RIYADH: The entrepreneurship arm of Saudi Aramco has invested a further $500,000 in a Saudi drone operator to help scale its operations to expand overseas, it was announced on Wednesday.
Wa’ed’s first investment in FalconViz came in 2016, and the new funding will help the company grow in Europe, the US, and Africa.
The firm, based at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), north of Jeddah, offers a range of drone services, including 3-D surveying and mapping, inspections, construction monitoring, and data visualization.
Its drones have multiple uses including for land surveying, mining, urban development, and cultural heritage assessments. FalconViz’s clients include BCG, HSBC, Neom, and the Saudi Ministry of Culture. Its drones were also used by the city of Jeddah to survey 250,000 square meters of the historic Al-Balad Old Town neighborhood to support the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site application.
Mohamed Shalaby, FalconViz’s co-founder and vice president of business development, said the Wa’ed investment was “a welcome injection of funds and confidence in our offerings and business strategy. This will enable us to keep investing in our people, growing our services, and expanding our global presence across different sectors.”
Salman T. Jaffrey, the chief investment officer of Wa’ed Ventures, the venture capital arm of Wa’ed, said: “It’s great to see FalconViz flying high. To me, it’s gratifying to see one of our earliest venture capital investments commercialize its research technologies and grow globally.”
Wassim Basrawi, managing director at Wa’ed, said: “FalconViz is a perfect example of a Saudi startup identifying and filling a market gap by delivering innovative services.”
Founded in 2014, FalconViz currently has 24 employees and is licensed by the General Authority of Civil Aviation. Wa’ed was established by Saudi Aramco in 2011 to offer loan financing activities to entrepreneurs, while its Wa’ed Ventures VC arm oversees a $200 million investment fund and a portfolio of more than 30 Saudi-based companies.
In April, Wa’ed signed a collaboration agreement with the Falak Investment Hub to help drive venture capital investment in the Kingdom. Falak is a hybrid firm between a startup accelerator, co-working space, angel network, and an investment company targeting regional tech startups focusing on Saudi Arabia.
Founded in 2018 by female entrepreneur Adwa Al-Dakheel, Falak’s portfolio of startups has generated combined revenues of more than SR550 million ($146.67 million). Both organizations aim to exploit synergies to improve early stage and growth stage startups’ chances of success through support with training programs, market access, and mentorship.
Wa’ed also signed a memorandum of understanding in March with the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu to support the creation of new startups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Saudi Arabia’s two largest industrial cities.
Dhahran-based Wa’ed announced in January that it had tripled the amount of money loaned to startups in the Kingdom last year. It gave out 12 loans to SMEs, up from four in 2019, with the total value surging to SR31 million, compared to SR10 million in 2019.
“In a very challenging year, I am proud of the Wa’ed family, which includes my team and our resilient entrepreneurs, for rising to the challenges and keeping us on track to deliver an even greater impact in 2021,” Basrawi added.