JEDDAH: Over 600 startup applications have been received for Wa’ed, Saudi Aramco Entrepreneurship Center, roadshows in different cities of the Kingdom. Following the first and second roadshows, the third one took place in Jeddah in partnership with King Abdullah University for Science and Technology on Tuesday.
Looking at the innovation ecosystem today, Fahad Alidi, Managing Director at Wa'ed said he foresees doubling their investments over the coming 2 to 3 years.
“There’s no doubt that the roadshow was a great success. We had over 600 brilliant applications throughout the roadshow. This leaves us extremely eager for the next stops; we’re stopping at Riyadh, then later in Madina, then we’ll finalize our roadshow in Makkah,” he told Arab News.
“But the roadshow is only the beginning of a long term relationship with us and the entrepreneurs. We help them grow their startups not only in Saudi but across borders. A partnership with Wa’ed means access to major infrastructure and our network. We are with them throughout their journey as they grow,” he added.
He said the center’s investment strategy is dictated by quality, profitability, and an impact on the innovation system in the Kingdom. “We are constantly in search of original ideas and products that address critical people’s needs. We do not partner only to profit. We partner to grow.”
He said Wa’ed is focused on five high impact strategic domains; sustainability, social, digital, industrial, and manufacturing.
“Sustainability and social are driven by a deep sense of responsibility that we have towards the environment and society. Digital because of the massive digital transformation the Kingdom is going through, while industrial and manufacturing are two critical pillars of the Kingdom’s economic development story,” he said.
Hattan Ahmad, Head of KAUST Entrepreneurship Center said KAUST aspires to be the entrepreneurial destination for deep tech startups from here and abroad.
He said that next year, the center aims to increase its open online courses with a goal of reaching 100,000 learners. "We are also expanding our flagship accelerator TAQADAM, in partnership with SABB, within Saudi Arabia and to new markets in MENA,” he told Arab News.
The KAUST Entrepreneurship Center is dedicated to building talent through a variety of programs, including an edX course called Entrepreneurship Adventures that has attracted over 71,000 learners, bootcamps, hackathons, and innovation challenges, and academic courses offered to students within KAUST.
“The Center backs founders to support their journeys and invest into startups and connect them to industrial players and ecosystem players,” he said.
He added: “KAUST Entrepreneurship model is built around creating a knowledge exchange zone connecting startups, industry and government to support founders in their journey and creating impact.”
Mohammed Al-Humali, a Saudi physician and consultant in the healthcare sector and cofounder of Mawidy, a startup that leverages new technologies and artificial intelligence to enhance healthcare services, explained how the Center has supported his business.
Mawidy won first place in a roadshow competition and received a cash prize of SR75,000. “Wa’ed has provided us this platform to encourage entrepreneurship and provided us with the mentorship and the guidance that we need as a startup,” he said.