Saudi Arabia's investor event to boost partnership opportunities for SMEs and start-ups

Catalyse Saudi gathers government officials, institutional investors and family offices to support the growth of entrepreneurship in the kingdom

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The kingdom aims to boost SMEs' contribution to GDP to 35 per cent in 2030, from 20 per cent at present. Bloomberg
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Saudi Arabia is hosting the latest edition of Catalyse Saudi, which explores opportunities for venture capital, private equity and other investment partnerships for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups in the Arab world's biggest economy.

The engagement platform gathers government officials, institutional investors and family offices to support the growth of the entrepreneurship ecosystem in the kingdom by providing access to global networks and funding, the Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia said on Saturday.

The three-day event, which ends on Sunday, is being backed by the ministry and the Jada Fund of Funds, an entity established by the kingdom's Public Investment Fund, which has a capital of four billion riyals ($1 billion) to fund Saudi enterprises through commercially sustainable investments in venture capital and private equity funds.

Catalyse Saudi is part of the country's push to boost SMEs' contribution to gross domestic product to 35 per cent in 2030, from 20 per cent now, as set out in the kingdom's Vision 2030 programme and National Investment Strategy.

The ministry "aims to promote Saudi Arabia as a world-class investment destination ... this edition will focus on the future of the entertainment industry, bringing together guests to discuss opportunities across sectors such as gaming, media, music, sport, design, tourism and hospitality, with a specific lens on increasing investment in Saudi Arabia", it said.

The start-up sector has grown exponentially over the past few years as entrepreneurs use innovation to address consumer needs.

They are also increasingly seeking funding from global investors to accelerate their development.

The sector's growth has increased in tandem with the rise of digitalisation in key sectors such as retail, services, e-commerce and government.

Venture capital funding for start-ups in Mena rose 20 per cent annually to more than $2.3 billion in the first three quarters of 2022, putting it on track to potentially pass the total investment attracted in 2021, an October study by data start-up platform Magnitt found.

Saudi Arabia, in particular, is hastening its digital transformation push, with a focus on start-ups, launching several programmes to support their ecosystem, as it banks on technology to power its future economy.

Venture capital funding in the Arab world's largest economy surged more than threefold to $584 million in the first half of 2022, passing the total for the whole of last year, Magnitt said in a recent report.

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The Saudi venture capital ecosystem already had a record-breaking year in 2021, in which it jumped about 270 per cent annually as start-ups received $548 million in funding, Magnitt data showed.

Through the first three quarters of this year, funding surged to $818 million over 106 deals, it said, an indication that Saudi Arabia's start-up sector has bucked global challenges and positioned the kingdom as an attractive investment destination.

The number ofSMEs registered in Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, grew by almost 10 per cent to 978,445 at the end of the third quarter of 2022, the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority reported this week.

Updated: December 10, 2022, 1:24 PM