Saudi Arabia leading region’s transformative journey 

Saudi Venture Capital’s strategic initiatives have positioned Saudi Arabia as a leader in venture investments within the MENA region for the first time in 2023. (SPA)
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Updated 20 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia leading region’s transformative journey 

  • SVC makes significant strides in shaping private investment landscape

CAIRO: A wave of venture capital funding has washed over the Middle East and North Africa region, prompting transformative change in the entrepreneurial landscape.

Saudi Arabia’s government is leading the shift through a subsidiary of the SME Bank, part of the National Development Fund.  

The Kingdom’s Saudi Venture Capital has made significant strides in shaping the private investment landscape, deploying finance across 40 investment funds and over 700 startups and small and medium-sized enterprises.  

This was highlighted in the latest Impact Report issued by SVC, which detailed its contributions since its inception in 2018. 

The document revealed that SVC’s total investments have reached SR2.6 billion ($693.1 million), with the overall impact of these, including partner commitments, estimated at around SR13.6 billion.  

These investments span various sectors critical to economic diversification, such as e-commerce, fintech, healthcare, educational technologies, transportation, and logistics. 

“SVC plays a crucial part in stimulating the private VC investment to sustain and foster the steady growth of the VC ecosystem in the Kingdom,” Nabeel Koshak, CEO of SVC, said.  

“SVC’s strategy, since its inception in 2018, contributed to increasing the number of investors in Saudi startups, encouraging existing and new financial companies to establish VC funds, and motivating regional and global funds to invest in Saudi startups,” Koshak stated. 

“Accordingly, the funding deployed into Saudi Arabian startups grew 21 times to a record-high of $1.4 billion in 2023 versus $65 million in 2018, the year SVC was launched,” he added. 

Significantly, SVC’s strategic initiatives have positioned Saudi Arabia as a leader in venture investments within the MENA for the first time in 2023.  

This milestone reflects the broader economic and financial sector evolution under Saudi Vision 2030, aimed at enhancing the national economy. 

Saudi Arabia’s Penny Software closes undisclosed pre-series A round 

Closing its pre-series A funding round, Saudi Arabia’s Penny Software raised an undisclosed sum from Iliad Partners, joined by GSI and US-based Knollwood Investments, alongside existing investors such as Dallah Investment, Hambro Perks Oryx Fund, Class 5 Global, Altuwajiri family fund, and strategic angel investors.  

Founded in 2020 by Iyad Al-Dalooj, Majid Al-Dalooj, and Mohamad Ibrahim, Penny Software is a business to business Software-as-a-Service procurement startup that digitizes the entire source-to-pay process, thereby enhancing spend efficiency, governance, and compliance. 

“This investment from Iliad Partners, alongside the continued support from our existing and new investors, represents a significant vote of confidence in Penny Software’s vision and our team’s ability to execute,” Iyad Al-Dalooj, the CEO, said. 

“We are excited to leverage this partnership to scale our operations, enhance our product offering, and solidify our position as a leader in the procurement software industry. The future of procurement is here, and Penny Software is at the forefront of this transformation,” he added. 

This new capital infusion is poised to fuel Penny’s ambitions for regional and global expansion.  

This follows a successful $5 million seed funding round in 2021, led by Outliers Venture Capital with participation from Wamda, Shorooq Partners, Hambro Perks ORYX Fund, Class 5 Global, and strategic angel investors.  

Penny Software aims to leverage this investment to further enhance its platform capabilities and broaden its market reach, reinforcing its position in the competitive SaaS industry. 

The company claims that it is set to manage a gross transaction value of over $1 billion this year, and ease procurement for thousands of companies globally. 

“Saudi Arabia is an economy that is undergoing a major transformation in which technology is playing a key role. This is our first investment in the Kingdom, and we plan to invest a significant portion of our fund in this market, supporting strong founders on their journey from the pre-series A stage and onwards,” Christos Mastoras, founder and managing partner of Iliad Partners, stated   

UAE’s DocsInBox closes $500k in a funding round 

UAE’s e-invoicing and procurement startup DocsInBox closed a $500,000 funding round from angel investors to boost its presence. 

Founded by serial entrepreneurs Leonid Dovbenko and Stanislav Seleznev,  DocsInBox significantly streamlines invoicing and procurement processes, saving up to 1 million hours each month, the company claimed.  

The platform enables purchasing agents to place orders in just three clicks, while accountants can complete tasks in 13 seconds that previously took 300 seconds.  

By automating procurement, DocsInBox reduces manual labor by 15 percent, operational costs by 5 percent, and food costs by 8 percent.  

UAE’s U-topia secures $850k in funding round 

UAE-based Web3 services provider U-topia has secured $850,000 in funding from GDA Capital. 

Established in 2021 by Jérémy Mahieu and Nicolas Prévost, U-topia operates as a Web3 entertainment company that merges global intellectual property licensing in GameFi, artificial intelligence music, and video entertainment supported by non-fungible token provenance.  

The newly acquired investment is earmarked for the development of advanced features and technologies on the U-topia platform, aiming to enhance its offerings in the dynamic Web3 landscape. 

Nigeria’s VC firm Verod-Kepple Africa Ventures closes $60m fund 

Nigeria-based VC firm Verod-Kepple Africa Ventures has concluded a final close of $60 million for its pan-African VC fund, led by existing investors and new investors, including SCM Capital from Nigeria and institutional investors from Japan, including Taiyo Holdings and C2C Global Education Japan. 

Formed in 2021 as a joint venture between Kepple Africa Ventures and Verod Holdings, VKAV is led by partners Satoshi Shinada, Ryosuke Yamawaki, and Ory Okolloh. 

The fund aims to bridge the funding gap for African startups, especially for companies moving to series A and B stages. 

Egypt’s VC firm Beltone teams up with UAE’s CI Venture to manage a $30m fund 

Egypt’s Beltone Venture Capital, under Beltone Holding, has teamed up with CI Venture Capital from UAE’s Citadel International Holdings to manage a $30 million fund aimed at nurturing fast-growing startups.  

This collaborative fund is set to invest in pre-seed and seed funding rounds of innovative tech startups across the MENA region while also continuing to support standout performers within its existing portfolio. 

In recent months, the fund has actively begun deploying capital, finalizing investments in several startups, including Bosta, Trella, Qlub, and ariika.  
 


Saudi minister discusses logistics cooperation on visit to Port of Rotterdam

Updated 29 May 2024
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Saudi minister discusses logistics cooperation on visit to Port of Rotterdam

  • Discussions touched on encouraging Dutch infrastructure investments for metal processing in the Kingdom

AMSTERDAM: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources, Bandar Ibrahim Alkhorayef, paid a visit to the Port of Rotterdam, where he discussed with the port authority ways to enhance cooperation in logistics services.

Opportunities provided by the Kingdom in this sector, the role that the Kingdom can play as a strategic supplier of vital minerals, and how to enhance the flexibility of global supply chains, leveraging the Kingdom’s position as a bridge between East and West were discussed.

The meeting with port officials also explored avenues for enhancing cooperation with Dutch companies in various fields, including developing processing and recycling capabilities in both countries, benefiting from Dutch expertise and technology.

Additionally, discussions touched on encouraging Dutch infrastructure investments for metal processing in the Kingdom to achieve the aspirations of both countries in developing the sector.

Alkhorayef reviewed the objectives of the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program (NIDLP), a program under Saudi Vision 2030, which focuses on investing in the Kingdom’s unique strategic location linking three continents and transforming it into a leading industrial power and global logistics center.

The minister also toured the port’s FutureLand area, where he was briefed on the various maritime services provided to ships and shipping companies, including towing, docking, repairs, shipbuilding, and ship supply.


Saudi Arabia and Austria sign MoU for economic cooperation

Updated 29 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia and Austria sign MoU for economic cooperation

VIENNA: Saudi Arabia’s economy ministry and its Austrian counterpart signed a memorandum of understanding to boost economic cooperation between the two nations.
The Saudi Ministry of Economy and Planning Austria’s Ministry of Labor and Economy in the deal on the sidelines of the Saudi-Austrian Joint Committee held in the Austrian capital.
 The MoU was signed by the Saudi Minister of Economy and Planning Faisal bin Fadel Al-Ibrahim, and the Austrian Minister of Labor and Economy, Martin Kocher.
 The MoU aims to diversify and strengthen economic ties, exchange experiences and information, and encourage cooperation in a number of fields, including trade, industry, research and development, tourism, small and medium enterprises.
Among the content of the MoU is the organization of conferences, seminars and the exchange of visits between experts, in addition to cooperation between government institutions and the private sector.
The parties are also committed to protecting intellectual property rights and exchanging information for the purposes specified in the MoU.
This MoU comes within the framework of a cooperation agreement in the economic, commercial, industrial and technical fields signed between the two governments in 2004.


Xi calls for more jobs for youth, migrant workers

Updated 28 May 2024
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Xi calls for more jobs for youth, migrant workers

  • (We should) insist that employment of young people including college graduates is a top priority: Chinese president

BEIJING: China’s President Xi Jinping called on Monday for efforts to promote high-quality and sufficient jobs for college graduates and migrant workers, while presiding over a Politburo group study session, state media Xinhua reported on Tuesday.

“(We should) insist that employment of young people including college graduates is a top priority,” the Xinhua report quoted Xi as saying at a group study session of the Politburo, a top decision-making body of the ruling Communist Party.

The Xinhua report did not give details on job promotion support measures or plans.

The survey-based jobless rate for 16-24 year-olds, excluding college students, was 14.7 percent in April, down from 15.3 percent in March, official data showed last week.

China’s statistics bureau revised its methodology by removing college students from the survey pool after youth jobless rate surged to around 20 percent last year.

Xi also said the government should take steps to promote the employment of migrant workers, guide them to return to their hometowns and for people to start businesses in the countryside.

He called for stabilizing the income of people who had been lifted out of poverty and preventing large-scale return to poverty due to unemployment, Xinhua said.

Companies and industries with strong job creation capabilities will be supported, the report said.

China created 4.36 million new urban jobs in the first four months, Human Resources Ministry data showed, 36 percent of its annual job creation target.


Saudis spent more money on electronic devices during the 4th week of May: SAMA data

Updated 28 May 2024
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Saudis spent more money on electronic devices during the 4th week of May: SAMA data

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s point-of-sale spending reached SR11.2 billion ($2.98 billion) in the fourth week of May, official figures showed.

The latest data from the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA, revealed that spending on electronic and electric devices surged by 9.5 percent to reach SR240.4 million.

Beverages and food, which accounts for the largest share at 14.9 percent, saw a 5.9 percent decline, reaching SR1.66 billion, during the week from May 19 to 25.

Meanwhile, transactions at restaurants and cafes, holding a 14.6 percent share, recorded a slower decline of 4.8 percent, amounting to SR1.64 billion. 

Saudi spending on miscellaneous goods and services, including personal care items, supplies, maintenance, and cleaning, constituted the third-highest share and witnessed a 5.1 percent decline that week, reaching SR1.36 billion. 

Despite composing only 1 percent of the week’s overall POS value, spending on education recorded a minimal increase of 0.1 percent to SR152.48 million.

In the past few years, this sector has been allocated the largest share of government expenditure in comparison to other divisions of the economy. 

Efforts are underway to revamp the education system, aiming to equip the national workforce with the necessary skills to thrive in a technological and information-centric global economy.

The hotel sector experienced the largest decline in POS transaction value, dropping 10.9 percent to SR227.13 million.

According to data from SAMA, 35.44 percent of POS spending occurred in Riyadh, with the total transaction value reaching SR3.97 billion. However, this represents a 1.6 percent decrease from the previous week.  

Riyadh has undergone considerable expansion, evolving into a pivotal center for growth and progress. The city is witnessing a surge in new businesses setting up operations, drawn by its vibrant economic landscape and strategic prospects for investment and innovation.

Spending in Jeddah followed closely, accounting for 14.3 percent of the total and reaching SR1.60 billion; however, it marked a 3.1 percent weekly drop. 

The two cities that registered the highest declines in POS spending were Makkah and Madinah, with decreases of 11 percent and 6.8 percent, respectively. The value of transactions in Makkah reached SR380.98 million, while in Madinah, it was SR393.26 million.


Saudi healthcare to advance with major digital tech partnership

Updated 28 May 2024
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Saudi healthcare to advance with major digital tech partnership

RIYADH: The Saudi healthcare system is set to advance as two of the country’s major companies partner to leverage digital technologies to enhance the Kingdom’s capabilities.

SAMI Advanced Electronics Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of SAMI, the nation’s defense and digital solutions provider, has signed a cooperation agreement with the National Unified Procurement Co., a Public Investment Fund company.

The agreement, signed on May 27, will provide solutions for medication tracking and IT infrastructure and increase local content through medical devices manufacturing and maintenance.

This partnership demonstrates SAMI-AEC’s unremitting efforts to build a harmonious and applicable healthcare system in Saudi Arabia based on digital technologies.

Ziad Al-Musallam, CEO of SAMI-AEC, commented on the agreement, saying that they are honored to collaborate with NUPCO, as this deal underscores the unwavering commitment of both entities to bolstering efforts aimed at enhancing the healthcare ecosystem in Saudi Arabia.

“At SAMI-AEC, we firmly believe in the significance of augmenting public health services through digital solutions and delivering e-health services. This involves integrating effective, fast technologies to empower the healthcare sector, aligning with the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030,” he said.

Fahad Al-Shebel, CEO of NUPCO, highlighted the agreement’s importance and its role in fortifying the healthcare infrastructure and facilitating access to the integrated technology offered by SAMI-Advanced Electronics Co.

Aiming to upgrade the healthcare sector by improving its facilities in all public hospitals and medical centers in the Kingdom, NUPCO is the country’s largest central company providing medical purchasing, storage, and distribution services for medicines, devices, and supplies.

With a workforce of over 3,320 individuals, 85 percent of whom are Saudi nationals, SAMI-AEC has positioned itself as a leader in electronics, technology, engineering, and manufacturing. Its services span sectors such as defense and aerospace, digital, energy, and security.

Over 800 of the company’s employees are engineers and certified experts, reaffirming the dedication of SAMI-AEC, which was established in 1988, to excellence and innovation.

On the other hand, NUPCO was established in 2009 with SR1.5 billion in capital. It is the leading company in Saudi Arabia in procurement, logistics, and supply chain management for pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and supplies for governmental hospitals.