Saudi entrepreneurs and technology enthusiasts flourish in a tech-developing society

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Saleh Al-Mohsin, right, of Marn Tech.
Updated 11 November 2018

Saudi entrepreneurs and technology enthusiasts flourish in a tech-developing society

  • Initiative supports entrepreneurs and helps them develop their technical projects
  • Platforms include online grocery shopping, 3D printing and social media analytics

DUBAI: The next Steve Jobs could soon emerge in Saudi Arabia as young minds are being nurtured through an initiative aimed at fostering talent across the Kingdom.
Misk Innovation, which launched at GITEX Future Stars in Dubai last month, supports Saudi entrepreneurs to develop technical projects.
“It has been created because of all the inspiring talent that we have back home and the great opportunities,” said Deemah Al-Yahya, executive manager of Misk Innovation.
“Given the profound (impact) of digital and economic transformation the region is experiencing, the importance of innovation is growing. For the past 40 years or so, the region has achieved new levels of economic growth and modernization, transforming itself into one of the world’s dynamic economies.”
By focusing on innovation and collaboration, Al-Yahya said the region has become a technological advanced society with a highly motivated and educated workforce.
Misk Innovation was set up to help young Saudis to embrace the technological revolution. It aimed to provide a comprehensive framework to discover, develop and empower young Saudis.
“When you read about highly successful innovators such as Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, it’s easy to think that they have something the rest of us don’t have,” Al-Yahya said.
“They changed business, industries and the world itself. Each one of us can be one of them by learning some of these tactics, including not discounting any crazy idea — there were no thoughts of limitation based on age, experience, level or how the world operates but, as adults, many of us too quickly shut down our ideas.”
She explained such ideas are the root of the world’s most successful innovations. “The people who realize these revolutionary advancements let themselves believe that a crazy idea is always a reality,” she said.
She added that how you cope with fear is also key. “A lot of people believe that to be a leader in innovation, you have to be fearless,” she said. “In fact, successful innovators let their fear exist without letting it dictate their decision-making.
“Never think you know it all — even though we might think that successful people are truly the biggest experts in their fields, the ones that stay innovative never operate under that assumption.”
Entrepreneurs should surround themselves with heroes, she added, as successful innovators know that they cannot do it alone. “Innovation comes from hunger,” Al-Yahya said. “You can do something new that has never been done before or something that has, but in a new way.”
For Salem Alghanem, a near-failure proved to be a boon. Almost failing his first year at university led him to create Faheem, a platform connecting students with qualified tutors in the Kingdom. “The only way to get a tutor in Saudi is by word of mouth or by seeing posters around malls,” he said. “I faced this problem myself when I struggled in maths and that pushed me to create something that was needed.”
He launched the company last year, based in Riyadh. “The majority of our population is young and creating businesses gives them more experience and knowledge,” he said. “It will solve problems in the economy, while benefiting us and allowing us to shape our own future.”
Redwan Sulaimai, a 30-year-old data analyst from Jeddah, works at Lucidiya, which was created two years ago in Jeddah to help fill a gap in the field of social media. “It’s about social media analytics in the Arabic language,” he said. “There’s a lack of tools focusing on Arabic, which allow us to find public sentiment and the volume of interaction with certain topics in Saudi Arabia. We prepare reports for our clients or annual subscriptions.”
The company is a rare operator in this market. “Twitter is probably the most popular platform in Saudi Arabia and the easiest one for people to express their feelings on any topic,” Sulaimai said. “There’s a huge lack in this field. Data is the future of the region, and it’s one of the biggest motivations for me to dig deeper and explore more.”
3D printing led Omar Abuhabaya, from Jeddah, to create two years ago. The company provides printing services, converting ideas into physical products. “We do architectural models, spare part protection, characters and solutions,” said the 26-year-old mechanical engineer.
The startup allows designers to upload their 3D model, select the material and scale of their design, and receive instant pricing, production and shipment. Abuhabaya explained: “I bought the printer as a student and used it at home so every time I’d leave my house, I’d come back to a gift with products popping out of the machine. In this industrial revolution, technologies, such as the internet of things, 3D printing and artificial intelligence, are disrupting markets and economies and we should capitalize on this now. Small and medium-sized enterprises can make a difference in the region and startup communities can dictate the coming years.”
Noura Alzoman, a 27-year-old nutritionist, was a founder of ZadFresh, an online grocery shopping platform. “We’ve become the biggest company in Saudi Arabia for grocery shopping,” she said. “We want to help young Saudis’ lifestyle.”
Saleh AlMohsin created Marn Tech in 2016 to provide SMEs with their own cash register, integrated with banks and the tax authority in the Kingdom. “Saudi Arabia is starting with VAT this year so most shops don’t have a cash register,” said the 33-year-old. This is low-cost, easily accessible and digital.”
For Misk Innovation, providing challenges to the startups, linked to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and the United Nations’ Sustainability Goals, opens up a window to the youth to start coming up with ideas and problem-solving.
“Once they do, we support them in creating their ventures,” Al-Yahya said. “We’re moving from an oil-based to a diversified economy.”
Misk Innovation believes that looking at the whole value chain with startups is vital. “We provide the opportunity to incubate startups, bring great resources from the world, from experts and mentors to programs, to our Saudi start-ups to support and help them grow,” Al-Yahya added.
“We connect the dots and create a one-stop-shop. We (must) come together with absurd ideas and ‘what ifs,’ support and help each other, think together and believe that we can do it together. We have curious innovative minds, which will push us all to the edge of innovation where we can make a global leap of faith together.”

Riyadh Season Boulevard zone opens with spectacular parade

Updated 18 October 2019

Riyadh Season Boulevard zone opens with spectacular parade

  • The Riyadh parade is thought to be the biggest parade in Kingdom to date

RIYADH: More than 1,500 performers and 25 floats took part in a parade and carnival on Thursday night that officially launched Riyadh Season’s Boulevard zone. The crowds that gathered for the fun-packed event were also treated to motorcycle displays, fireworks and other surprises.

The Boulevard lit up at 9 p.m. for the start of the 90-minute event, which featured some of the international artists who will perform as part of Riyadh Season. Afterwards, the zone’s food and drink outlets, outdoor cinema and fountain shows officially opened.

The audience watched the parade, performances and displays from specially constructed stands. Food trucks offered a selection of tasty snacks, and organizers also provided prayer rooms, toilets, first-aid stations and other facilities.


GEA president Turki Al-Sheikh gave an opening speech: “Our dearest people, in the beginning of this season, we welcome you and our guests in Riyadh.

“I want to share a story with you all; once upon a time, I was from a middle-class family. My mother and father would gather both their salaries to have us travel to see the world, and then we would stay in Riyadh for a year. These were our capabilities (at the time) and there was nothing to do in Riyadh. Who would've thought that we’d see all of this in Riyadh, and in our beloved country?

“This wouldn't have been possible without -of course Allah first- a person who has the qualities and vision of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”

He tweeted: “Riyadh traffic police estimated we have exceeded 600K which means ten times the capacity.”

In addition to the opening-night festivities, the Boulevard zone, which covers 400,000 square meters, will host a wide range of entertainment options and activities for all ages, including the outdoor cinema, restaurants, and sports, music and theatrical events. It has three main venues: The 22,000-seat Mohammed Abdu Theater, the 6,000-seat Abu Bakr Salem Theater, and the 2,000-seat Baker Al-Sheddi Theater.

The parade is just one of more than 100 events featuring local, regional and international performers taking place during the Riyadh Season festival, which continues until mid-December at 12 zones across the city: the Boulevard; the Front; Riyadh Car Show; Winter Wonderland; Riyadh Stadiums; the Diplomatic Quarter; Al-Muraba’a; Al-Malaz; Wadi Namar; Nabd Al-Riyadh; Riyadh Safari; and Riyadh Sahara. It has been organized with the support of Turki Al-Sheikh, chairman of the General Entertainment Authority and president of Riyadh Season.

The ambitious 2019 Saudi Seasons initiative, the first of its kind in the region, was launched in February and includes 11 local seasons covering most parts of the Kingdom. Designed to promote the fledgling Saudi entertainment sector and boost tourism, it is attracting some of the biggest names in world entertainment.

The Riyadh parade is thought to be the biggest parade in Kingdom to date. It follows a folklore parade at the Mawtni (My Nation) cultural event in Yanbu to mark Saudi National Day this year, and a parade during the Jeddah Season festivities in the city’s Obhur district.

The parade had a special surprise; the appearance of DJ Carnage who took to the stage dressed in complete Saudi attire and performed his successful electronic show.

The musician also took to Twitter to celebrate the night and how he had had a hand in “making history,” tweeting: “A huge thank you to @Turki_alalshikh  ..... what you did for your country last night... was so special... thank you for having me... we made history.”