How Saudi entrepreneurs are trying to change their country #MixNMentor

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“We think the future is Saudi Arabia in the region."

This is how Walid Faza, partner at Wamda Capital, opened Wamda’s first #MixNMentor of 2017, in Riyadh Saturday, an event held in partnership with King Saud University’s (KSU) King Salman Institute for Entrepreneurship.

Regulations, infrastructure and funding were the three main challenges that entrepreneurs repeatedly brought up during the event’s mentorship sessions.

While those challenges were not unique throughout the region, most startups participating were earlier stage than what is commonly seen at Mix N’Mentor, but far more enthusiastic and determined.

During one of the mentorship sessions with Fadi Ghandour. (Images via Wamda)

Despite all the impediments the Saudi ecosystem faces, Waleed Al-Banawi, of Jisr Venture Partners, insisted on building scalable models. “Focus on reinventing your business model to create traffic. […] Think of where you want your company to be in five years,” he said during one of the mentorship sessions.

Saudi entrepreneurs are very aware of the needs of their country’s ecosystem. From culture change, to openness to enhancing the infrastructure, most startups we met have a long term goal that touches on the country’s social life.

Providing expert support

Taurus, a human centered design startup, founded by serial entrepreneur Ziad Jarrar

The Saudi entrepreneurial ecosystem faces many difficulties. Taurus works on finding solutions for as many of those challenges as possible in all sectors and industries. After 18 years of working in this market, Jarrar has built six startups and wants to invest his experience in supporting other entrepreneurs and helping them solve challenges they are facing, through Taurus.

Enhancing the groceries delivery experience

Todoorstep, a platform for online delivery shopping and grocery - Ammar Youssef

They want to help Saudi citizens save time and speed up their grocery shopping with a delivery service. It’s a fast moving era and Todoorstep is trying to offer a service that allows people to keep up. “We are trying to use technology to solve the grocery delivery issue in ecommerce.”

Kicking off the day.

Encouraging outdoor activities

Spokes Hub, a cycling club and community - Baraah Abdullah

This social and entrepreneurial initiative wants to create a social movement that encourages people to go outside and move. Spokes Hub sells and rent bicycles and is building a community of cyclers. “We want to motivate families to organise outdoor activities together during their weekends and their vacation.”

Nurturing new economies in creative industries

Telfaz11, an entertainment production and distribution network - Alaa Yoosef

This well established Saudi startup encourages students to choose their career paths according to what they love instead of social pressures around them. “We want to export our local stories to the rest of the world, and prove that entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia is successful and deserves support and attention.

Roundtable mentorship session.

Women supporting women

Sheworks, an accelerator for women only -  Maha Shirah

Sheworks is the first accelerator in Saudi Arabia that enrols only women entrepreneurs, and provides multiple services such as flexible working hours for mothers, and accessible office space for freelance women. “We don’t look at our tenants as data we use to grow our business model; we look at them as partners in our success story and treat them as such.”

Digitising printhouses

Munjiz, digital solutions for print houses - Ahmed Alnuaimi

The young entrepreneur is trying to build a solution to allow print houses to become more digitised and achieve faster and easier printing. “We are focusing on solving the logistics, quality and talent challenges that printing houses currently face.”

For a ‘greener’ society

Kees Chic, turning waste into accessories for women - Diana Rayyan

An entrepreneur determined to help marginalised talented women to get their chance at making a living. They transform waste into accessories, and encourage local products by raising awareness among women to consume locally. “We want to change people’s behavior, and push them to be fully responsible of their own waste.”

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