Innovation is at the heart of our vision for the future of the Saudi economy. In recent decades the Saudi economy has grown rapidly thanks to growth in inputs. As we look to prosper in the future, that growth will increasingly be driven by higher levels of productivity. Innovation will be key to generating that productivity growth.
Of course, innovation comes from a range of sources – from large corporates, from governments and from startups. However, in Saudi Arabia, we have developed a particular focus in recent years on encouraging entrepreneurship.
We know from our experience that there are many Saudis with innovative ideas and the ambition and drive to turn those ideas into businesses. We also know that the Saudi market has exciting potential for international entrepreneurs looking to expand – whether to disrupt existing sectors or forge new ones.
Saudi Arabia is a G20 economy undergoing a broad series of economic reforms. These reforms are creating new markets and dismantling barriers to entry in established sectors.
Until now there hasn’t been a strong ecosystem that can support new businesses. And without the right platform, it is hard for even the best ideas to launch.
That is changing rapidly.
We have seen a broad spread of efforts across the startup ecosystem that are transforming the environment. From developing accelerators, to establishing co-working spaces, from making it easier and cheaper to start and grow a business to introducing new funding programs.
For example, at SAGIA, we launched a specialized Entrepreneur License, which allows international entrepreneurs to launch a fully foreign-owned start-up company in Saudi Arabia in a licensing process that takes about three hours and costs just $500. Once here, they have more than 35 accelerators, incubators, and soft landing programs to choose from. We have already seen more than 200 entrepreneur licenses issued since late 2017, with more than 100 issued in the first half of the year.
Likewise, the launch of the VENTURE platform is expected to attract venture capital to support fast growing businesses – more than 50 venture capital firms including firms from the United States, the United Kingdom, China and France have already signed agreements under the platform.
While we are encouraged by what has been achieved so far, we are more focused on the potential of what is to come. As Saudi and international entrepreneurs are given the opportunity to thrive, we are confident that we can see real innovation that can launch our prosperity for decades to come.