Women do not need favors, they need a platform to compete globally and reach unicorn status with their innovative business solutions in today’s growing markets. On that note, and as the founder of a business myself, we are all aware that we face unique challenges worldwide.
For example, women entrepreneurs need help accessing funding, new markets, and business information. Banks and investors globally may hesitate to invest in women-led companies, and we may need more networks to secure financing. That is why most of us seek support from family members or the public to pursue entrepreneurship. Also, more market data can help women progress and develop their businesses, which is where programs like ours come in handy.
Let me share with you a recent study by Forbes that showed how women-owned businesses impacted the American economy — by owning over 13 million firms, employing about 12 million workers, and boasting $1.9 trillion in annual revenues. So on a global scale, the business case is already there. Imagine if we can replicate this impact in Saudi Arabia and help more female entrepreneurs get fair access to information, funding and support networks.
On the local front, the Saudi government has committed to supporting women entrepreneurs to overcome this challenge. The current economic reforms present opportunities for women entrepreneurs to start businesses in new and growing sectors, such as technology and tourism. Moreover, a growing number of networks and organizations that support women entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia, for example the Saudi Women’s Business Network, provides entrepreneurs with mentorship, training and networking opportunities.
The result? More women are stepping up to the plate and launching their tech startups, and they are doing amazing things. We see, for example, a startup like Sahm, a platform that helps individual investors make informed decisions by facilitating seamless access to information and market data, launched by Jawaher Alyahya, who is also among the founding team of other startups like Zid.
Women should not be empowered because they are women but because they have innovative businesses that can compete in global markets and become the next unicorns born in Saudi Arabia.
Nqoodlet, an expense-management platform that offers corporate cards, recorded transactions of more than SR3 million ($779,413); Mai Abdulwahab founded it. Chefaa, a startup that seeks to provide people with affordable medicines by connecting them to a nationwide network of pharmacies, has a turnover of $89 million in Egypt and Saudi Arabia—again, founded by another female entrepreneur, Doaa Aref.
These ladies and many more are paving the way, and we are honored to be a part of their journey. Female founders are not only driving innovation and change in the tech industry in Saudi Arabia but also creating jobs and boosting the economy. They are a force to be reckoned with.
At Falak Investment Hub, we help them by offering market access to partners and clients, advice on strategy, and training for them and their teams to improve their skills and knowledge. By providing them with the necessary expertise, we help them accelerate the growth of their startups and increase their chances of success in growing markets.
But we cannot do it alone. Local business accelerators like ours can benefit significantly from the expertise of global institutions that support women entrepreneurs. Take Standard Chartered Bank, for example, they have launched several initiatives to support women entrepreneurs in the Middle East and Africa, including providing access to funding and mentorship programs. Through our partnership with them, we ensured the success of eight women entrepreneurs under the umbrella of their global Women in Tech program. We awarded the three mentioned startups $50,000 equity-free cash awards as part of the program.
Empowering female founders in the Saudi tech industry is crucial for the future. Most importantly, women should not be empowered because they are women but because they have innovative businesses that can compete in global markets and become the next unicorns born in Saudi Arabia. By enabling more women to participate and succeed in the tech industry, we can ensure that the products and services being developed represent diverse perspectives and needs, and that we are offering a tailored platform for coping with today’s challenges. Together, we can make a difference one startup at a time.
• Adwa Al-Dakheel is an entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Falak Investment Hub. She is also the founder of Ns3a Recruitment Software, as well as an author, musician, pilot, diver and investor. She has been listed in the Gulf Business 100 Most Powerful Arabs list and Forbes 100 Most Powerful Businesswomen.