Saudi needs to show more support for early stage startups #MixNMentor

Entrepreneurs and experts exchanging knowledge during the morning mentorship session. (Image via Wamda)

The second out of a series of four Mix N’ Mentor events Wamda is organizing in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia took place yesterday at the Badir Program for Technology Incubators, in collaboration with Monsha’at, a Small and Medium Enterprises Authority (SMEA), and King Saud University (KSU).

Wamda’s flagship event brought together around 30 entrepreneurs and 12 mentors from different industries.

Entrepreneurs’ concerns focused mainly on the lack of support for early stage startups, and expressed their need for more networking events and activities tackling the basic challenges.

"Unlike what everyone thinks, it all starts with networking events; they are crucial to the growth of ecosystems," Sami AlHussayen, vice governor of SMEA told Wamda.

In the recent report published by Wamda: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: Status of the entrepreneurship ecosystem, interviewees acknowledged that KSA is abundant in terms of financial resources but entrepreneurs find it difficult to access the funds claiming that investors are risk averse and look for more mature startups.

The report highlights as well that investors need to create opportunities for early stage startups to access funding and they should not treat tech investments as real estate ones. The should make riskier investments decisions and understand that they have the potential to yield very high returns.

“It is time to raise the standards. Startups should work more on understanding the processes of leading a startup, and all stakeholders should take the responsibility and implement more support. This ecosystem definitely needs more accelerator programs,” Ali Mahmoud of Supermentor told Wamda.

Lack of data

Another main concern of the majority of attending startup was the lack of data.

Whether in the branding, marketing, fashion or media industries, it is hard to access information, data, and market statistic, specifically about small businesses.

“I lead a branding and marketing consultation startup and I struggle to find strong data to better serve my clients,” says Alhanouf AlHammad founder of HH Designs.

Mazen ElDarrab, acting GM of QDRAH, gave a few tips during one of the mentorship session on how entrepreneurs should work to overcome the lack of data.

“Build and own your own data through:

- Mystery shopping
- Benchmarking against global competitors
- Focus groups.”

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