A Saudi tech university program sounds the call to entrepreneurial action

Special Humanoid robot iCub. (AFP)
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Humanoid robot iCub. (AFP)
Special People attend the launch a number of regional technological initiatives in Riyadh on Aug. 25, 2021. (AFP)
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People attend the launch a number of regional technological initiatives in Riyadh on Aug. 25, 2021. (AFP)
Special Robot waiter Mediaf during its launch. (Supplied)
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Robot waiter Mediaf during its launch. (Supplied)
Special Saudis attend a hackathon in 2018 to explore high-tech solutions to make Hajj pilgrimage more efficient and safe. (AFP)
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Saudis attend a hackathon in 2018 to explore high-tech solutions to make Hajj pilgrimage more efficient and safe. (AFP)
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Updated 29 April 2022

A Saudi tech university program sounds the call to entrepreneurial action

A Saudi tech university program sounds the call to entrepreneurial action
  • A KFUPM-EI program has been designed to drive growth in local technology-based start-ups
  • Entrepreneurial Emerging Leaders Acceleration Program targets start-ups generating innovative products 

DUBAI: Young Saudis eager to do their bit to transform their country into a technology hub can access a wide range of tailored initiatives by the Saudi government and local institutions.

One of them is the Entrepreneurial Emerging Leaders Acceleration Program, launched by the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals Entrepreneurship Institute (KFUPM-EI) in Dhahran, Eastern Province, to drive growth in local technology-based startups.

The scheme specifically targets startups that are generating innovative products and processes in manufacturing as well as the digital economy. It aims to support Saudi Arabia’s aspiration of becoming a regional and global tech center.




Huda Flatah launched her Helper Robot startup in 2020. (Supplied)

Huda Ahmed Flatah, 26, from Riyadh, is one of the program’s young Saudi graduates. Her startup, Helper Robot, was launched in 2020 to develop and harness technologies that provide a tangible benefit to society.

“We came up with two solutions,” Flatah told Arab News. “The first one is a robotics kit, including sensors, motors and an electrical circuit, for anyone who wants to build a prototype. It’s easy to use and connect, and you can use it if you are looking to build a smart home or a smart car.”

 

 

The second product her firm created is an online platform for people looking to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects, allowing them to take part in classes in programming, electrical circuits and robotics.

Flatah was among the first batch of women to study at KFUPM-EI. Having already earned a degree in biology from Taibah University in Madinah, she went on to receive a scholarship to study at Draper University in California’s Silicon Valley and at H-FARM College in Italy, where she pursued studies in entrepreneurship and technology.




Huda Flatah receiving an entrepreneurship certificate from Global Entrepreneurship network. (Supplied)

Flatah is grateful for the scholarships and acceleration programs the Kingdom has on offer to help young people break into the tech industry.

“It was really great because when you see your country and institution care about your project, and help and believe in you. It helped me a lot, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Flatah said. “It was so difficult, but we made it.”

Moreover, she is impressed by the Kingdom’s efforts to encourage more women to take up STEM subjects and career paths. She says the program has been both character-building and a boost to her self-esteem — essential in what is otherwise a male-dominated field.

A growing awareness of the need to diversify the Kingdom’s economy away from oil into other high-value industries prompted the launch of the Vision 2030 reform agenda in 2017. One of the objectives of the program is technological development, primarily driven by domestic startups.




Saudis attend a hackathon in 2018 to explore high-tech solutions to make Hajj pilgrimage more efficient and safe. (AFP)

“We are seeing a lot of opportunities today across the Kingdom for those who are ready,” said Flatah. “We have Vision 2030 for the dreamers and workers, and those who want to make a big change and improve our lives. Each university and school is looking for entrepreneurs.

“I have a vision for myself, and we want to build a generation of builders and innovators. I need to make this jump and change myself.”

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia announced it would invest more than $6.5 billion in future technologies and entrepreneurship to further secure its position as the region’s largest digital economy.

As part of the announcement, Saudi and foreign firms unveiled plans that included a billion-dollar investment from NEOM Tech & Digital Company to focus on future technologies, such as XVRS, the world’s first cognitive metaverse, and M3LD, a personal data management platform.




Waiter robot Mediaf. (Supplied)

XVRS is a first-of-a-kind 3D, cognitive digital twin metaverse platform, where the physical merges with the virtual to create unique, immersive experiences and enable a ground-breaking “mixed-reality” urban living model.

For example, NEOM visitors and residents could attend a meeting wherever they are, either as a real-life robot, an augmented reality avatar or as a hologram.

“The future will be defined not by megacities, but by cognitive metacities,” Joseph Bradley, CEO of NEOM Tech & Digital Company, told delegates at Saudi Arabia’s flagship technology event, LEAP, in February.




Joseph Bradley, CEO of NEOM Tech & Digital Company. (Supplied)

“XVRS is the only iteration of the metaverse currently in development that will be a mixed-reality, 3D digital twin of a physical place — in our case, the NEOM community. It will be comprised of next-generation digital assets that users can interact with in the real world.”

M3LD, meanwhile, is an innovative artificial intelligence-driven “consent management platform,” which empowers users to regain control of their data.

FASTFACTS

XVRS is a 3D, cognitive digital twin metaverse platform which can create unique, immersive experiences.

M3LD is an AI-driven platform that empowers users to regain control of their data.

The product is able to find out who is in possession of a user’s data, monitor how it is being used and provide recommendations on privacy settings for all their digital accounts. It is slated for general release in the first quarter of 2023.

It is through schemes like the Entrepreneurial Emerging Leaders Acceleration Program at KFPUM-EI that the Kingdom hopes to tap and develop local talent to drive forward the “fourth industrial revolution” and realize the full potential of projects like NEOM.




Graduates of the KFPUM-EI leaders acceleration program display their certificates. (Supplied)

Meem Web Solutions is another tech venture that came out of the KFPUM-EI program, offering a platform that optimizes business process automation.

Its founder, Syed Shamaail Jafri, received a grant of SR50,000 ($13,300) from the institute’s Keys of Goodness fund. Jafri says his idea stemmed from his initial recruitment by the institute to automate one of its processes.

“I thought it would be better to make an application that can be generalized to automate all these processes,” Jafri told Arab News.

“Now, any person without any programming knowledge can develop such workflows, and we’re targeting markets that do not have any business developers and have a lot of processes which are not automated. In that regard, we just make their offices paperless.”

Originally from Pakistan, 42-year-old Jafri says he is grateful for the backing of the Saudi government to develop his business.

“My goal for the future is to establish this company independently,” he said. “The institute really helped me in the legal aspects, and I hope to serve all companies here in Saudi Arabia and then worldwide.”




KFPUM founding dean Wael A. Mousa. (Supplied)

High-growth startups such as these will have a vital role to play in the diversification of the Kingdom’s economy, says Wail A. Mousa, an associate professor of electrical engineering and founding dean of the Entrepreneurship Institute.

“We see a strong and ever-increasing entrepreneurial spirit across our community,” Mousa told Arab News.

“Through our programs, we aim to nurture this spirit and to provide the practical support required to establish and build these businesses, to reach their full potential and to make a lasting contribution to the country’s economic prosperity.”

The institute was established to help foster entrepreneurial thinking through education, training and research, and to provide logistical and financial support for the formation and growth of high-potential startups. It also draws on the expertise of local and international experts.

To date, KFUPM-EI has conducted more than 4,000 mentoring sessions, trained more than 2,000 participants, and created more than 30 startups that have resulted in more than 100 jobs and secured SR25 million in revenues.




Saudis attend a hackathon in 2018 to explore high-tech solutions to make Hajj pilgrimage more efficient and safe. (AFP)

These efforts to promote entrepreneurship seem to be paying off already. Venture capital investment in Saudi Arabia in 2021 exceeded the total for 2019 and 2020 combined.

According to Abdullah Al-Swaha, minister of communications and information technology, Saudi Arabia is now home to some of the region’s largest investments in cloud technology, with leading hyperscale cloud providers including Google, Alibaba, Oracle and SAP investing more than $2.5 billion in the Kingdom.

Speaking at LEAP earlier this year, Al-Swaha said that Saudi Arabia is also the regional leader for technology talent, having created more than 318,000 jobs in the sector in recent years.

More importantly from the standpoint of women’s empowerment, the rate of women’s participation in the information and communication technology workforce has jumped to 28 percent in recent years.

“Technology is important because it’s the future,” said KFUPM-EI graduate Flatah.

“The transformation taking place across Saudi Arabia from sector to sector involves technology, so if you don’t invest in technology, you may fail in the next 10 years, because it won’t fit the requirements of the generation.”


Saudi Central Bank gets a new governor

Saudi Central Bank gets a new governor
Updated 11 sec ago

Saudi Central Bank gets a new governor

Saudi Central Bank gets a new governor

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has appointed Ayman bin Mohammed Al-Sayari as the governor of the Saudi Central Bank, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Thursday. 

He is replacing Fahad Al-Mubarak, who has been named an adviser at the royal court with the rank of a minister, the agency said. 

Al-Sayari was appointed as the deputy governor of the central bank on Oct. 17, 2019. 

He had previously been SAMA’s deputy governor for investment since 2013, playing a key role in formulating the Kingdom’s sovereign debt strategy. 

Al-Sayari obtained a master’s degree in finance at George Washington University in the US. He was awarded his bachelors in accounting from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran and completed a general management program at Harvard Business School. 

He is also a chartered financial analyst. 

Al-Sayari is a board member of the Saudi Fund for Development, which participates in investment projects in developing countries by granting loans and providing technical aid for financing studies. He is also a board member of the Public Pension Agency and the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity and Programming. 

Al-Sayari began his professional career as a financial analyst for the Saudi Industrial Development Fund. Before joining SAMA in 1999, he earned an investment analyst certificate from Chase Manhattan Bank. 


Closing bell: Saudi bourse slips 82 points to 10,702  

Closing bell: Saudi bourse slips 82 points to 10,702  
Updated 21 min 15 sec ago

Closing bell: Saudi bourse slips 82 points to 10,702  

Closing bell: Saudi bourse slips 82 points to 10,702  

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index on Thursday lost 81.94 points — or 0.76 percent — to close at 10,701.79.  

MSCI Tadawul 30 Index dropped 0.95 percent to 1,475.52, while the parallel market Nomu slipped 0.79 percent to 18,996.50.  

TASI’s total trading turnover of the benchmark index on Thursday was SR4.04 billion ($1.08 billion), with 77 stocks of the listed 224 advancing and 130 retreating.  

Salama Cooperative Insurance Co. was the topmost gainer for the second day in a row, rising 5.84 percent on Thursday to SR16.30.   

The other top gainers were Dar Alarkan Real Estate Development Co., Saudi Arabian Cooperative Insurance Co., Knowledge Economic City and Americana Restaurants International.  

The worst performer on Thursday was Alinma Bank, which fell 4.25 percent to SR31.55. The bank on Feb. 2 posted a net profit increase of 33 percent to SR3.59 billion in 2022 from SR2.70 billion in 2021.  

The net profit growth was driven by an increase in total operating income by 19.6 percent year-on-year, mainly due to higher net income from financing and investment, fee income, the fair value of investments income through the income statement and currency exchange income.   

Net income from specialized commissions, financing and investments increased 18 percent to SR6.01 billion in 2022 from SR5.14 in 2021.  

The net profit for the fourth quarter of 2022 grew 39 percent to SR860.2 million from SR619.1 million during the same period in 2021.   

The other stocks that performed poorly included Dr. Sulaiman Al Habib Medical Services Group, Banque Saudi Fransi, Saudi Industrial Investment Group and Etihad Etisalat Co.  

Among sectoral indices, 14 of the 21 listed on the stock exchange declined, while the rest advanced.  

The Real Estate Management & Development Index was the best-performing sector of the day as it gained 2.14 percent to 2,733.75, points led by Dar Alarkan Real Estate Development Co.’s 4.85 percent leap to SR12.96.  

The Healthcare Equipment & Service Index was the worst-performing sector, losing 169.9 points to close at 9,384.11.  

On the announcements front, Bank AlJazira also reported a rise of 10 percent in 2022 net profit to SR1.10 billion, compared to SR1 billion in 2021.  

The growth was spurred by a 10 percent decline in total operating expenses year on year.   

“The reduction in total operating expenses came primarily due to a decrease in the net impairment charge for financing and other financial assets, impairment charge for another real estate, rent and premises-related expenses and depreciation and amortization expenses,” the bank said in a statement to Tadawul.  

In the fourth quarter of 2022, net profit rose 7 percent to SR243.8 million from SR228.8 million a year earlier. Bank AlJazira’s share price fell 0.52 percent to SR19.16.  

Saudi Chemical Holding Co., through its pharmaceutical sector represented by the subsidiary AJA Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, signed on Feb. 1 a memorandum of understanding with Lagap SA, a Swiss-based pharmaceuticals producer.  

The MoU was signed at the Saudi Export stand during the Arab Health Exhibition 2023, the company said in a statement to Tadawul. The MoU is aimed at the co-development of pharmaceutical products and launching them in European and Middle East markets. The company’s share slumped 2.33 percent to SR27.30. 


Saudi-based developer RSG achieves top green rating for its workers’ village

Saudi-based developer RSG achieves top green rating for its workers’ village
Updated 55 min 22 sec ago

Saudi-based developer RSG achieves top green rating for its workers’ village

Saudi-based developer RSG achieves top green rating for its workers’ village

RIYADH: Saudi-based developer Red Sea Global has achieved a Platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification for a collection of villas and townhouses built for the company’s staff.

The certification, also referred to as LEED, was awarded by the non-profit US Green Building Council for the developments at Turtle Bay – a residential and commercial area housing workers, employees and management of The Red Sea.

The platinum certification poses the highest level of accreditation achievable under the LEED Homes rating system, and means Red Sea Global is the owner of the largest portfolio of LEED Homes certified buildings in the Kingdom, according to a statement.

“To be one of the world’s most responsible developers, we must ensure every aspect of our destinations meets the highest possible sustainable standards. Achieving LEED Platinum for The Red Sea’s Turtle Bay villas and townhouses demonstrates to our key stakeholders that we are meeting and exceeding our sustainability objectives,” said Group CEO of RSG John Pagano, in a statement.

In addition to this, Red Sea Global's sustainability accreditation management system is targeting to achieve LEED Building Design & Construction certifications for over 75 percent of its assets, as well as a LEED Cities & Communities for its destinations, the statement revealed.

The multi-project developer is also aiming to attain LEED Platinum on other key developments, including the Red Sea International airport, hospitality assets, among others.


Modon to develop and operate 14 automated warehouses in Jeddah 

Modon to develop and operate 14 automated warehouses in Jeddah 
Updated 02 February 2023

Modon to develop and operate 14 automated warehouses in Jeddah 

Modon to develop and operate 14 automated warehouses in Jeddah 

RIYADH: The Saudi Authority for Industrial Cities and Technology Zones, also known as Modon, is set to establish, develop and operate 14 warehouses in Jeddah 1st Industrial City.  

The new warehouses will be based on smart automated systems to provide quick and temporary logistical solutions to support industrialists and entrepreneurs as well as stimulate investment in the retail sector.  

According to Modon, the project involves the construction of fully digital and automated warehouses that do not need human intervention, using the latest technology and equipment that provides access to storage units via a smartphone app.  

The project is set to offer 24-hour customer service to provide immediate and thorough support.  

The warehouses will be operated based on the public-private partnership model, which is expected to enhance quality standards and operational efficiency of services and products and stimulate investment. 


Saudi fintech firm Raqamyah gets SAMA license to offer crowdlending solutions  

Saudi fintech firm Raqamyah gets SAMA license to offer crowdlending solutions  
Updated 02 February 2023

Saudi fintech firm Raqamyah gets SAMA license to offer crowdlending solutions  

Saudi fintech firm Raqamyah gets SAMA license to offer crowdlending solutions  

CAIRO: Riyadh-based fintech firm Raqamyah has received a license from the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA, to offer its debt-based crowdlending solutions to small and medium enterprises.  

The license was granted after the company successfully passed testing its solutions within the SAMA’s regulatory sandbox, an experimental environment dedicated to innovative financial products and services in Saudi Arabia.  

Founded in 2017, Raqamyah enables SMEs to access Shariah-compliant financing of up to $1.3 million from individual and institutional lenders through its online platform and has been part of SAMA’s regulatory sandbox since 2019.  

SMEs apply for financing applications with the firm and receive approval within three working days to list their business on the platform where lenders start funding the request.  

The financers then receive monthly payments and profits as the businesses make their repayments. The platform also offers lenders to automate their lending investments so whenever there’s an opportunity that fits the criteria.  

In February 2021, Raqamyah secured $2.3 million in a funding round led by Impact46 which was used to comply with SAMA’s licensing requirements. 

The bank said its licensing of fintech companies contributes to achieving the objectives of the Financial Development Sector strategy aligned with Vision 2030.   

“SAMA reiterates its commitment to support the finance sector, increase the efficacy and flexibility of financial transactions and enable innovation in financial services to promote financial inclusion in the Kingdom and provide easy and secure access to financial services to all segments of society,” it said in a press release. 

Last month, the central bank issued licenses to two fintech firms — Forus and Tameed — both specializing in debt-based crowdfunding.  

Also earlier in January, the central bank announced the launch of a new lab to allow businesses to test their products against an established framework.   

The service is a new concept that enables consumers of financial institutions to securely share their data with a third-party provider, facilitating innovative services and products.