The Middle East has a dearth of so-called unicorns at the moment. Wa’ed Ventures, has turned to global investments as Saudi Arabia looks to attract global tech startups.
Saudi Aramco’s venture capital arm, Wa’ed Ventures, is looking towards global investments as the kingdom seeks to diversify its economy and attract foreign digital entrepreneurs.
Wa’ed will invest over $100 million this year, after spending approximately $50 million over the previous nine years, according to Chief Executive Officer Fahad Alidi.
In the second half, the $200 million fund intends to make 11 investments. In addition to banking and e-commerce, the company plans to grow into deep tech, space tech, the metaverse, and sustainability.
Alidi said “We’re dispersing cash quite swiftly. The pipeline is tremendously valuable both locally and worldwide. You may learn about two worldwide investments that we expect to use for the advantage of Saudi Aramco in the near future.”
Wa’ed has made its first international investment in 5G internet of things satellite operator OQ Technology as part of a 13 million euro ($13 million) series A capital transaction. The objectives mirror Saudi Arabia’s broader goals of diversifying its economy and attracting talent through international investment. The Middle East currently has a scarcity of unicorns, or businesses worth $1 billion or more. However, with oil prices rising and Saudi Arabia expected to post its first budget surplus in over a decade, Alidi anticipates additional chances.
He added, “Many global start-ups see the region as the next development path since money is abundant and they may get an edge by perhaps shifting to Saudi Arabia and the GCC. We will attract businesses from such fields and promote the kingdom as a magnet for major global initiatives.”
To capitalise on these prospects, Wa’ed has upped its normal investment from $5 million to $20 million, according to Alidi.
According to Alidi, Luxembourg-based OQ Technology has established a satellite operation centre in Saudi Arabia and plans to recruit more than 120 locals. They will teach Saudi engineers to create a whole space technology ecosystem.