Saudi Arabia was the region’s biggest recipient of venture capital funding in the first half of 2023, with SAR 1.67 billion ($446 million) deployed in the kingdom in total, bucking the downward trend in the region as overall funding fell by 42%.

The kingdom accounted for 42% of the total capital deployed in the region during the period, up from 31% in 2022, making it the largest recipient of capital deployed, while the UAE was the largest by number of deals, with 60 transactions in total. 

The kingdom also achieved a new record for $100 million plus deals, with two deals accounting for $289 million, Saudi Venture Capital Company (SVC) said in  a report.   

E-commerce or retail was the sector that received the most funding in Saudi Arabia by value and number of details, accounting for 83% of the total.

According to the latest MENA Venture Investment Report by MAGNiTT, the impact of economic challenges on venture capital in the Middle East, Africa, Pakistan and Turkey (MEAPT) region had been revealed, as $1.047 billion was raised across 193 deals, a 42% YoY retreat in funding compared to 2022, and a 49% decline in transactions year-on-year.

The second quarter of 2023 was the lowest quarter for funding MENA startups since the third quarter of 2020 and had the lowest number of deals since the second quarter of 2017.

Investor focus has been shifting away from late-stage investments towards startups raising $1-5 million, MAGNiTT said.

FinTech remained the top pick for investors, despite recording a 51% YoY decline in transactions, the report concluded.

(Writing by Imogen Lillywhite; editing by Seban Scaria)