Riyadh, 24 April 2019 – Reflecting the wealth and diversity of opportunities that Saudi Arabia offers international businesses and investors, the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) has launched VENTURE by Invest Saudi, a new initiative aimed at attracting global venture capital firms to the Kingdom.
Commenting on the new platform, Sultan Mofti, SAGIA’s Deputy Governor of Investment Attraction & Development, said: “The economic and social transformation of Saudi Arabia is taking place at a rapid pace, guided by Vision 2030. The continued prosperity of the Kingdom depends on fostering innovation, attracting foreign investment and enabling private sector growth. Across the globe, venture capital firms are key to nurturing entrepreneurship, promoting innovation, and unlocking value. Last year, the venture industry set a new record and deployed $130.9 billion to US-based startups alone. From the giants in Silicon Valley to the emerging market stars of Beijing and Singapore, we want to build and encourage the world’s top VCs to set up a presence in Saudi Arabia and partner with us, and with local private sector companies, in our growth story.”
Launched at the Financial Sector Conference taking place in Riyadh this week, the VENTURE by Invest Saudi platform will also provide streamlined licensing procedures for venture capital portfolio companies. Offering an ‘instant license’ in under three hours, VENTURE by Invest Saudi will enable companies to more easily tap into the Saudi market. So far, more than 20 venture capital firms have signed agreements under the VENTURE by Invest Saudi platform, representing the United States, the United Kingdom, China, and Singapore.
Fadi Ghandour, co-founder of regional champion Aramex and executive chairman of Wamda Capital, which has come onboard the VENTURE by Invest Saudi platform, commented: “The launch of this innovative and extremely important platform says to the entrepreneurship ecosystem across the world and specifically in the Middle East and North Africa region, that the Kingdom is open for business, and wants to attract investors and startups to launch their businesses in the country. This is a game changer for every entrepreneur who wants to enter Saudi Arabia which is the most important market in the region. Wamda Capital is very proud to be part of this initiative.”
Saudi Arabia is witnessing strong growth in international investment coming into the Kingdom. Last year, Saudi Arabia saw the value of inward FDI grow 127 percent year-on-year. The World Bank recently ranked Saudi Arabia as the 4th largest reformer within the G20 and noted improvement across four key pillars in its latest Doing Business report.
Dr. Hani Enaya, partner at Saudi Technology Ventures (STV), the region’s largest venture capital fund and, added: “This initiative is a great example of the proactive role that government can play in creating a vibrant and dynamic private sector. We strongly believe the economic and wider development of this region represents a highly compelling, still untapped and unique investment opportunity. More global venture capital firms operating in Saudi Arabia will provide further stimulus for the digital ecosystem by complementing the expertise and value add of local venture capitalists in helping build and scale the local champions of tomorrow. It also sends a strong message that this part of the world is delivering on its investment potential.”
Nabil A. Borhanu, founder and managing partner of the Silicon Valley-based Graphene Ventures, also commented: “Today, Saudi Arabia is open for business with Startups from all over the world. What a lot of people don’t know is that Saudis are power users when it comes to technology. Look at gaming, social media, and e-commerce and the numbers will tell you that Saudi Arabia is always on the top 10 either in terms of number of users, spending and early adoption. This is the magic recipe that startups look for in any country when they plan their expansion. In Graphene Ventures, we’re proud to be one of the first VCs to obtain the license from SAGIA as we plan to pave the way for our portfolio companies into the Saudi Market.”
Led by SAGIA, the National Licensing and Reform Program (NLRP) has played an important role in the improvements in the operating environment that have helped to attract increased levels of investment. Through the Program, the number of licensing requirements in Saudi Arabia has reduced by more than half and the NLRP has already successfully eliminated or modified more than 60% of over 5,500 licenses selected for reform.