UAE, Saudi Arabia see startup boost as entrepreneurs seek innovative platforms

By Ashika Rajan, Trainee Reporter
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The UAE and Saudi Arabia are seeing the startup sector booming in the region as young entrepreneurs search for futuristic and innovative platforms.

On the sidelines of the launch of the Riyadh Techstars Accelerator, Mr. Vijay Tirathrai, Managing Director of Techstars stated that “the UAE has emerged as tech startup nation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, in terms of total capital investment by value and by no of deals, and also a magnet for attracting talent globally with its well-developed ecosystem, leading in innovation hub for accelerators and incubators in the region.”

“Similarly, Saudi Arabia is a budding ecosystem for innovation and venture capital. Recent reforms by opening up its economy provide massive opportunities to bring in disruptive technology applications. Further, the youthful demographics offer a sizeable marketplace for technology adoption. Saudi offers a ready pool of tech talent to address homegrown opportunities,” Mr. Tirathrai further added.

Tech hubs like Hub71 are collaborating with accelerators like Techstars to foster innovation and investment in new startups.

The accelerator will concentrate on attracting entrepreneurs to the MENA and paving the way for potential digital economy innovation in the area. Though this will be Techstars’ first accelerator in Saudi Arabia, the company has been involved in the area for years, hosting over 700 Techstars Startup Weekend events, the Techstars Dubai Accelerator, and the Techstars Hub71 Accelerator in Abu Dhabi.

Last July, the Saudi Ministry of Communication and Technology, and Techstars collaborated on the Techstars Startup Weekend COVID-19 KSA, where more than 550 Saudi entrepreneurs, two-thirds of whom were female, participated in virtual panels, seminars, and networking events to resolve challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr. Gagan Bhatia, Techstars General Manager remarked that “with entrepreneurship on the rise in Saudi Arabia, and the unwavering community committed to developing a strong startup ecosystem in the region, putting down roots in Riyadh is something we’ve been looking forward to.”

On May 10, the Riyadh Techstars Accelerator will begin accepting applications for a 13-week program running from November to February 2022. The accelerator will be led by a Techstars Managing Director, with assistance from a Techstars program manager, as well as MCIT leadership and mentors. The three-month program will provide participants with support, hands-on mentorship from the Techstars and MCIT networks, access to curated workshops and tools, and lifetime access to the Techstars global network.

Meanwhile, Global Ventures, a venture capital company, announced a strategic relationship with Ireland’s Accenture. This is the first of a series of new collaboration partnerships Accenture will develop to drive the region to become more creative.

Mr. Alexis Lecanuet, Regional Managing Director for Accenture in the Middle East pointed out “this synergy will enable Accenture to further drive innovation in the region’s venture capital space through supporting entrepreneurs with the company’s in-depth insights and research and providing unmatched industry expertise and counsel. We look forward to working with Global Ventures’ portfolio of growth-stage startups and exploring potential collaboration.”

According to International Data Corporation, total spending on information and communications technology in Saudi Arabia is expected to hit $32.9 billion this year, up 1.5 percent from 2020.

“Saudi Arabia unlike any other economy is noticeably clear on its agenda, which is to reach its vision 2030 smoothly, which means following the National transformation plan objectives and initiatives, expedite the digital transformation drives, creating employment opportunities for the youth, setting up the stage for a cashless society, attracting foreign players to invest and partner. All these would be possible if you have a good IT infra since the products and apps needed for such use cases needs extreme low latency and massive dataset management to work with, hence the rising spending on IT.”

Mr. Taha Sajid, Blockchain Consultant concluded that “this will also enable Saudi Arabia to be the Hub for entrepreneurs, open doors for innovation, and be the world leader when it comes to a quality life, state of an art education, and health care facilities.”

Related: Saudi Arabia unveils first Wi-Fi 6e network