By Tamara Pupic
Young local population will drive Saudi start-up boom, says a Dubai-based venture capitalist
Saudi Arabia will develop the largest number of technology companies in the MENA region over the next 10 years, says a Dubai-based venture capitalist at the ArabNet Riyadh 2015.
Amir Farha, a co-founder of BECO Capital, added that the kingdom would provide a number of new investment opportunities over the next decade due to its youthful population, high-levels of personal consumption, growing internet penetration and engagement in the kingdom.
Farha was speaking at the ArabNet Riyadh 2015, Saudi Arabia's largest digital gathering, which is taking place from 14 to 16 December at the Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh.
He also said: “Saudi Arabia is an economy that relies 90 percent on oil production, coupled with its 30 percent intra-kingdom consumption of production.
“Nowadays we see that the kingdom is focusing on becoming more efficient in energy consumption and in diversifying the economy. This is great news for tech, leading to a growth in the Saudi ecosystem.
“Through product and service diversification, localising technologies and expanding the pool of Saudi entrepreneurs, we can generate promising deals.
“The young Saudi population is heavily engaged, tech savvy and determined to solve local problems through technology.”
Saudi Arabia ranked 26th amongst 118 countries on the PE Country Attractiveness Index in 2014.
During the MENA Private Equity and Venture Capital Summit in Riyadh last month, Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammed, president of King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), highlighted that the Saudi government is focused on investment - over SAR8 billion ($2.1 billion) was spent to date supporting Saudi start-ups, with SAR2 billion of this allocated by the Saudi government.
“We have already seen some great deal flow and success stories with RemalIT (Kammelna), Harraj, UTurn and Unifonic (previously OTS) and this is just the start,” Farha added. “It’s the local Saudis who are building the exciting start-ups and solving local problems.“
With over 50 percent of the total population being young and 60 percent of the population being online, a number of consumer-driven sectors are expected to grow and remain the main focus of investments over the next 12 months.
ArabNet Riyadh 2015 has gathered more than 1,000 participants, 80 speakers, and 50 exhibitors to discuss Saudi and global e-business (mobile banking, online travel), digital media, digital Islamic economy, native advertising, entrepreneurship and investments in the technology.
For information, tips and advice on setting up a new business or insights from those who have taken the leap into the world of entrepreneurship, click on the Arabian Business StartUp section.