BIBAN Forum 2017: Funding is available, seek mentorship

Biban Forum 2017 had around 20,000 visitors on the first day alone. (Image via BIBAN)

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Wamda organized its three-day Mix N’ Mentor event in Saudi Arabia, during the BIBAN Forum 2017, which ran from September 17 till 20, at the Riyadh International Convention & Exhibition Center.

During the forum which attracted around 20,000 visitors on day one alone, Wamda gathered Saudi entrepreneurs on round tables to meet with mentors from different sectors.

Mix N’ Mentor focused on learning from other entrepreneurs and networking with mentors, discussing varied subjects from team building and marketing strategies to preparing for meetings with VCs.

“The speed at which the Saudi ecosystem is growing is encouraging. It helps boost the economy and the young generation. I am looking forward to meeting more Saudi entrepreneurs willing to develop their startups in the future,” said Nitin Reen, head of value creation at Wamda Capital.

Some of the participants in Wamda mentorship sessions. (Image via Wamda)

Meanwhile, the BIBAN Forum organized several panels on adopting smart strategies which allow SMEs to succeed and move forward, in addition to talks from local and global entrepreneurs, and government officials.

The forum witnessed the signature of various partnerships. These include the one between the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority and King Khalid University, which aims at supporting SMEs by providing open online courses and creating training courses in entrepreneurship. It also includes one between the Authority and the King Salman Center for Local Governance, which plans on encouraging taking initiatives and cooperating in research and consulting activities. The Authority also signed a partnership with the Riyadh Chamber to exchange information and cooperate in research studies and event organization.

Ghassan Al Sulaiman from Monsha’at (to the left) while signing the partnership with King Khalid University. (Image via BIBAN).

Ghassan Al-Sulaiman, Governor of the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises Majid Al-Qasabi, Minister of Trade; Ali Al-Ghafis, Minister of Labor; and Abdullah Al-Sawaha, Minister of Communication all took part in the governmental session. Al-Sulaiman explained that authorities are working on restructuring the Kafalah program (for funding SMEs) and launching full service centers and other SME support programs.

Al-Ghafis also announced that the Ministry of Labor will register freelancers and part time workers in social security.

In an interactive session with experts about the funding of SMEs in the Kingdom, Walid Faza, partner at Wamda Capital said that “there should be talks about more than funding in Saudi Arabia. Youth energy is an important resource in the Kingdom and we should help them in developing business ideas and preparing business strategies and models through mentorship.”

Walid Faza stressed the importance of mentorship in the funding session. (Image via Wamda)

In the same session, Faris AlHumaid, founding chairman of Oqal Group, pointed out that governmental institutions in Saudi Arabia enhanced their support for SMEs. What is left is to work on the legislations and the terms to develop enterprises, such as stock options pools.  

“Entrepreneurs must know that there are stages to fund startups. It starts with family and friends, then goes to incubators and accelerators, before reaching angel investors and VCs, and then listing in the Parallel Market for example,” AlHumaid added.

The event also included various workshops that trained attendees on subjects such as feasibility studies and business planning.

The BIBAN forum 2017 also included a social entrepreneurship challenge, an initiative of the SMEA aiming to raise awareness regarding social projects and their importance and create social entrepreneurs.

In the first stage, 15 out of 700 entrepreneurs pitched their ideas in front of the Jury constituted of Shahd Al-Shuhail, Ghada Arifi, Firas Al-Jarrah, Ahmad Al-Jabreen and Abdullah Al-Rashed.

After the entrepreneurs pitched their ideas, the jury picked 5 winners: Lulwa Al Sudairy, Bassem Al Balladi, Nour Al Dabbagh, Yasser Al Husseini and Hisham Al Jabr.

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