Companies expand venture capital funding for women-led startups in Saudi Arabia

Visitors shop at businesses owned by Saudi women in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. (REUTERS file photo)
Visitors shop at businesses owned by Saudi women in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. (REUTERS file photo)
Short Url
Updated 27 June 2021

Companies expand venture capital funding for women-led startups in Saudi Arabia

Visitors shop at businesses owned by Saudi women in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. (REUTERS file photo)
  • Female entrepreneurship in startup ecosystems is now flourishing, with government, banks and institutions stepping up support

JEDDAH: The landscape for women entrepreneurs is swiftly evolving in Saudi Arabia through positive economic trends, and despite there being a long way to go, with the right help, female entrepreneurs can rise high.
According to a Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report in 2020, about 36.6 percent of women’s entrepreneurial intentions were reported in the Middle East and North Africa region, with Saudi female entrepreneurs being highly involved in increasing the rate of workforce participation.
“Women-led businesses are among the leading ventures, but still struggle to survive the gender investment gap. Women entrepreneurs fear failing, especially if the people surrounding them are skeptical of their capability in business,” said Emon Shakoor, CEO and founder of Blossom Accelerator, Saudi Arabia’s first tech-inclusion and female-focused accelerator that provides founders with community, network and educational resources, as well as curated investment opportunities.
She added that when male venture capitalists or angel investors do make decisions, they are twice as likely to invest in similar founding teams rather than female businesses.
Among the different barriers, the paucity of women-owned businesses in the digital business sector is also puzzling. “During the pandemic, several businesses witnessed the emergence of online communities, an increase in the use of fintech technology and digitalization of several consumer products that made money even in the slow economy. This led female entrepreneurs to an eye-opening insight and encouraged them to a paradigm shift in technology,” Shakoor said.
Blossom has mentored more than 300 companies, of which 47 went on to receive investment, leading to about SR27 million ($7.2 million) in early-stage pre-seed and seed-stage funding.
“To better address women’s needs, we believe it’s important to support and empower them with tips and step-by-step guidance to help women entrepreneurs transform their business concepts into high-potential tech enterprises, and involve more women in running incubators or investment committees that instantly help in leveling the gender and cultural gap field.”
But despite these issues, women’s empowerment in the Kingdom is evident, as they constitute a vital part of the nation’s workforce and are nothing short of a portrait of success.

Women-led businesses are among the leading ventures, but still struggle to survive the gender investment gap. Women entrepreneurs fear failing, especially if the people surrounding them are skeptical of their capability in business.

Emon Shakoor, CEO, Blossom Accelerator

“Female entrepreneurship in startup ecosystems is now flourishing, with government, banks and institutions stepping up support. The government has already started several initiatives that are committed to driving gender equality in the business world and helping female entrepreneurs succeed in their businesses,” said Shahad Geoffrey, CEO of Taffi, a venture capital-backed startup that caters to online personal styling and shopping services by using algorithms to curate clothing items based on size, budget and style.
Sharing the same sentiment, Saria Alderhali, founder and CEO of Bondai, the first two-sided marketplace in Saudi Arabia that helps millennial travelers discover and book curated experiences, said: “There has been a dramatic rise in the number of accelerators, funds, incubators and other institutions in recent years, which has truly accelerated growth in the startup and venture capital ecosystem and in the Saudi economy as a whole. Still, there is a need for more female role models, more support for female founders, and more female-focused accelerators and funds.”
Bondai also supports travel companies online and helps them automate their processes and grow their businesses. The company empowers travel-related operators to better manage their trips and acquire more frequent and faster bookings, while also providing a variety of options for the experience-seeking customer.
Several investors and venture capitalists have weeded out institutional patterns by recognizing the great potential of ideas presented to them by women entrepreneurs. They look for businesses that will focus on fulfilling societal needs by providing increased numbers of jobs and a work culture that empowers career development and contributes to enhancing economic infrastructure.
One such well-valued active venture capital firm in the Saudi and MENA region, Hala Ventures, believes in funding companies that benefit society through investment and consultancy. The company empowers talented women-owned businesses, enabling them to reach their highest potential.
Ali Ahmed Abussaud, a founding managing partner of Hala Ventures, told Arab News: “About 60 percent of the team are women across investment, marketing and administration. On the company portfolio level (funded companies), one company has been fully founded by women, and the other two companies have been co-founded by female founders. “We at Hala Ventures are now looking into several companies that are co-founded by female founders, as we believe that women are the fastest-growing market segment. They start businesses and achieve sustainable revenue at a higher rate.”

Abussaud added: “Women entrepreneurs are essential, since it extends women’s financial freedom, increases income per family and develops the social wellbeing of society, which results in the improvement of the overall status of the economy.”


Who’s Who: Abdulrahman Al-Nimari, chief information security officer at KSA’s Rock Solid Group

Who’s Who: Abdulrahman Al-Nimari, chief information security officer at KSA’s Rock Solid Group
Updated 22 October 2021

Who’s Who: Abdulrahman Al-Nimari, chief information security officer at KSA’s Rock Solid Group

Who’s Who: Abdulrahman Al-Nimari, chief information security officer at KSA’s Rock Solid Group

Abdulrahman Al-Nimari has been the chief information security officer at Rock Solid Group since August.

A cybersecurity expert and regular conference speaker, he has more than 25 years of experience in the information technology and cybersecurity sectors.

At RSG, he is responsible for developing and implementing a strategic, long-term information security strategy and roadmap to ensure that data assets are adequately protected.

He has been an independent cybersecurity architect and consultant since 2019.

From September 2017 to June 2019, he was lead cybersecurity systems architect for ManTech International Corp. where he was in charge of developing security strategies and utilizing new technologies to enhance security capabilities and implement improvements.

Between March and August 2017, he held the position of chief enterprise security architect at Security Matterz.

Al-Nimari was technical manager and senior security consultant at Riyadh Business Machines from August 2013 to February 2017, and an IT manager at the Ministry of Education between January 2008 and July 2013.

During his time with the ministry, he also worked as cybersecurity team leader on a major education system project and was a network and system administrator and supervisor.

He gained a bachelor’s degree in English from Umm Al-Qura University.

Al-Nimari has headed numerous cybersecurity initiatives and projects for government and private-sector bodies.

He pointed out that all members of society had a duty to be aware about cybersecurity. “It is our role to participate in protecting the cyberspace of our beloved Saudi Arabia,” he said.


Saudi FM discusses Iran nuclear talks with EU envoy — statement

Saudi FM discusses Iran nuclear talks with EU envoy — statement
Updated 22 October 2021

Saudi FM discusses Iran nuclear talks with EU envoy — statement

Saudi FM discusses Iran nuclear talks with EU envoy — statement

CAIRO: Saudi foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud discussed the Iran nuclear talks with the European Union envoy coordinating talks on reviving the Iran nuclear deal, Enrique Mora, the Saudi Foreign ministry said on Thursday.
“They discussed developments regarding the Iranian nuclear program talks, and international efforts to ensure that Iran does not violate international agreements and treaties in this regard,” it added in a statement.


‘Open library’: Tourists in AlUla glimpse distant past in Ikmah’s ancient inscriptions

‘Open library’: Tourists in AlUla glimpse distant past in Ikmah’s ancient inscriptions
Updated 22 October 2021

‘Open library’: Tourists in AlUla glimpse distant past in Ikmah’s ancient inscriptions

‘Open library’: Tourists in AlUla glimpse distant past in Ikmah’s ancient inscriptions

ALULA: Imagine stepping back into a time before cell phones, emails, or even paper. During this era, documenting important moments was simplified to sketching on rocks.
This is Ikmah mountain, or the “open library” as it is referred to by AlUla’s locals. AlUla was a highlight on the trading route many took through the Arabian Peninsula. Travelers stopped at the mountain to document their stories or carve their names for those who came after them.
“We call Ikmah the ‘open library.’ If you want to know why it has this name, have a look around for a few seconds and you will see inscriptions all over the mountain,” Amal Aljahani, an expert Rawi storyteller, told Arab News.

Ikmah has over 500 inscriptions from the Dadan and Lihyan civilization. The earliest texts from the mountain have been studied and translated by historians and archeologists and have been dated back to the ninth and 10th century B.C. 
The languages in the mountain include Aramaic, Thamudic, Dadanitic, Minaen, Nabatean, Greek, Latin, and Arabic. An important area for historians, Arabic linguistics experts, and archaeologists, the mountain offers a look back into the pre-Arabic era.
Tourists from the Kingdom and international visitors gather for hours to sit in front of the high peaks and observe the delicate techniques of the ancient language that turned into the modern Arabic letters we know today.

Some inscriptions were written by the region’s professional scribes while others were merely sketches by travellers and locals passing by years ago.
Many of these messages differed in meaning, some surviving inscriptions are names written in the ancient Arabic text, but many involve tales of the ongoing events of the local community.
These inscriptions described the kings who ruled the land, the religious beliefs of the people, and sometimes notes for other visitors.
Ikmah held a high place in the hearts of the locals and travelers. It was a sacred ground for pagan worship and sacrifice along with documentation.  One of the inscriptions on the mountains was written by a woman named “Mirwa,” who carved her name into the rocks and detailed an offering she made to her deity.

“The woman used to come here and give her deity offerings to bless her and her children. The inscription says the deity blessed her and her children. Those are the kinds of things the people wrote here on this beautiful mountain,” Aljahani said.
Mirwa returned to add another inscription that her prayers were answered and her sons were blessed.
Some of these inscriptions are personal, while others are names or drawings of animals and musical instruments.
The oldest inscription in the Islamic era — known as the Naqsh Zuhayr — and the earliest glimpses into the Arabic language are documented on the east side. The inscriptions date back to 644 A.D.
The mountain hosts different inscription methods, Aljahani said, such as “carving inside the alphabet to be clearer.”
He added: “The second way is what we call the 3D way. It is the hardest method. They beautifully carved in between the alphabet letters using sand stones for the message to be clearer.”
In 2017, the Royal Commission of AlUla closed the mountain to begin preparation for the public to visit. Ikmah is now prepared and open to the public under the commission’s supervision.

 

The rebirth of AlUla
Hegra, ancient city of the Nabataeans in Saudi Arabia’s historic AlUla Valley, is emerging from the mists of time to take its rightful place as one of the wonders of the world
Enter
keywords

 


Saudi education minister, Egyptian envoy discuss cooperation

Saudi education minister, Egyptian envoy discuss cooperation
Updated 21 October 2021

Saudi education minister, Egyptian envoy discuss cooperation

Saudi education minister, Egyptian envoy discuss cooperation

RIYADH: Saudi Education Minister Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Sheikh met with the Egyptian Ambassador to the Kingdom, Ahmed Farouk Tawfiq, to enhance joint cooperation between the two countries in the education field.
The two sides also discussed the development of scientific and research partnerships between the countries’ universities along with the exchange of expertise and experiences in educational technologies.
The talks focused on joint cooperation between the Kingdom and Egypt in educational programs and ways to benefit from the development plans and programs implemented by educational institutions in both countries.
Saudi Ministry of Education’s undersecretary for international cooperation, Saleh Al-Qassumi, undersecretary for public education, Mohammed Al-Muqbil, undersecretary for university education, Mohammed Al-Adib, general supervisor of the general administration of media and communication, Ahmed Al-Jumaiyah, and supervisor of the public relations department, Saleh Al-Thubaiti, also attended the meeting.


Pilgrim services in the spotlight at GITEX Dubai

Pilgrim services in the spotlight at GITEX Dubai
Updated 21 October 2021

Pilgrim services in the spotlight at GITEX Dubai

Pilgrim services in the spotlight at GITEX Dubai

DUBAI: As part of the Saudi Ministry of Interior’s pavilion at GITEX Technology Week 2021 in Dubai this week, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah showcased the state-of-the-art technologies it employs to deliver the services the Kingdom provides to pilgrims and other visitors.
They include artificial intelligence technologies that are used as part of the ministry’s digital platform to help pilgrims.
They access the platform using smart cards that contain key information, including the details of their visit and medical data. This is used to organize their journeys.
The ministry’s aim in adopting the latest technology is to provide upgraded services and develop the work of the pilgrim-services system as a whole.