DHAHRAN: Saudi Aramco’s entrepreneurship arm Wa’ed on Wednesday launched its first roadshow event to unearth and fund the next generation of Saudi entrepreneurs.
Wa’ed has up to SR100 million ($27 million) at its disposal to hand out in loans and venture capital investments to commercially feasible ventures that would fill existing gaps in the Kingdom’s economy.
Aiming to support game-changing ideas that will create new jobs, the Wa’ed entrepreneurship roadshow will hold a series of events in six Saudi cities from September to December.
Jubail, Yanbu, Riyadh, Jeddah, Makkah, and Madinah will play host to the tour being organized in association with some of Wa’ed’s key partners, including the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu, Monsha’at, the Saudi General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises, development firm Namaa Almunawara, and investment company Wadi Makkah.
“These shows are a coordinated effort with our partners to find and fund new entrepreneurs who will add value to the Saudi entrepreneurial ecosystem and accelerate the pace of economic diversification in the Kingdom,” said Wassim Basrawi, Wa’ed managing director.
Wa’ed’s aim is to seek bold ideas with potential to positively contribute to the development and diversification of the Saudi economy.
“Seventy out of over 100 startups we supported were the first of their kind and received their first-ever investment from us, and this is what we are targeting now; distinguished and not yet supported startups and ideas,” Basrawi added.
Online applications for all Saudi-based entrepreneurs were due to open on Wednesday. After two selection rounds, successful applicants will be invited to participate in the roadshows in their cities, where events will include startup pitch competitions in the style of TV’s “Shark Tank,” and industry discussions and debate.
The tour will focus on sectors such as financial, agricultural, and environmental technology, industrial applications, reverse engineering, drones, petrochemicals, supply chain, and tourism.
In addition to Wa’ed’s incubation and mentoring services, participants will either earn fast-track funding, including loans for up to SR5 million or venture capital investments with up to SR19 million, and non-refundable grants of SR25,000, SR50,000, and SR75,000.
Amin Nasser, chief executive officer of Aramco, said: “Wa’ed has come a long way since 2011 to support talented Saudis to help them turn their business ideas into real drivers for growth and innovation.
“But the next 10 years will be even more crucial for our entrepreneurial ecosystem as the pace of transformation in-Kingdom accelerates with opportunities emerging in new business growth sectors such as technology, e-commerce, and renewable energy.
“That’s why the roadshows by Wa’ed in six cities across the Kingdom are important to make the most of these opportunities to nurture and enable a more vibrant entrepreneurial culture in Saudi Arabia.”
All those taking part in the roadshow will be able to join and benefit from Wa’ed’s Innovation Ecosystem Society which has more than 1,500 local and international members and around 400 mentors.
Enrichment events and meetings with inspirational speakers, as well as interview-based podcasts, workshops, and webinars will start ahead of the competition and will continue until the end of the program in order to provide value to as many potential beneficiaries from the initiative as possible.
Through the scheme, Wa’ed intends to expand its portfolio more evenly throughout the country. Currently, around 60 percent of its investments are in the Eastern Province, with the remainder distributed around the Kingdom.
Wa’ed has also set a goal to double its annual loan and venture capital deal volume by 2023 in a bid to support the Kingdom’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and keep up with the pace of transformation and emerging opportunities in crucial sectors including technology, e-commerce, and renewable energy.
Wa’ed currently supports more than 100 entrepreneurial businesses in Saudi Arabia by providing the necessary financial support, guidance, and tools for entrepreneurs with creative ideas and startups.
Saudi Aramco’s entrepreneurship center was established in 2011 with a mission to nurture Saudi entrepreneurs and their businesses to strive and help develop the Saudi economy. Since its inception, Wa’ed has invested more than $100 million.
It is the only no-collateral lender and largest institutional venture capital investor in Saudi-based startups.