Kingdom is the biggest backer of a $100 billion tech fund for start-ups
The Saudi Arabian government has said that it would help to facilitate foreign entrepreneurs to obtain business licenses to launch start-ups in the country, as part of a drive to encourage growth in the non-oil sector.
Having already committed $45 billion to investing in technology companies around the world, Saudi Arabia is now the biggest backer of a $100 billion tech fund launched with Japan's SoftBank (SFTBF).
Speaking about the government’s ambitions to create a thriving local start-up ecosystem, Ghassan Al Sulaiman, Governor of the kingdom's Small and Medium Enterprise Authority said: "We hope that one of them, or more, will become a unicorn and reach a billion dollar evaluation. They are the Apples, Amazons and Googles of this world."
Preference for the fast track licenses will be given to those bringing patents, innovative services or a new business idea to the country. The entrepreneur licenses will be issued by Saudi Arabia's General Investment Authority or any one of several economic zones, which offer huge incentives such as free rent and transportation and subsidised housing.
Ranked 135th by the World Bank for starting a business, Saudi Arabia has yet to produce a billion-dollar start-up - unlike the UAE.
As the country is seeking to diversify its economy away from its dependence on oil revenues as part of its Vision 2030, developing a technology sector will play a central role in its plan to wean itself off oil.
The first 11 entrepreneur licenses for start-ups were awarded on Wednesday at the Misk Global Forum, an annual event sponsored by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman's philanthropic organisation.