Silicon Valley sets out a path for Saudi women high-flyers

Updated 09 August 2018
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Silicon Valley sets out a path for Saudi women high-flyers

  • Invested is a women and business empowerment event to inspire and equip the next generation of female leaders
  • Invested set out to give Saudi students across California access to the tools, networks and resources that would help them succeed with their big ideasThey are driving economies, paving way for Saudi future

JEDDAH: At the Google Community Space in San Francisco, two companies joined forces on Tuesday to encourage women-led start-ups from Saudi Arabia to Silicon Valley. 

Invested, a women and business empowerment event to inspire and equip the next generation of female leaders, was co-organized by Spark, the Bay Area’s largest community of young philanthropists working for gender equality, and Blossom, the first Jeddah-based accelerator to focus on women-led technology startups in Saudi Arabia 

“Female founders received only 2 percent of venture capital (VC) dollars in 2017, and only 9 percent of US VCs are women” said Amanda Brock, Spark’s executive director.

Invested set out to give Saudi students across California access to the tools, networks and resources that would help them succeed with their big ideas.

“I remember one of the first and best ways I learned about entrepreneurship was through an event in California. It was the best event of my life. It changed everything for me.” said Emon Shakoor, CEO and founder of Blossom.

Students at Invested met and heard directly from women who have been changing entrepreneurship globally.

“Invested had dynamic, educational and confidence-boosting TED-style talks, mentorship from leaders in the field, and strategic networking activities with founders, funders, tech giants, leading accelerators and incubators from Silicon Valley and the Arab world,” Shakoor said. 

Speakers included Caitlin Crosby, founder and CEO of the Giving Keys; Shannon Spanhake, founder and CEO of Cleo; Brittany Davis, director of Deal Flow at Backstage Capital; Abdulrahman Al-Turjuman, section head of marketing at Sedco Holding; and Tasneem Sabri, co-founder of Vela and senior program manager at TechWadi.

“What I wanted every Saudi student studying abroad to know is that working hard and studying in college is not enough,” Shakoor said. “Your network is your empire. Invest in your mind because no one can take that away from you.”

Blossom also launched a promotional campaign for the event with dozens of women interviewed across Saudi Arabia sharing their stories of success and encouraging other Saudi women to push for job creation in the Kingdom.

Sponsors for the event included Silicon Valley Bank, Nour Nouf, Sedco Holding’s Rowad Riyali, Beauti, Saudis in USA and Destination Jeddah. 

“Today, 70 percent of Saudi Arabia’s population is under the age of 34. There are more Saudi women graduating from college, more Saudi women starting businesses, and research shows that the most successful companies have at least one woman founder on the team,” Shakoor said.

“So this year Saudi women are not only driving cars, they are also driving economies and paving the way for Saudi Arabia’s future.

“As one of the youngest Saudi entrepreneurs in the Kingdom, my advice to the youth is to start now, start young.”


Hajj 2018: What’s on pilgrims’ bucket lists

Masjid Quba in Madinah is a favorite destination for Hajj pilgrims, according to tour guides. Below: The Cave of Hira, Al-Baqi’ cemetery and the Prophet’s Chamber allow visitors to step back in time. (Getty Images)
Updated 15 August 2018
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Hajj 2018: What’s on pilgrims’ bucket lists

  • A number of companies in Makkah and Madinah help people organize their trips, making sure they cover the important sites in the two holy cities
  • Most of the sites in the two holy cities are spiritual, giving pilgrims a sense of the prophecies

RIYADH: Hajj is one of the biggest dreams of every Muslim’s life, and pilgrims looking forward to their stay in Makkah and Madinah say a bucket list is the best way to plan the trip. 

Most of the sites in the two holy cities are spiritual, giving pilgrims a sense of the prophecies. Standing in the places of the Holy Prophet transports them back to the past as if they lived those incredible moments. 

A number of companies in Makkah and Madinah help people organize their trips, making sure they cover the important sites in the two holy cities.

Sayed Shafei, an operation manager for City Sightseeing, a tour company in Madinah and worldwide, told Arab News: “We offer a special tour with a multilingual tour guide presented in eight languages. We also offer 24-hour tickets. We have scheduled tourism trips starting from the Prophet’s Mosque to 12 destinations every 30 minutes. The whole trip lasts for 14 hours a day.” 

Asked about the most popular requests, Shafei said: “Our customers always ask to visit Masjid Quba, the Sayed Al-Shuhada Mosque in Uhud, which is considered a vital historic landmark of Madinah, and Al-Qiblatain Mosque.” 

Most of the group’s customers are from East Asia, but many also visit from Kuwait, Bahrain, the UAE, Indonesia, Malaysia, the US and Europe.

Munirah Al-Jebreen, an English instructor at Princess Noura University who will perform Hajj this year, told Arab News her bucket list began with an online search. 

“I found a travel guide on Google that has all the best sites in Madinah and Makkah, so I decided to visit Uthman ibn Affan’s Farm and Well in Madinah, the Holy Qur’an exhibition, and one of the most important places I want to visit is the grave of the Holy Prophet,” she said.

The area between the Prophet’s Chamber, which holds his grave, and the Mimbar is known as the Rawdah, which is actually the Garden of Paradise. It is presently distinguished by a green carpet.

Al-Jebreen also listed some of her planned tour destinations in Makkah, including the Cave of Hira, where the Holy Prophet meditated frequently during the first 40 years of his life and the site of the first revelation. 

She will also visit Bilal Mosque and Mount Abu Qubais and, finally, will try Al-Garmushi, one of the famous traditional restaurants in Makkah.