Thriving Saudi startup scene to produce top-30 companies, WEF hears

audi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih (L) told the forum that he expects the startups of today to be among the Kingdom’s biggest companies in a decade’s time. (Screenshot)
Updated 08 April 2019

Thriving Saudi startup scene to produce top-30 companies, WEF hears

  • Agile new businesses of today will be among Kingdom’s largest by 2030, World Economic Forum hears
  • Khalid Al-Falih told the forum that he expects the startups of today to be among the Kingdom’s biggest companies

DEAD SEA, Jordan: Saudi Arabia’s startup scene is “moving faster than anyone can imagine” and is set to create hundreds of thousands of jobs over the coming years, the World Economic Forum in Jordan heard on Saturday.
The region’s most successful tech ventures — like ride-hailing service Careem, which Uber recently agreed to buy for $3.1 billion, and web portal Maktoob, which was acquired by Yahoo in 2009 — have emerged from more established startup hubs of Dubai and Amman.
But the next wave is seen emerging from Saudi Arabia, panelists said at the regional meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) at the Dead Sea.
Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih told the forum that he expects the startups of today to be among the Kingdom’s biggest companies in a decade’s time.
“Our enterprises will multiply in size,” he said. “I predict that by 2030, companies that we don’t know today will be among the top 20, 30 companies in Saudi Arabia. They will be driven by innovation, they will be driven by young people, they will be driven by women.”
The government has a role to play in encouraging more Saudi startups, along with a culture where young people experiment in business, the minister added.
“(It’s about) creating an environment where failure is not encouraged, but certainly dealt with in a positive way — and that young people are given the opportunity to fail, fail, fail, and succeed ultimately, and not only create opportunities for themselves … but also employment and opportunities for hundreds of thousands of people.”
Al-Falih pointed to the venture capital funds and startup incubators that are already active in the Kingdom.
“We hope to see hundreds of these startups coming up with innovations that are not only going to change our countries in the region, but indeed in due course will be part of the global movement where young, innovative enterprises are creating the economies and the solutions of the future,” he said.
Ten Saudi companies made it to the WEF’s 100 most promising startups for 2019, with entrepreneurs from the Kingdom in attendance at the event.
Fadi Ghandour, the founder of courier service Aramex and executive chairman of venture capital firm Wamda Capital, said that the Kingdom’s startup scene has virtually transformed overnight.
“I am extremely impressed. Suddenly you thought nothing is happening, and then you wake up in the morning and you say ‘what happened here?’,” he told a panel at the event.
“Saudi Arabia is a country that is changing, it is moving faster than anybody can image … It’s an exciting time, it is where the region is going to scale its businesses.”
Ghandour was joined on the panel by Ayman Alsanad, co-founder and CEO Mrsool, the Saudi delivery app that recently received multi-million dollar investments from Saudi Technology Ventures and others.
Audrey Nakad, co-founder of the education platform Synkers, which is based in Lebanon, told the panel that her company is preparing to expand into Saudi Arabia. Synkers provides a link between tutors and students looking for additional help.


Fishing rights top Brexit talks agenda

Updated 30 November 2020

Fishing rights top Brexit talks agenda

  • A no-deal scenario is widely expected to cause economic chaos

LONDON: Last-ditch Brexit trade talks continued in London on Sunday with fishing rights remaining an “outstanding major bone of contention,” according to British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier told reporters that “work continues, even on a Sunday,” as he arrived for the second day of talks.

Barnier had arrived in London on Friday following a spell in self-isolation after a member of his team contracted coronavirus and ahead of the resumption of talks with British counterpart David Frost on Saturday.

Both men warned that a deal could not be reached without major concessions from the other party.

There are only five weeks to go until the end of the current transition period, during which trade relations have remained largely unchanged.

The two key sticking points remain post-Brexit access to British fishing waters for European vessels and the EU’s demand for trade penalties if either side diverges from common standards or state aid regulations rules.

Raab told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday that this could be the final week of “substantive” talks, with time running out to agree and ratify a deal.

“There’s a deal to be done,” he said.

“On fishing there’s a point of principle: As we leave the EU we’re going to be an independent coastal state and we’ve got to be able to control our waters,” he added.

Barnier told envoys last week that London was asking that European access to UK waters be cut by 80 percent, while the EU was willing to accept 15 to 18 percent, according to a Brussels source.

A British official called the demands “risible,” according to the domestic Press Association, adding that the “EU side knows full well that we would never accept this.”

“There seems to be a failure from the Commission to internalize the scale of change needed as we become an independent nation,” said the source.

However, Raab was cautiously optimistic over the “level playing field” issue, saying “it feels like there is progress toward greater respect” for Britain’s position.

A failure to reach an agreement would see Britain and the EU trading on World Trade Organization terms, with tariffs immediately imposed on goods traveling to and from the continent.

As it stands, Britain will leave Europe’s trade and customs area on Dec. 31, with no prospect of an extension.

A no-deal scenario is widely expected to cause economic chaos, with customs checks required at borders.

Concern is particularly acute on the border between EU member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland, where the sudden imposition of a hard border threatens the delicate peace secured by 1999’s Good Friday Agreement.

The talks have already dragged on much longer than expected and time is running out for ratification of any deal by the European Parliament by the end of the year.