Driven by legislative transformation and youthful demographic, the Saudi ecosystem has seen transformational growth in VC-backed startups and is expecting a tenfold investment boom over the next five years, presenting unique entrepreneurial and investment opportunities.
Saudi Arabia’s transformation from oil & gas powerhouse to an entrepreneurial hot spot for the MENA region is well underway. The government’s Saudi Vision 2030 sets out ambitious targets for the Kingdom’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, including increasing small businesses’ contribution to the GDP from 20% to 35% by 2030 and boosting foreign direct investment from 3.8% to 5.7% of GDP. Saudi startups will soon also be able to leverage the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA)’s DEEM, the largest government data cloud in MENA. The government has some high-profile international partners in these efforts. Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) partnered with Techstars to launch the Riyadh Techstars Accelerator in 2021 to help startups build and grow their business in the MENA region. Amazon recently announced a major expansion in Saudi Arabia that is set to create at least 1,500 new jobs in 2021. The online retail giant will increase its storage capacity in the Kingdom by 11%. The move speaks to the growing size and importance of E-commerce in Riyadh and the region. The ecosystem is further strengthened by local success stories and tech-focused events. A number of Riyadh-based companies saw an influx of funding even during the pandemic. In 2020, Nana, an online grocery platform, raised $18 million in a series B round in March, Morni, a roadside assistance platform, raised a Series B $9.1 million in December, and Jahez, a food delivery platform, raised $36.5 million in a Series A round in June 2020. Supported by MCIT and scheduled to take place in Riyadh in November, LEAP 21 aims to connect public and private organizations, drive female empowerment, and nurture the ecosystem’s tech startups. In early 2020 restaurant management platform Foodics raised a US$20 million Series B funding round led by Sanabil Investments.
Ecosystem by the numbers
Reasons to move your startup to Riyadh
Access to Funding
Ease of Doing Business
Saudi Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (SVCPEA)
Saudi Arabia’s Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (VCPEA), an industry body representing the Kingdom’s private equity and venture capital sector. The association aims to foster closer collaboration between innovative, high growth businesses and venture capital and private equity companies.
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