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.


Riyadh property market swells as mortgages surge 250%

Updated 29 January 2020

Riyadh property market swells as mortgages surge 250%

  • Vision 2030 economic reforms and major infrastructure projects encourage investment into capital’s real estate sector

LONDON: Riyadh recorded a 250 percent jump in mortgages last year as the value and number of property deals surged in the Saudi capital.

The volume of real estate transactions rose by 53 percent in 2019 compared to a year earlier while the value of transactions was up 63 percent according to a report from broker CBRE.

“The recent economic and social initiatives and legislation introduced by the Saudi Government have already had an extremely positive impact on the country’s real estate sector,” said Simon Townsend, head of strategic advisory at CBRE MENAT. “We are already starting to witness impressive growth across major real estate segments including residential, hospitality and retail, and this upwards trajectory is likely to continue in the short to medium term.”

Ongoing economic reforms under the Vision 2030 initiative have encouraged investment into the real estate sector while spending on major infrastructure projects such as the Riyadh Metro and tourism developments on the Red Sea coast have helped to boost confidence despite oversupply concerns.

“Overall, the country is making great leaps in its efforts to become a global business hub and world-class tourism destination, and the market is expected to continue to react positively to the efforts of the public and private sectors alike,” added Townsend.

Residential mortgages for individuals in the Kingdom recorded a growth rate of more than 250 percent in terms of the number of contracts signed from January 2019 — November 2019, according to the CBRE data. The value of contracts rose by more than 160 percent in the same period year-on-year. 

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At the end of last year, the capital’s residential supply stood at 1,290,000 residential units with an expected delivery of 111,000 additional units by 2023.

In October 2019, the Ministry of Housing launched an initiative to support residential renovations by providing financing for residential units more than 15 years old which is expected to result in higher activity among existing aging stock within the central districts of Riyadh.

Beneficiaries of the Saudi Ministry of Housing’s ‘Sakani’ initiative aimed at increasing the national rate of home ownership, grew by about 14 percent in 2019.

At the end of last year, the capital’s residential supply stood at 1,290,000 residential units with an expected delivery of 111,000 additional units by 2023, CBRE said.

Hotel occupancy is also on the rise in the capital and is expected to receive a further boost from Saudi Arabia hosting the G20 summit this year.

The opening of Qiddiya entertainment giga project which is scheduled for 2023 is also expected to benefit the tourism sector.

There are currently about 17,700 hotel rooms in Riyadh with another 4,500 expected to enter the market by 2023. Hotel occupancy has risen by 5 percent year-on-year, CBRE said.