Entrepreneurs and investors explore development of Saudi start-up ecosystem

The inaugural Catalyze Saudi event, designed to explore the development of Saudi Arabia’s innovative start-up sector and showcase what the Kingdom has to offer, concluded earlier this week in Riyadh.

More than twenty industry leaders participated in the first Catalyze Saudi event under the theme of “Disruptive Technologies”. International guests included executives from a range of organizations including Onefootball, Silicon Valley Bank, Openspace Ventures, Sky9 Capital, Republic Records, Liberty City Ventures and MAGNiTT

The Catalyze Saudi event was the first in a series to be hosted by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia (MISA) and Jada Fund of Funds, which is fully owned by the Public Investment Fund (PIF). The two entities recently formed a partnership to reinforce the private sector’s impactful role in the Saudi economy and to support economic diversification.

This week’s event brought together top representatives from governments, institutional investors, companies, funds and leading family offices for a four-day custom program of highly interactive discussions.

International guest and Founder of MAGNiTT – a start-up data platform for emerging venture markets – Philip Bahoshy stated: “The catalyze event has been really momentous to bring the local ecosystem and the international investors all together and have engaging conversations around the current state and future opportunities that exist.”

Commenting on the success of the first Catalyze Saudi event, Jada Fund of Funds CEO, Adel Alateeq stated: “With emerging and disruptive technologies advancing and proliferating our lives at a staggering speed, both the implementation of digital technologies across the VCPE sector has been inevitable and imminent. This inaugural event therefore capitalized on the impact of this, as well as the transformation of mass economies as a result of the collaborative efforts of local innovative companies and their utilization of emerging technologies.” 

Dr Sara Althari, Managing Director of Biotech & Pharma and Advisor to the Minister of Investment, said: “Through delivery of the Kingdom’s first National Investment Strategy, the Ministry of Investment seeks to unleash the potential of the Kingdom’s young and dynamic business talent. Long-term active dialogue between venture capital and private equity investors and innovative start-up entrepreneurs is vital to build mutually beneficial relationships and unlock this potential.”

Athary Almubarak, Director of Strategy, Jada Fund of Funds added: “Through these conferences, Catalyze Saudi aims to connect pioneering investors, entrepreneurs and supporters and charge the exploration of investment opportunities in the Kingdom’s VCPE ecosystem and beyond. With the ever-growing entrepreneurial activity, innovative mindsets, and Saudi’s thriving start-up scene, we aim to shift courses toward an unrivalled economic market.”

The program begun with a private dinner at the residence of Hassan Jameel, Deputy President and Vice Chairman of Abdul Latif Jameel, at which guests discussed the geopolitics of technology with His Excellency Khalid Al Falih, Saudi Minister of Investment, and Mazen Al Jubeir, Chairman of the Board at Jada Fund of Funds.

Guests then spent two days in Jeddah, paying a visit to the globally renowned King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), where they heard form KAUST President Tony Chan. They were also provided a tour of several university-based projects including Drone-as-a-Service start-up Firnas Aero, AI software company UnitX Technologies and agricultural technology spinout Red Sea Farms.

The Jeddah program also included roundtables on the opportunities and challenges around technological disruption and the future of media, entertainment and sports in a meta world, as well as hospitality at Jeddah’s Formula 1 Grand Prix.

The program concluded in Riyadh with a diverse range of in-depth panel discussions on tackling scalability challenges, Web 3.0 and the potential for digital ownership, entrepreneurship in the Middle East, and disruptive technologies and trends in venture capital.

Further Catalyze Saudi events will be hosted this year and explore in-depth the private equity and healthcare sectors, plus more in the future.

As part of Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia aims to increase SME contribution to GDP from 21% to 35% by 2030 and last year MISA launched the Kingdom’s first National Investment Strategy to unlock the vast investment potential on offer in the Kingdom for both domestic and international investors.