ITHCA Group (Oman ICT Group) was established to focus investments on the technologies of the fourth industrial revolution, as well as investing in the necessary infrastructure. Its core functionalities are to actively work on building Oman’s IT infrastructures, its networks, and enhance Oman’s digital capabilities. OMR 52 million is allocated for the fourth industrial revolution, with 29% for VC investments. OTF, part of ITHCA Group, has invested in 163 startups in three different stages. Ninety-two are Omani startups.
The Ministry of Higher Education Research and Innovation (MOHERI)
Oman Investment Authority
Oman Investment Authority is the Sultanate of Oman’s investment arm that has been mandated to manage and invest the state’s funds and assets to advance targeted economic sectors. It has spent 187 million OMR on SMEs and startups in 2022 whereby more than 8,000 SMEs and startups were supported. It invests in more than 40 countries worldwide in both public and private markets.
News from the Ecosystem
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