JEDDAH – Entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia are passionate and capable in creating innovative businesses and dive into various industries. However, their one handicap is the ecosystem, according to CEO of Qotuf Al-Riyadah Tuba Terekli who addressed a business community at the accelerator Flat6Labs’ fourth Demo Day here.
“We have youth that are capable and willing to go global. However, there is still a lack in research and development centers, youth centers, and innovation hubs,” Terekli said. “There are very few angel investors, no access to government contracts and very low skilled talent pool for the skills needed for 2030.”
“We have a new generation that wants to do things different. They want to take risks and are looking to become an entrepreneur before they look for a job. They give us hope for 2030,” she added, urging investors to dream big and support entrepreneurs.
Flat6Labs Jeddah, an accelerator program founded by Qotuf Al-Riyadah, showcased its latest eight startups to potential investors and venture capitalists to receive further support in growing their businesses.
The accelerator aims to support entrepreneurial ventures that is predicted to boost economic growth and create jobs.
The startups range in technology businesses that offer products and services in fields such as automotive, food, e-commerce, design, and transportation among others.
Dr. Ghassan Alsulaiman, who founded Qotuf and was recently appointed as governor of the newly established General Authority for SMEs this year, spoke about the government’s role towards entrepreneurs. “We aim to boost SMEs in the coming years with the support of the General Authority, the Vision 2030, and various ministries.”
He further said “the goal in the coming years is to increase small and medium enterprises’ contribution to GDP by four times, from 20% to 35% that is from SR600 million to SR2,400 million.”
He added: “It will be a big transition that will support the Saudi economy. What measures the success of accelerators are the number of graduates who eventually receive financial support from angel investors and venture capitalists. The government seeks to support them systematically afterwards.”
When asked whether it was advised to start a company during an economic decline in the Kingdom, Terekli told Saudi Gazette: “We’ve got most of our investments this year. This shows the community believes in entrepreneurs. The ecosystem is a community, where each individual should support in their own capacity. This economic downturn will not become an economic downfall. Therefore, it’s important to associate our kids with financial literacy, how to save, spend, and make money.”
Speaking on the sidelines of the event, she further said “investors are investing in them because they see that they have to. If you don’t endorse new companies, no new jobs can be created.”
On entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia, cofounder of Flat6Labs Hany Al-Sonbaty described it as “rapidly improving” and “promising”. He added “the future is what these entrepreneurs make. The ideas won’t end. Our job is to cast a wide net and get as many of them to think and apply and after that help them take the first step.”
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