Saudi Aramco’s Wa’ed launches FinTech accelerator programme

Energy giant's entrepreneurship arm partners Fintech Saudi and Flat6Labs in scheme starting next month

The Riyadh skyline. Between January and August 2021, there were 16 venture investments in fintech in Saudi Arabia with a total deal value of $157.2 million. Reuters
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Wa’ed, Saudi Aramco's entrepreneurship arm, is teaming up with Fintech Saudi and venture capital firm Flat6Labs to launch a 12-week accelerator programme to boost the growth of FinTech companies in the kingdom.

The hybrid programme will take place in-person in Riyadh and online from next month. It will host 12 start-ups for a series of workshops and training seminars.

“Our goal is to support local start-ups at every stage in their growth and prepare them for venture capital investment and regulatory qualification,” Wa’ed’s managing director Fahad Alidi said.

Wa’ed is experienced in selecting high-calibre start-ups in the kingdom and this initiative will give companies a solid start as they embark on their entrepreneurial journey, Mr Alidi said.

The programme, called Fintech Accelerator, will include a regulatory track and one focused on business that will run simultaneously. It will also include a day that allows start-ups to pitch to potential investors.

Selected start-ups will be subject to a background check and are required to have a minimum viable product, a tech-experienced founder and at least one dedicated full-time team member.

Out of the participating companies, Wa’ed will select three to join its incubation programme, each receiving a grant of 50,000 Saudi riyals ($13,328).

The FinTech industry in Saudi has grown significantly in recent years.

Between January and August 2021, the kingdom registered 16 venture investments in FinTech with a total deal value of $157.2 million, according to Fintech Saudi. This is a significant increase from 2020 (seven venture investments worth $7.8m) and 2019 (six venture investments worth $18m).

“We are pleased with Wa’ed’s strategic partnership,” said Nezar AlHaidar, accelerator manager at Fintech Saudi.

“We are looking forward to providing guidance and support to the start-ups in their business development and helping them navigate the regulatory landscape.”

Fintech Saudi is an initiative launched by the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) in collaboration with the Capital Markets Authority under the financial sector development programme to support the development of the FinTech industry in the kingdom.

Following the completion of the programme, the participating start-ups can continue to avail support services through regulator meetings with the accelerator team, Wa’ed said. The programme will also include engagement with the SAMA and CMA.

Created as a wholly-owned venture of Aramco in 2011, Wa’ed has disbursed more than 400m riyals in venture capital investment, loans and incubation services to more than 100 kingdom-based start-ups.

Start-ups in Saudi Arabia attracted a record $168m worth of venture capital funding through 54 transactions in the first half of 2021, according to data platform Magnitt. This is about 94 per cent of the money extended to the kingdom’s start-ups in 2020.

Updated: January 20, 2022, 5:00 AM