Watch out for the Queen’s Gambit in the world of startups
At the G-20 Ministerial Meeting on Women’s Empowerment last month, Saudi Arabia said that an increase in the participation of women in the workforce could not be achieved without empowering women in the digital and financial sphere.
Supporting women founders is a crucial focus of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, a transformative economic and social reform blueprint that is opening the Kingdom to the world.
According to Visa’s 2022 study on women entrepreneurship in the Kingdom, 82 percent of women stated their current business is their first, reflecting growing confidence in the government’s efforts to enable a gender-neutral business environment.
Boston Consulting Group analysis shows that if women and men participated equally as business owners, the global gross domestic product could rise by approximately 3 to 6 percent, boosting the global economy by $2.5 trillion to $5 trillion.
BCG’s research also found that every dollar of funding given to startups founded by women returned an average of 78 cents, while male-founded startups generated 31 cents — and women did it with far less funding.
These facts cannot be ignored and must compel transformative and reflective action. As more women bring their businesses into the limelight, they will need support to overcome barriers to success.
We believe providing women entrepreneurs with better access to funding, the right learning opportunities in how to set better goals for profitability, how to develop stronger strategies, and how to survive the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic can increase not only their odds of success but also increase the probability of women-founded unicorns from our region.
I also say this, in particular, because 65 percent of women business owners in Saudi Arabia have a special business education and 96 percent already have backing from their friends and family.
Most notably, they are on a mission to learn and accelerate their trajectory.
Visa’s survey results in the Kingdom show that women entrepreneurs seek support in finding the correct business development and management tools. Two in five women said they are looking for programs and platforms to help them grow their businesses, and others said they wanted guidance on creating a good team of employees and staying ahead of competitors.
Meanwhile, 54 percent said they would like to know from other entrepreneurs how they solved business challenges and developed online sales.
With seven in 10 women in Saudi already saying they currently accept both cash and cashless payments from their customers, we are incredibly optimistic about the potential for their participation in not just the regional but global digital economy.
Almost 45 percent of women entrepreneurs said they would use the additional funding to invest in advertising and marketing, indicating their vision to scale and expand their customer base.
Access to digital payments is a crucial determinant of economic success. With the Kingdom’s belief in the importance of investing in women’s capabilities, there is no doubt that women founders will advance to make significant contributions to the nation’s economic and social development.
Hala Al-Tuwaijri, secretary-general of Saudi Arabia’s Family Affairs Council, told the G-20 that the digital economy is a “key enabler for a vibrant society, efficient government and a thriving economy” — and ongoing collective efforts to economically elevate women entrepreneurs will undoubtedly pave the way to progress and prosperity.
Investors pay close attention: Saudi women founders are playing to win in the startup world.
• Ali Bailoun is Visa’s regional general manager for GCC Cluster - Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman.