JEDDAH: Saudi startups raised $76 million in the first quarter of 2021, a 137.5 percent increase on the previous quarter’s fundraising total of $32 million.
Entrepreneurship platform Wamda said that $396 million was raised from 125 deals in the Middle East and North Africa in the first quarter of 2021.
The UAE was the biggest market with 38 deals worth $256 million, while Egypt had 34 deals worth $22 million, and Saudi Arabia had 28 deals worth $76 million.
March boasted 43 deals worth $170 million, with agritech posting as the biggest sector with $50 million, followed by logistics ($37.5 million), food tech ($30.2 million), fintech ($26.5 million), mobility (10 million), and e-commerce ($8 million).
In the Kingdom, the number and value of deals increased dramatically quarter-on-quarter, rising 137 percent from the 13 deals worth $32 million reported in the fourth quarter of 2020.
Triska Hamid, editorial director of Wamda said: “The government’s push towards entrepreneurship is evident in the number of startups that have emerged in Saudi Arabia over the past few years. We are seeing more deal flow in the country and larger ticket sizes.”
Last year, Saudi Arabia recorded a 35 percent year-on-year increase in the number of investment deals in the technology startup sector. A study by data research platform Magnitt found that the Kingdom accounted for 18 percent of the 496 investment deals across the Middle East and North Africa last year.
Amal Dokhan, one of the Kingdom’s first female venture capitalists (VCs) and a partner at Californian venture capital firm 500 Startups, is confident that the Saudi market will continue to grow in 2021.
“What we are seeing now in 2021, the numbers will definitely increase when it comes to Saudi Arabia and the region as well. The reason is that last year, when it was not expected for things to increase, they actually turned out to be a positive year for many companies and startups, especially in fintech,” Dokhan told Arab News.
“The year has started with a positive sign for startups and VCs. Lots of international investors are looking into the Saudi market, so lots of prosperity I think is coming on this year and we are going to witness a good number of the deals as well,” she added.
In March, the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu and Wa’ed, Saudi Aramco’s entrepreneurship arm, signed a memorandum of understanding to promote the growth of new startups and small and medium-sized enterprises in Saudi Arabia’s two largest industrial cities.
“The Saudi startup ecosystem remains strong in spite of — and because of — the challenges posed by COVID-19,” Wassim Basrawi, managing director of Wa’ed, told Arab News, adding: “Wa’ed announced major VC investments in the first quarter in five exciting, disruptive Saudi startups. Our Q2 pipeline is filling up quickly and we will soon be announcing new deals.”