RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s global small and medium enterprises forum is set to return on March 9 at the Riyadh Front Exhibition & Conference Center with the largest audience yet, according to a statement.
Also referred to as Biban 2023, the event — which runs until March 13 — is expected to witness the participation of over 350 speakers as well as an estimated 105,000 attendees from the Kingdom and all over the world.
Prominent international speakers scheduled to attend the forum include South Korea’s SMEs and Startups Minister Lee Young, YouTube CTO and Co-founder Steve Chen, Global Entrepreneurship Network board chairman Jeff Hoffman and Chris Barton, founder and creator of Shazam.
The event — organized by the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises, also known as Monsha’at — is also on track to host as many as 300 diverse workshops. This year’s forum will be held under the theme “Attract-Connect-Achieve.”
Through the sharing of knowledge, skills, and resources, the five-day event aims to capture and shed light on potential and tangible opportunities for SMEs, entrepreneurs, and local and international investors.
It would be pertinent to mention that according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor’s 2022 National Entrepreneurship Context Index, the Kingdom is now the second-best economy in the world to start a business, reflecting a rapidly advancing startup ecosystem, and a wealth of business opportunities for local and international entrepreneurs.
Biban 2023 will also host nine key areas or doors including the Growth Door, the e-Commerce Door, the Innovation Door, the Finance Door, the Startup Door, the Market Door, and the Empowerment Door, among others.
Doors of opportunity
The “Growth Door” contributes to introducing the owners of existing projects to several areas including administrative, operational, marketing, legal, and technical that ensure the expansion of the project.
The “e-Commerce Door,” in which more than 80 supporting entities will participate, seeks to promote development in the e-commerce sector, increase its sales and potentially contribute to strengthening the economy by providing everything that a business owner needs to launch into the world of e-commerce.
The “Innovation Door” aims to stimulate creative aspects or works to discover smart entrepreneurial ideas. It will also introduce beneficiaries to emerging technologies and their applications, in addition to the most prominent supporting bodies based on innovative solutions.
The “Finance Door” will open new channels as well as various financing solutions while bringing together financing and investment agencies under one roof, in cooperation with supporting public and private agencies. This door aims to bridge the financing and lending gaps for SMEs in a way that enables the entrepreneur to find the right partner for the project at hand.
The “Market Door” will serve as a platform for startups and SMEs to display their products and provide their services. It also works on motivating local and international business owners of SMEs to expand internationally with their projects and brands.
The “Startup Door” defines the support provided to startups and entrepreneurs by providing an enhanced environment for spreading awareness of SMEs, while raising the level of communication between project owners, investors, and supporting entities such as incubators and accelerators.
The “Empowerment Door” includes more than 120 supportive and empowering entities targeting owners of SMEs and businessmen by providing services and initiatives to empower and support entrepreneurs, especially those who own or manage SMEs.
The first day of the event will witness six key sessions: The importance of entrepreneurship for economic development and the growth of key sectors in the Kingdom; South Korean SMEs exploring opportunities in the Kingdom; Funding and talent a key showstopper of growth driver powered by endeavor; The journey to IPO; Investing in technology: what investors are looking for; and Financing entrepreneurship — an opportunity or risk for commercial banks?
The second day will hold three chief sessions: International startups unlocking opportunities in the Kingdom; Bridging international ecosystems: enhancing collaboration between SME authorities; and Why we need an ambitious generation.
As for the third day, four key sessions include: The importance of startups and SMEs for the global travel and tourism sector; The increasing role of environmental, social, and governance and what startups and SMEs need to consider; Fintech revolution: how technology is disrupting financial services; and Venture debt versus venture capital — what is the right approach and when?
The fourth day of the event will also host four main sessions: How to bring an idea to life: A guide to ideation + questions from the audience; How to handle high stakes negotiations; synergies with giants: how startups can integrate into leading tech companies; and the race for funding: what are venture capitalists looking for?
The final day of the event will conclude with one major session titled: Creating a giant: How YouTube was able to disrupt the entertainment industry.
Entrepreneurship World Cup
The final round of the Entrepreneurship World Cup is a key part of Biban 2023. The finale will include competitors from more than 200 countries hoping to secure cash prizes worth over $1 million. Since its inception, more than 400,000 entrepreneurs from around the world have registered.
Biban 2023 is expected to contribute to the creation of a catalytic environment in collaboration with the public as well as the private sector stakeholders.
The SME sector is perceived as a vital economic engine, a key generator of employment, and the foundation of the global economy, Ahmad Al-Sa’adi, senior vice president of technical services at Saudi Aramco, said in an interview with Arab News a few months ago.
Saudi Vision 2030 seeks to boost the SME sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product to 35 percent within a decade.
SMEs are set to play a significant role in achieving Saudi Arabia’s objectives of lowering the unemployment rate from 11.6 percent to 7 percent and increasing women’s participation in the workforce from 22 percent to 30 percent.