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RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is rapidly becoming a global hub for startups and entrepreneurs as the Kingdom continues to undertake massive diversification activities under Vision 2030, opening up new opportunities for innovative ideas and businesses thrive.

The Global Entrepreneurship Congress, or GEC, which opens next week on March 27 in Riyadh, is one such platform where young talent and emerging entrepreneurs from around the world will come together to tap into the market by booming start-ups in the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia was chosen to host the event as it ranked first out of 45 countries, with Riyadh ranking among the top five regional cities based on startup ecosystem performance, according to the research firm startup ecosystems Startup Genome.

The four-day event will feature 150 speakers from top policymakers, investors, company founders and CEOs, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Netflix co-founder Marc Randolph.

Startup ecosystem

Entrepreneurs around the world are eyeing Saudi Arabia as the country experiences a major shift in its economy, driving the Kingdom’s startup ecosystem.

Saudi Arabia saw a 54% increase in seed funding deals in 2021 compared to 2020 and accounted for 23% of all funding in the MENA region in 2021, according to a report by data platform MAGNiTT.

Egypt is one of the countries that has successfully unlocked these funding deals with Saudi Arabia, as the two countries share immense market opportunities for the startup ecosystem.

“Technology is the engine of the world, and Saudi Arabia is already one of the biggest potential markets in the MENA region in terms of ICT,” said Egyptian entrepreneur and founder of tech startup DevisionX, Mahmoud Abdelaziz. , in an interview with Arab News.

STRONG POINTS

• Saudi Arabia was chosen to host the event as it ranked first out of 45 countries, with Riyadh ranking among the top five regional cities based on startup ecosystem performance, according to the research firm on the Startup Genome startup ecosystem.

• The four-day event will feature 150 speakers from top policymakers, investors, company founders and CEOs, including Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple and Marc Randolph, co-founder of Netflix.

He will participate in the GEC to connect with investors and build partnerships.

“The Saudi Vision 2030 will also make a huge contribution to leading digital transformation in the region by supporting high-tech startups through investments and market opportunities,” Abdelaziz added.

As Egypt takes important steps in its 2030 initiatives, the performance of the country’s entrepreneurial ecosystem has seen growth over the past few years.

This puts local entrepreneurs in a better position to explore opportunities in Egypt and other countries in the region, including Saudi Arabia.

Saudi-Egyptian start-up agreements

Egyptian entrepreneurs have traveled to Saudi Arabia for financing and expansion plans, while many Saudi-based companies are doing the same in Egypt.

For example, Egyptian logistics startup Bosta recently announced its plans to expand into Saudi Arabia after raising Series B funding.

“As a focal area with a large economy and strong e-commerce activity, the attractiveness of the Saudi freight and logistics market attracts the attention of startups and investors,” said Bosta co-founder Mohamed. Ezzat in a statement.

This sentiment is also shared by many other logistics startups like Trella, which are executing expansion plans in the Kingdom.

Cairo-based digital freight marketplace Trella, which started operations in Egypt in 2018, expanded into the Kingdom and then raised $42m in its latest venture co-led funding round Saudi Raed Ventures.

“Trella is extremely optimistic and committed to the future of Saudi Arabia,” founder Omar Hagrass told Arab News, adding that “the Kingdom’s economy is diversifying and looking to use the latest technologies.”

He said that major international companies are investing large amounts of capital in the Kingdom market.

“All of this complements the Saudi Vision 2030 to fuel business growth and attract investment; this all bodes well for entrepreneurship in the country,” Hagrass added. Raed Ventures founding partner Omar Al-Majdouie said in a statement that Trella’s growth is a combination of the founders’ experience and a “booming cargo industry.”

While the Kingdom’s freight sector is seeing growth with new Egyptian startups entering the market, other sectors such as e-commerce are also seeing increased activity with acquisitions in both countries.

Saudi Arabia’s B2B e-commerce marketplace, Sary, recently announced the acquisition of Egypt-based e-commerce platform, Mowarrid.

The acquisition is part of Sary’s plan to expand into the North African market, starting with Egypt, Africa’s second largest economy.

“Egypt is a strategic market for us and has huge synergy with the Saudi and GCC markets,” Mohammed Al-Dossary, CEO and co-founder of Sary, said in a statement.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt share the stage of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, the two countries having recorded the highest number of investment deals in the MENA region, with 15 and 11 deals respectively in January 2022.

Saudi startups raised $219 million in February alone, more than half of the total $375 million in funding raised in the MENA region, according to a report by Wamda.

As the sky seems to be the limit for startups and entrepreneurs eyeing the Saudi market, deal sizes are only expected to increase in the coming days, with countries in the region like Egypt poised to follow suit. entrepreneurial.

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