Leap 2024: Start-ups backed by Saudi Arabia's NTDP close deals worth $750m in 2023

Kingdom announces launch of seven funds with total value of $838 million to support growth of new companies

Saudi Arabia is focusing on developing its start-up sector. Reuters
Powered by automated translation

Start-ups supported by Saudi Arabia’s National Technology Development Programme (NTDP) closed more than 49 investments worth $750 million last year in a boost to the kingdom's technology ecosystem and the diversification of its economy.

The total investment in the start-ups represents more than 50 per cent of all investment in Saudi Arabia in 2023, Ibrahim Neyaz, chief executive of NTDP, told at the second day of Leap 2024 technology conference in Riyadh on Tuesday.

“This resulted in the economic impact of $1.45 billion ... and we created more than 7,300 new jobs,” he said.

NTDP is contributing to the development of the tech ecosystem in the kingdom and helping attract more companies to set up operations in the country.

The programme also supported start-ups to unlock $700 million in debt financing from commercial banks and financial institutions to help the kingdom’s tech sector grow, he added.

Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s largest economy, is focusing on diversifying its economy away from oil with an emphasis on the development of sectors such as technology, property, tourism and infrastructure.

Last year, Saudi Arabia became the leading market for venture-capital funding in the Middle East and North Africa for the first time, attracting more than $1.38 billion of investment, a report from start-up platform Magnitt found.

The kingdom recorded a billion-dollar figure for the second consecutive year, as venture-capital investment surged by a third year-on-year, Magnitt said in its Mena Venture Investment Summary for 2023.

NTDP also announced the launch of new projects to support the development of artificial intelligence, quantum computing and smart cities, as well as to increase women's participation in the ICT sector in the kingdom.

It said it would spend $266 million to develop 1,000 AI and machine-learning engineers, as well as up to 100 AI native features and 25 AI foundation models in the next five years.

“Generative AI is disrupting every industry on the planet and it is evolving very fast,” Mr Neyaz said. “Providing R&D infrastructures and facilities, encouraging talent development, accessing industrial challenges and data and enabling venture-building activities are key factors.”

Saudi Arabia also announced the launching of seven funds worth $838 million to support start-ups in various stages of development in sectors including gaming and e-sports.

Updated: March 05, 2024, 1:52 PM