RIYADH: NEOM, the company building a futuristic city on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast, plans to invest in technology startups in both Saudi Arabia and abroad, the head of its technology arm said.
NEOM already has an investment fund that is looking at companies in India and other parts of Asia as well as Silicon Valley and the UK, Joseph Bradley, CEO, NEOM Tech and Digital Holding Co., told Arab News in an interview on the sidelines of the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh.
“We’re also looking at companies here that we can acquire to help accelerate their growth pattern and create value right now with Saudi tech that could be exported to the rest of the world,” he said.
However, NEOM’s investments will be about more than just making money, but an opportunity to develop the Saudi economy.
“There is a lot of talent here in Saudi Arabia, so you want to become decent, well, I would not say a venture capitalist in the sense of just buying it for pure investment,” he said. “We’re going to be looking at companies that could help us bring to market cognitive solutions.”
NEOM’s product roadmap is based around the idea of a cognitive product solution set.
“These are predictive applications using advanced data science to help businesses create more profit, to help users simplify their lives,” Bradley said. “To help us control and be able to bring trust back into the data economy.”
One product NEOM expects to be rolling out is a consent management platform called Epsilon, and another is a tool that will help enterprises simplify and coordinate various pieces of the internet of things value chain, he said.
The third product NEOM is preparing will brings together the metaverse and the physical environment.
“A lot of people talk about the metaverse as their digital worlds, but they’re created in fictional environments, '' he said. “They’re created onto themselves because the physical world has already been built.”
“In NEOM’s case, we’re building the physical version of NEOM and the digital at the same time. So, we’re going to create some very unique experiences between the two that can only be accomplished if you were building to this platform.”
Saudi Arabia is fast becoming a global player for innovation thanks to a record year for startups and funding
Saudi startups in the financial technology sector emerged as the most funded in the Kingdom, and more private investors and venture capitalists are rushing to invest in these firms at early stages of their business lifecycle. The number of deals closed recently hit a record with over $150 million in the first half of 2021.
This represents a 1,738 percent year-on-year growth, topping other industries including food and beverage, as well as e-commerce, which was a star sector during the pandemic.
According to a report from Magnitt, fintech startups closed 12 deals during the said period, accounting for 24 percent of the 54 deals across the startup ecosystem in the Kingdom.