Saudi start-ups build a platform for innovation

Updated 09 March 2018

Saudi start-ups build a platform for innovation

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is brimming with talent, creativity and the drive for innovation. Vision 2030, led by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, further corroborates the Kingdom’s support for aspiring youth and local businesses to thrive. These are six Saudi start-ups to look out for:

YOUPOSITIVE
YouPositive is an electronic platform founded by Zahra Al-Mohanna that connects users with their appropriate life-coach or counselor and offers affordable sessions online.
YouPositive helps those who wish to maintain anonymity.
Walaa Moathen, the CEO assistant, told Arab News: “It also helps counselors and life-coaches as without portals like us to introduce them, people rarely find out about the help they’re certified to offer.”
Sessions are an hour long, and prices differ depending on the sort of treatment the client requires and the life-coach; they cover career & income, parenting & children, relationships and self.

VIBES
Vibes offices is a fully equipped co-working space that aims to alter people’s perception of the workplace.
Creating an active community, Vibes has an activities calendar made to cater to those in its premises. It continuously works on events, workshops and training courses to help members connect with the right people.
Vibes has four plans to cater to freelancers, start-ups, designers, programmers, and those in need of a meeting space, with month-to-month rental agreements that give users a 24/7 space access.

THREE POINT ONE FOUR
Mohammed Al-Hashimi and Omar Abduljawad formed Pi, threepointonefour or 3.14, a team of passionate architects who work in a collaborative environment to provide users with smart spaces and experiences.
The team behind Pi celebrate visionary diversity by collaborating with others.
Pi Architects aims at improving the built environment in the region, by bringing together a variety of different thinkers and creators.

DOKKAN AFKAR
This Saudi-based e-commerce platform offers innovative gadgets and products in a flourishing market as it targets GCC online shoppers. It aims to provide local and international designers in all fields a program in which to display their products and creativity.
Ammar Wagnah, Abdullah Bajri and Mohammed Nasrallah started Dokkan Afkar to unite customers with quirky inspirational gizmos, from home and office appliances and accessories to the perfect gifts and brands for loved ones.
Dokkan Afkar want to bring in unique designers and collaborators to meet their customers’ expectations.

CURA
Wael Kabli and Mohammad Zekrallah created the first health care application in the Middle East that enables users to get in touch directly with certified, qualified doctors about medical cases. The user can use photos, videos and audio recordings to report their condition with their doctor of choice.
The Cura app creates a portal between patients and doctors through secure conversations and follow-up consultations, or, in dire cases, can direct them to see doctors in person.
Kabli told Arab News: “The idea for Cura formed around 2015 when my daughter needed to see a doctor around dusk for her ears. Of course, you can’t find any doctors around that time, and the nearest appointment would be during working hours. I decided to find a solution that makes doctors more accessible.”

PAYTABS
PayTabs offers clients a secure and convenient online B2B payment method. It enables businesses to accept online payments through the right technology for the current market.
It caters to corporations, growing SMEs and the e-commerce market. PayTabs’ clients can also share online invoices, create API plugins to integrate with their website and create an online store. The technology systems on offer help to prevent fraud.
PayTabs was founded by Abdulaziz Al-Jouf to offer users an opportunity to conduct and grow smart businesses on a local and international scale.


‘American Sharqawia’: US Consul General Rachna Korhonen bids Saudi Arabia farewell

Updated 09 July 2020

‘American Sharqawia’: US Consul General Rachna Korhonen bids Saudi Arabia farewell

  • "There’s some magic in the water of the desert," says Korhonen

JEDDAH: As she reaches the end of her second mission in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, US Consul General Rachna Korhonen will soon be heading home, taking memories to last a lifetime.
Known for her love for culture and the Arabic language and for her vast knowledge of the region, Korhonen became well known as a constant supporter of Saudi women and youth in the region, participating in numerous cultural and social events in the Eastern Province and across the Kingdom.
After two more weeks in the Kingdom, Korhonen will return to the US capital to serve as the executive director of the Bureau of Near East Affairs (NEA) and the Bureau of South Central Asian Affairs (SCA) at the US State Department which supports the posts in the region, including Saudi Arabia, thus continuing her connection with the Kingdom.
With 14 years of experience as a US diplomat, she served 3 years in Riyadh in 2010, and then came back to serve as the consul general in Dhahran in August 2017. “I would say Riyadh was the start of my relationship with Saudi Arabia, and Dhahran and the Eastern Province is the culmination of the relationship,” said Korhonen told Arab News on a video call. She almost feels herself Sharqawia, a resident of the Eastern Province, Sharqia.
“Ana Sharqawia (‘I am a Sharqawia). The measure of any place is the people, it’s not about the place, it’s really about the people.”
As consul general, her role was to build relations and promote the interests of her home in the country where she was posted. Korhonen went the extra mile, she joined in the region’s celebrations and understood its traditions and culture.


Recalling her time in the Eastern Province, she said: “I’ve been getting to know Sharqawis, the people who live and work here, who have made this their home in the years since Aramco started or were born in Al-Ahsa. I think anyone who comes to the Eastern Province falls in love,” she said.
“The biggest reason I’ve gotten to enjoy myself here is (because) it has quite a bit of America here. I think it’s difficult to realize how much America exists in Saudi Arabia until you come to the Eastern Province,” she added.
As the drilling for oil began in 1935 with the help of the California Arabian Standard Oil Company (CASOC), which later became Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s oil capital has been home to thousands of Americans over the past 85 years, who have had a major influence on the region.
“Aramco is definitely a reminder of home, and you put that in with the people, the hospitality, the normal way of being Saudi which is to welcome your guests no matter who they are. You put those things together, you get the best of the United States and you get the best of Saudi Arabia.”
A native of New Jersey and big baseball fan, her love for the game didn’t stop her from supporting the Al-Ettifaq Football Club in Dammam, attending matches and singing their anthem.
Her trips to Al-Ahsa, a place she calls the most beautiful place in the Kingdom, allowed her to discover the region’s vast experiences.
Her appreciation of Al-Ahsa goes deep. Both the scenery and the hospitality of the people make it her favorite city — she even took Ambassador John Abizaid on a trip there in February.
“As you drive towards Al-Ahsa, you can see the sand changing color, from a bright yellow to a reddish color,” she said. “You start seeing the desert turning green, which is amazing to me. I’m a mountain and forest type of person and I can tell you that I now like the desert too, it’s beautiful.”
The uniqueness of Al-Ahsa called out to Korhonen and she recalls her first visit to the region in 2017. “The history, the people, the food, the culture, is very different from any place I’ve been to in Saudi Arabia, Hasawis (people of Al-Ahsa) are lovely. I think there’s some magic in the water of the desert,” she said.
Korhonen developed an interest in regional cultural events, visiting local markets picking out sheep for Eid, learning about the Saudi love for falconry and participating in the traditional celebratory dance of Al-Arda. She even has a Diwaniya, a parlor where guests are received, at her home.

When she returned to the Kingdom in 2017, Korhonen noticed the transformation of the Kingdom, noting that Vision 2030 has been the instigator for this noticeable change.
“The changes have been tremendous, I think Vision2030 is really going to really bring Saudi Arabia onto the world stage. I think some parts are already there. In the energy sector, Saudi Arabia has always been a leader,” she said. “I’m betting you right now that you’re going to see Saudi women, you’re going to see Saudi men, you’re going to see Saudi kids, Saudi art, culture and music, the traditional Saudi things, all starting to show up on the world stage.”
As the Kingdom heads towards diversifying its economy, Korhonen anticipates that the world will begin seeing more Saudi entrepreneurs with innovative ventures, as education is key. She noted that with the continuous flow of Saudi students on scholarships in the US, their return to the Kingdom will help bring forth a new business-like mindset with partnerships between the two countries that will help the Kingdom’s economy to flourish.
“It’s coming,” she noted. “I’ve seen some of the (US) businesses here, but I haven’t seen enough yet and I’d like to see more of that in the next 2-5 years, because Vision 2030 will be a success if we can get entrepreneurs to start businesses and hire more Saudis,” she added. “That to me is the key and that is what you should be bringing back from the US.”
As the end of her mission draws near, it's safe to say that we'll be seeing Korhonen back in the Kingdom in the near future.
“I’ll honestly come back because of the people, because of the friendships I’ve made here.”