Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 October 2020

FUTURE

VC fund STV led 30% of all venture capital funding in Saudi Arabia since 2018

The Careem investor said it was eyeing an opportunity in e-commerce next

STV looked at its overall contribution to direct employment in its first impact report. Reuters
STV looked at its overall contribution to direct employment in its first impact report. Reuters

STV, the venture capital arm of Saudi Telecom Company (STC), accounts for 30 per cent of all fundraising in the kingdom over the last two years, according to a new report.

The portfolio companies of STV, one of the region's biggest and most active venture capital funds, have generated $480 million in revenue and created 3,100 jobs, according a report released by the company on Sunday. The report quantified the impact of STV's investments since it started operating in 2018 until the first half of 2020.

STV participated in funding rounds of 11 companies across the Middle East and North Africa totaling $333m, accounting for 16 per cent of all VC fundraising in the region.

"We are fortunate to live and work in a region that is bustling with vision and opportunity that continuously inspires us to do what we do," STV's impact report reads, adding that this is "a crucial turning point in technological transformation".

Saudi Arabia is in the midst of a massive economic transformation under its Vision 2030 plan, rolled out by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2016, that seeks to diversify the economy and reduce its reliance on hydrocarbons.

Entrepreneurs are an integral part of the Vision 2030 plan, that aims to boost the contribution of small to medium-sized enterprises' to gross domestic product to 35 per cent from 20 per cent by 2030.

STV calculated that its portfolio companies processed over $3.7 billion in transactions and were a massive contributor to the gig economy, counting 2.4 million gig workers who earned $1.9bn in income.

The fund, which participated in Careem’s seventh round of fundraising just before the ride-hailing firm was acquired by Uber, said it was eyeing an opportunity in "e-commerce enablement" next.

"Demand for digital services has skyrocketed since the beginning of the pandemic," STV said. "Particularly in regions like Mena, consumer behaviour is shifting toward digital faster than it would have otherwise as a result of increased credibility and recognition of the effectiveness and convenience of digital offerings."

The report also highlighted how its portfolio companies acted during the Covid-19 pandemic.

EdTech start-up Noon Academy, based in Riyadh, launched in 4 new markets and added 3 million students to its platform. Communications company Unifonic working with Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health’s initiative to create a WhatsApp chatbot that automatically replies to and addresses coronavirus-related inquiries.

Another Riyadh-based online grocery retailer, Nana, increased its grocery delivery capacity fivefold in order to meet the increase in demand.

Vezeeta, a health care platform, rolled out its telehealth offering and began connecting doctors and patients for appointments by phone.

Updated: October 18, 2020 06:32 PM

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