Saudi Arabia poised as MENA's hub for digitization and startups: Arabnet Riyadh

Over 6000 attendees, 300 startups, and 150 VCs gather at Arabnet Riyadh

Saudi Arabia poised as MENA's hub for digitization and startups: Arabnet Riyadh

Riyadh-KSA:-  The highly anticipated 8th edition of Arabnet Riyadh, the Kingdom’s largest technology event, launched on December 10th at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center under the theme of “Connecting the Kingdom”. Held in Strategic Partnership with Monsha’at - the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises - Arabnet Riyadh 2019 also features top sponsorship from Saudi Telecom Company (STC), Seera (AlTayyar Group), Mastercard, Saudi Fransi Bank, Digital Marketing Services (Choueiri Group), Riyad Bank, AlKhaleejiah (Saudi Research and Marketing Group), TikTok, SAMBA, Meem Bank, Dawiyat (Saudi Electricity Company), Teads and many more. 

Over 6,000 senior government officials, enterprise decision-makers, and 150 investors were in attendance, keen on connecting and exchanging ideas on digital innovation and entrepreneurship as key drivers for the Kingdom’s future economic development, in addition to 300 exhibiting startups in the Kingdom’s largest tech entrepreneurship showcase.

ArabNet Founder and CEO, Omar Christidis, launched the ceremony with his opening speech where he said “For years, Saudi Arabia has been the region’s largest economy, boasting consumers of the highest purchasing power and a young tech-savvy population; but recent developments make this an especially opportune time to move into the Saudi tech scene. If you’re looking for the emerging hub of digital innovation and entrepreneurship in the MENA region today, you’ll find it in Saudi Arabia.”

The Governor of Monsha’at, Eng. Saleh Ibrahim Alrasheed, highlighted Monsha’at’s commitment in supporting current and aspiring entrepreneurs, in offering innovations that contribute to raising the level of services in various fields. Eng. Alrasheed added that Monsha’at’s strategic partnership of Arabnet Riyadh, aims to foster the cultural mindset, entrepreneurial spirit, and to encourage and appreciate distinguished and talented innovative entrepreneurs in the scientific, technical and intellectual production fields.

The Inspire Saudi track, sponsored by Monsha’at, focused on startups and investing in tech companies, featuring top global investors from Silicon Valley, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Hong Kong, France, Austria, Mexico, and around the MENA region.

The opening panel, included stellar speakers, Bader Alzahrani, CEO Cultural Fund, Ministry of Culture; Badr Bin Mohamed Al Rajhi, Managing Director, Rajhi Invest; Bader AlShathry, Vice President and Chief Digital Transformation Officer, Alturki Holding; Othman D. AlDahash, Vice President - Corporate Development, STC Group and moderated by Osama Ashri, Founder, Saudi Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Lab. The panel discussed the key drivers for achieving vision 2030 in the Kingdom from the perspective of entrepreneurship, innovation, and digitization.

Some key speakers also included Andrew Zalasin, General Partner at Valve VC based in the United States; and Carlos Watson, Founder of OZY Media, also based in the United States.

Also, DokkanAfkar closes 19 Million SAR funding round led by the Venturesouq  BIAC and joined by existing investor Riyad TAQNIA Fund; the Saudi Venture Capital Company; and a number of local investors.

Another track that took place was the Finverse forum, sponsored by Saudi Fransi Bank, which tackled digital banking and fintech, with speakers including Rayan Fayez, CEO and MD of Saudi Fransi Bank; Sami Al-Rowaithey, Chief Digital Officer of SAMBA, Stephen Monaghan, EVP - Digital Banking at Riyad Bank, and Andreas Skopal, Group Chief Digital Officer at Gulf International Bank

ArabNet Riyadh’s stage also welcomed the participants of two competitions: Startup Battle, sponsored by Riyad Bank and Ideathon. The Startup Battle Riyadh finalists are Mutamer, Dailymealz, qosoor, Ri7laty, Quizzito, Hospitalia, Oreyeon, Ghallah, Shgardi, Presentail.

The Ideathon finalists are Save Your Bag, InstaNap, AGZA, Sawaed Seha, CouriMe, 24/7, Smart Traffic Assistant, The Barber, Nizam Eltizam, Platform for teachers’ job postings. The winners of both competitions will be announced at the closing ceremony on December 11th. 

Arabnet also hosted Ebtakr an annual award and exhibition organized by Monsha’at. A competition dedicated to Saudi Inventors that have registered IP, to honor them and expose them to investors and the ecosystem. Finalists pitched to high-profile judges for a total of SAR 300 000 of prizes along with incubation opportunities.

The event also hosted the 1st Flat6Labs Regional Demo Day, in which 16 startups from Flat6Labs portfolio from across the MENA poised to disrupt the startup tech scene in their industries, pitched to more than 150 investors and business leaders.

Ben Wang, Senior Vice President of Global Payment Partnership at China's top fintech payment solution provider, iPayLinks, announced the launch of the B2B wallet into the ME market.

The founder of Mirrorr, Nagib Sabbagh, a unique mass media tool that allocates monetary value in providing a figure-supported market plan for optimal ROI, based on a multi-metrics rate card to empower marketing intelligence and grow business based on hard data and real market insights, also announced their launch at Arabnet Riyadh.

A new addition to Arabnet Riyadh was the Masterclass which was a half day track consisting of workshops focused on educational sessions on angel and individual investing, from deal sourcing to post-investment value growth and exit, looking at strategies successful angels use to minimise and manage risk, maximise likely returns, and best help new companies reach their full potential.

Arabnet Riyadh also featured a number of dynamic initiatives to support entrepreneurs including The Academy, workshops on entrepreneurship, marketing and e-commerce;  Pioneering Women, featuring talks and mentorship sessions by successful female executives.

Arabnet also hosted the entrepreneurs behind fast growing startups to share their stories at Sawalif Riyadiya, including the Founders of Noon Academy, Mrsool, UnitX, and Qoyod, all of which have raised funding rounds in the millions of dollars.

During the 2-day event, more than 500 1-on-1 meetings have been organized to take place between startups and investors at the Investor Lounge, sponsored by Startup Bahrain to help them get the investment and support they need to succeed. 

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About ArabNet

Arabnet is a leading event, insights, and innovation program organizer focused on tech business and innovation in the MENA region. We organize major conferences for the tech sector in Dubai, Riyadh, Kuwait and Beirut; publish news and analysis of the sector in our online news portal and produce original research and reports focused on the sector; and organize custom-tailored innovation programs for corporations and governments.

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