Saudi is among the friendliest places in the Middle East to start a business. However, opportunities for emerging businesses in the Kingdom have been sent through the roof after a slew of structural reforms and initiatives were recently announced by the government with adequate backing from the private sector.
A quick look at Saudi’s startup support ecosystem and it becomes apparent that the country’s ambition of establishing itself as the next Silicon Valley may not be too far-fetched at all.
The number of accelerators, funds, and incubators has increased substantially over the past few years, and so has the frequency of business development centric fundraising and networking events targeted at startups.
But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The Kingdom has announced a fund worth $45 billion to invest in promising technology ideas from the GCC region and the rest of the world. Granting of citizenship to a robot, Sophia, was definitely a message to drive the point home that it aims to establish itself as a major technology and innovation hub. And steps have already been taken to attract startups from across the world, with more announcements to follow up soon.
Startup, an aptly named platform where emerging businesses can discuss their needs and ideas, has revealed that the Kingdom’s government is preparing to walk the extra mile to ensure that obtaining a business license in the country becomes much easier for overseas businesses. Considering that technology is one of the key non-oil sectors that the government is increasingly focusing on, we can expect more good news on that front in the foreseeable future.
Apart from that, the country is also looking to introduce a radical transformation of the Public Investment Fund (PIF), which incidentally happens to be the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world. The ultimate objective is to make PIF a key stakeholder in the tech space.
According to media reports, Japanese multinational telecom giant Softbank Group is considering increasing its investment in the country’s tech sector to a whopping $25 billion in the next three to four years. A large part of this investment – somewhere around $15 billion – could be allocated in the development of a new city larger than Dubai and have more robots than humans.
So what do you think about the Kingdom’s ambitions? Are they on the right path or do you think more needs to be done to make it Middle East’s Silicon Valley for tech startups? Let us know.