Developing entrepreneurs toward becoming successful business owners, supporting niches that are underserved by others, increasing the percentage of Saudization, and using expertise within and outside Saudi Aramco to develop small and medium sized enterprises are the key elements of what Wa’ed works to achieve in the Kingdom.
Value Focused Entrepreneurship
Wa’ed, Aramco’s entrepreneurship arm, was established in 2011 to ignite the spirit of entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia. In alignment with the strategic intent to move toward a knowledge-based economy, the Wa’ed vision is to promote entrepreneurship that supports economic growth, diversification, and social development in Saudi Arabia. Wa’ed works to:
- Develop entrepreneurs toward becoming successful business owners. This involves funding, incubation, coaching and mentoring
- Support niches (first offered and produced locally) that are underserved by others, focusing on innovation and technology projects
- Increase jobs and the percentage of Saudization in promising and developing regions
- Develop entrepreneurs to become successful business owners by leveraging and collaborating with expertise within and outside Saudi Aramco
- Strengthen partnerships with academic institutes, regulatory authorities, other entrepreneurship entities, and the private sector.
Abdullah Adrees emphasizes the Wa'ed vision
to promote entrepreneurship that supports
economic growth, diversification and social
development throughout the Kingdom.
At a recent Communication Best Practice workshop held at Saudi Aramco, two Wa’ed representatives Abdullah Adrees and Haya Alageel presented on the energy and interest they have encountered towards entrepreneurship in the Kingdom and the Wa’ed approach to harness it.
“Our philosophy is to provide comprehensive support to entrepreneurs — both in the form of financial and nonfinancial services,” said Adrees. He further spoke on the various financial services available to potential entrepreneurs with robust pre-funding and post-funding support offered in the form of medium-term loans, venture capital investments and grants.
Alageel spoke about the nonfinancial services available to prospective entrepreneurs, which are in the form of extensive support and guidance through training, consultation, coaching, and incubation.
One example is an 'incubator' at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals that provides support for early stage innovative ideas, which have the potential to create high-impact ventures. The “StartUp Lab” provides a short-term incubation facility that assists in the development of a technical product prototype, focusing mainly on high-risk and innovative business ideas that have a potential for investment. Through a network of mentors, investors and industry experts, the StartUp Lab intends to become a hub and catalyst for technology-driven startups.
“So far, we have approved funding for nearly 75 companies with a financial commitment to the extent of $74 million. We believe these startups can yield over 2,900 direct jobs,” Adrees stated.
An example of a venture funded from the loan portfolio is Remal IT, which is developing Areeb World, an Arabic online educational game for kids that focuses on teaching mathematics, sciences, and English using role-playing games. Isnad Gulf is a startup manufacturer of orthopedic tape that is used for casting broken bones. Currently, this product is fully imported from various countries around the world.
A venture capital investment, SafeRoad, is the only Saudi company to produce and preserve propriety technology for car-tracking devices. The device tracks location, speed, and the use of brakes, among other statistics. Clients can set a location perimeter and are notified if the vehicle leaves a pre-determined zone.
So far, the StartUp Lab has enrolled 72 participants and has launched 15 programs and applications. Successful applications include iCareer — a professional platform that brings together students and employers for internship and full-time employment opportunities.
Hobby District is an online retail store that sells a large variety of electrical components and mechanical hardware to fulfill the needs of hobbyists in Saudi Arabia and the GCC region.
“It is much more than merely funding. We measure our success by the impact we have on the entrepreneurship ecosystem,” Adrees added.
Spearheading the entrepreneurial culture throughout Saudi Arabia (Ash Sharqiya, Riyadh, Hai’l and Qassim), Wa’ed members are impressed with the interest in entrepreneurship in the country. “Young people throughout the country are coming up with impressive ideas. I have met some young locals in Riyadh who had a great entrepreneurial idea for solar energy panels,” Alageel said.
“Women around the country are very much interested in entrepreneurial establishments, especially ones that cater to a healthy lifestyle. Furthermore, some of them were interested in pursuing environmental protection and sea cleansing ideas,” she noted.
Aspirations for 2020
Wa’ed harnesses potential business ideas and promotes and empowers a new generation of entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia. In terms of statistics, Wa’ed aspires to:
- Enable the creation of more than 200 innovative companies, capable of transferring technologies and localizing industries
- Create more than 450,000 jobs in the nongovernment sector by 2020
- Promote a culture of technology-based entrepreneurship by extending funds and business development support to more than 50 early-stage technology pilots
- Instill an entrepreneurial awareness, culture and mindset among 1 million young men and women in the Kingdom through entrepreneurship clubs, university roadshows, and Wa’ed ambassadors
- Extend funds and business development support to entrepreneurs in the newly introduced sectors of lifestyle and tourism
- Strengthen partnerships with the private sector; with the private sector contributing up to 40% of the funding for initiatives.
For more information on Wa’ed programs and services, eligibility criteria, or more information on volunteering your time and expertise at Wa’ed, please log on to www.waed.net.