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.”


Saudi Arabia’s up-and-coming energy park set to transform KSA into a global industrial powerhouse

Situated in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province, between Dammam and Al-Ahsa, the project will be developed in three phases. (Supplied)
Updated 12 December 2018
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Saudi Arabia’s up-and-coming energy park set to transform KSA into a global industrial powerhouse

  • The first phase is scheduled for completion by 2021
  • SPARK will localize more than 300 new industrial services and facilities and will have specialized training centers to cater to the huge influx of manpower

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is fast catching up with the world’s ever-growing energy and technology scene ahead of 2030. In fact, the King Salman Energy Park (SPARK) may soon prove a global destination for energy industry investors.

The new energy city mega-project is being developed by Saudi Aramco, which received authoritization to embark on the initiative in the summer, and is operated, managed and maintained in partnership with the Saudi Authority for Industrial Cities and Technology Zones (MODON). 

With projections that the megacity will create more than 100,000 jobs, it is considered one of the most up-and-coming energy parks in the world.

SPARK will localize more than 300 new industrial services and facilities and will have specialized training centers to cater to the huge influx of manpower.

Situated in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province, between Dammam and Al-Ahsa, the project will be developed in three phases. 

The first phase is scheduled for completion by 2021, while the final phase of the project is set for completion in 2035. With all this on track, the 50-square-kilometer project is poised to be a magnet for foreign and domestic investment. 

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman inaugurated the King Salman Energy Park at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) on Monday. (SPA)

What’s more, Aramco’s espousal of SPARK will also help businesses indulge in technological development, manufacturing and exports channels and build a world-class energy supply chain. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman inaugurated the King Salman Energy Park at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) on Monday.

During the groundbreaking ceremony, Energy Minister and Aramco Chairman Khalid Al-Falih declared SPARK a special economic zone (SEZ) in which businesses can enjoy exclusive benefits. 

“We are looking forward to collaborating with our first anchor partners at SPARK,” said Saudi Aramco President and CEO, Amin Nasser.

SPARK has already attracted investment from foreign and local companies to produce and manufacture goods and services. The first phase of the project is expected to cost about $1.6 billion. 

The park is set to attract industrial investors in the water, power, petrochemical and wastewater sectors, among others. 

Facilities at SPARK will also help investors bridge gaps in local production back home, increasing competition in the long run. 

“This energy city is exciting because it brings together a multitude of businesses,” Mark McCollum, president and CEO of Weatherford Corp, told SPARK.

“We firmly believe that collaboration and cooperation among service companies and individual providers to the energy sector is vital in breaking new ground.”

The King Salman Energy Park is also set to promote small and medium-sized enterprises. With focus on energy production, it also provides opportunities for investment in residential and commercial real estate projects.

Nasser said that the “King Salman Energy Park will spur a new era of growth for one of the Kingdom’s already thriving sectors. What’s more, it will serve as a central gateway to the region’s economies since Aramco is at the heart of the global oil and gas industry.”