RIYADH: The prestigious London Business School’s MENA Entrepreneurship Club joined forces with AstroLabs, MENA’s leading entrepreneurship ecosystem builder, to support aspiring entrepreneurs with their journey in the Kingdom by bringing the first of a series of co-hosted events in Saudi and the UAE.
The panel discussion about the entrepreneurial ecosystem “What VCs look for in a startup,” which was hosted at the AstroLabs coworking space in Al Malqa, Riyadh, brought together some of the most established venture capitalists in MENA, in an effort to bridge the gap between business school alumni and the Saudi entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Founding & Managing Partner at Nama Ventures, Mohammed Al Zubi, Partner at Joa Capital, Abdulrahman Al Mousa, and Partner & CEO at Impact46, Abdulaziz Al Omran, moderated by Jorge Grieve, Partner at McKinsey & Co,discussed the current trends in the tech startup’s investment landscape, highlighting the current investment sentiment, elevated competitiveness of the Saudi ecosystem on a global level, and the role of localizing product market fit in attracting the right investments; the panelists shared their views on what makes a startup investment-ready in the current market.
Mohammed Al Zubi expressed his confidence in the ‘3rd entrepreneurial evolution’ in the Kingdom. “What you’re seeing in Saudi Arabia is unparalleled, it might even be overstimulated by the government’s support.” Al Zubi continued to emphasize the roles that enablers play in supporting the fast-tracked growth of the ecosystem. “They are racing to support entrepreneurial endeavors. What you’re seeing in Saudi, there is no equivalent anywhere in other geographies, we’re living in the platinum age of entrepreneurship, in MENA particularly – in Saudi.”
The discussion framed the investment momentum in Saudi Arabia within the context of government initiatives, namely the ongoing and adaptive efforts to empower up-and-coming entrepreneurs in line with Saudi Vision 2030. They further debated the importance of localization and cultural integration as indispensable factors for a successful startup venture.
Partner & CEO at Impact46, Abdulaziz Al Omran, highlighted how startups can capitalize on local culture to catapult their growth in Saudi as compared to their operations in other regions. “Online flower shops have been around for years, but Floward put an emotional element in their product messaging, and I think we’re emotional human beings here in Saudi, which is why It succeeded so well.”
By bringing together diverse players from the Kingdom’s digital innovation and startup landscape, this event reinforced the growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem over the last decade. Such collaborations highlight AstroLabs’ commitment to Saudi by supporting entrepreneurs with their growth journeys, providing an opportunity for various stakeholders in the ecosystem to share vital knowledge for the greater good, aligning seamlessly with the objectives of both the London Business School and AstroLabs, as highlighted by AstroLabs CEO, Roland Daher, in the opening keynote.
Ihab Tabbara, LBS MBA alumni and co-president of the LBS MENA Entrepreneurship Club in Saudi Arabia, said, “Our aim is to cultivate a MENA-based entrepreneurial landscape by bridging the gap between founders and investors. We are dedicated to supporting this ecosystem on two fronts. On one side, we facilitate connections between startup founders, venture capitalists, and investors. On the other side, we curate and offer vetted deal flow opportunities for investors. In essence, our goal is to unite both facets of the ecosystem, fostering a social and innovative impact. To achieve this, we host informative panel discussions on a quarterly basis with key industry players, including the topic mentioned above, and organize an annual startup pitch competition event. Our partnership with AstroLabs is pivotal in nurturing successful entrepreneurship ecosystems, as we share the same vision and values.”
Through this partnership, budding entrepreneurs acquire a fleshed-out understanding of the requirements needed to rise through the challenges of early-stage operations.
As a dedicated enabler of Saudi-based businesses, and a leading market entry partner to global corporations looking to expand to the Kingdom, AstroLabs continues to build the bridges needed to tie the Saudi startup landscape together. In this light, London Business School’s Entrepreneurship MENA Club panel discussion proved to be yet another successful endeavor to keep fueling the momentum of Saudi entrepreneurship, while endowing new players with the knowledge necessary to ensure maximum success, and in turn, a more prosperous and digitally-enabled Saudi Arabia.