The entrepreneurship arm of the world’s biggest oil and gas company is turning up the heat on a local ecosystem that continues to evolve.
Wa’ed, the entrepreneurship arm of oil and petroleum giant, Saudi Aramco, has announced its intention to double its investment in and support of startups between now and 2023.
Since launching in 2011, Wa’ed has supported around 90 startups through venture capital investment and loans, but vows to have taken that figure closer to 200 within the next 18 months, as the country works towards Kingdom’s Vision 2030, one element of which is to increase the SME contribution to the GDP to 35% by 2030.
“The entrepreneurship environment in Saudi Arabia is growing so fast to the point that you have to hold on to your seat - it is growing exponentially,” Managing Director of Wae’d, Wass Basrawi, said. “I think what we are going to see next year is different from what we saw last year, it is so fast that it does not compare to the last 10 years, not even close.”
Saudi’s ecosystem has, for some time, stood as one of the most developed and attractive in the region, with institutions like Wa’ed hailed for their work and their contribution, particularly at the height of the pandemic, during which Wa’ed tripled its loans to startups and SMEs. Yet the pandemic has also served to accelerate the evolution of many sectors, which in turn has made Wa’ed’s aim to double investment by 2023 all the more critical.
“We were given the privilege to support entrepreneurship in the Kingdom, and when you most need entrepreneurship is in times of necessity, when jobs and opportunities are scarce,” Basrawi added. “Our stakeholders and decision-makers increased the targets. They said whatever we did in 2020 is not enough.”