|09 August, 2018

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

Arabic business male and female working together on project

Arabic business male and female working together on project

Getty Images/ Jasmin Merdan

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.”

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