Saudi Arabia was among the top countries in the Middle East and North Africa for new venture capital deals in the third quarter of 2021, with startups in the Kingdom raising SR 769m ($ 205m) from of 91 transactions.
This is an increase of 439% from figures a year ago in which business activities were affected by the coronavirus disease pandemic, according to the venture capital investment report of the KSA of the MAGniTT Boot Data Platform.
In the MENA region, Egypt tops the list with 96 contracts while the UAE also registered 91 contracts during the same period.
Commenting on the report, Saud Al-Sabhan, deputy governor of communications at the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises, Monshaat, told Arab News: “Total venture capital investment reached $ 376 million in the year. during the first three quarters of 2021, already more than double. of what has been reported in the whole of 2020. ”
The authority was founded in 2016 to increase the contribution of small and medium-sized enterprises to gross domestic product to 35% by 2030, from 20% currently. The authority established the Saudi Venture Capital Co. in 2018 to support venture capital investments by backing funds and co-investing with angel investors in high-growth startups and small businesses.
Al-Sabhan said the authority uses a wide range of funding initiatives to strengthen support for small businesses, which are then broken down by size and type of business.
He said Monshaat itself is not a lender but facilitates public and private sector funds.
“Entrepreneurs and SMEs can access our main funding opportunities by visiting the authority’s website. We offer a funding platform to connect SMEs with commercial and public lenders, ”the official told Arab News.
He said: “The increase in entrepreneurship is a trend that we are seeing globally, but it must be allowed at the level of government policies to ensure the protection of the Saudi economy and incomes from fluctuations. which will particularly affect non-oil revenues through fiscal policy decisions.
“Monshaat itself, as a government-funded entity, is dedicated to the growth and empowerment of emerging businesses through many of the thoughtful initiatives and policies it offers. ”
The organization also encourages links between universities and businesses.
Al-Sabhan said: “What connects academia and entrepreneurship in general is that universities around the world often provide a unique and trustworthy atmosphere for entrepreneurs who are still in their infancy.
“These entrepreneurs often need ongoing support and guidance, in addition to an environment where they can test their prototypes and go through a fluid phase of several iterations (of a project).
“Given our role as a facilitator for entrepreneurs and SMEs across the Kingdom, we are constantly working to bridge the gap between them and universities. We are currently carrying out several initiatives in this regard, such as our collaboration with King Abdullah University for Science and Technology.
KAUST, a private research university based in Thuwal on the Red Sea coast, was established in 2009 to conduct “curiosity-driven, goal-oriented research to address global challenges related to food, water, energy and the environment “.
Al-Sabhan said that KAUST and Monshaat have been able to provide a different set of services, such as workshops and mentoring sessions for entrepreneurs and donors.
KAUST will also partner with the authority for the second year in a row at the 2021 Ebtakir Awards. This annual Monshaat award in Riyadh highlights the Kingdom’s most innovative startups. The cash prize is distributed among three finalists – 150,000 SR for the winner, 100,000 SR for second place and 50,000 SR for the third best startup of the year.
The organization also has a role to play in attracting foreign investment to the Kingdom.
Al-Sabhan said, “We have skilled local talent and vast opportunities for high growth and we are starting to see demand for our foreign entrepreneur licenses. Foreign or registered businesses are essential for diversifying and internationalizing the economy, and Monshaat can help with registration, office space, and business advice.
“The investment climate has improved dramatically in Saudi Arabia in recent years for foreign companies. Improve transparency, allow 100% foreign ownership of an investment, reduce the licensing process and reduce bureaucracy.
In October, the Kingdom said it had authorized 44 international companies to establish regional headquarters in Riyadh, including Unilever, Baker Hughes and Siemens.