Ahmed Hamdan, co-founder and CEO of customer engagement platform Unifonic Inc.

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RIYADH: It’s not every day that a neighborhood surgeon in Jeddah abandons his scalpel and forceps to pursue an entrepreneurial dream of guiding people through the dunes and mesmerizing expanses of Saudi Arabia, unless , of course, that there is entrepreneurship in the air.

Five years ago, 33-year-old Abdulrahman Al-Saati surprised friends and family when he gave up his medical pursuits to start an experiential tourism business called Destifind that offered travel-loving people a chance to explore the Kingdom’s unique terrain.

He had no intention of having his guests sit down and notice them, but he did. His company offered beach experiences, camping, and hiking for those eager to get closer to the heart of civilization.

The result was encouraging. Starting from an annual revenue of SR360,000 in 2017, the company earned SR3.5 million in 2021.

“We have been growing year by year, and our initiative this year is to move from an operations-heavy company to a digital platform to become facilitators of the tourism community,” said Abdulrahman Al-Saati, the radiant young CEO of Destinind. .

The company has earned two million Saudi riyals in the past three months and expects to end the year between four and six million Saudi riyals. According to Al-Saati, business activity has accelerated due to the Kingdom’s growing support for small and medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs.

QUICKLYMADE

A growing number of people now see entrepreneurship as a viable option, and this is evident with official figures citing SMEs rising from 447,000 in 2016 to 614,000 in 2020.

“The government is always keen to resolve any issues the SME faces, and we are seeing constant support and follow-ups,” Al-Saati said.

As part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 master plan, it aims to increase the contribution of SMEs to GDP from 20% to 35%. A growing number of people now see entrepreneurship as a viable option, and this is evident with official figures citing SMEs rising from 447,000 in 2016 to 614,000 in 2020.

Demographic advantage

Besides the growing number of entrepreneurs, there is also a demographic advantage that is fueling this transformation. According to the US-based industry body’s Global Entrepreneurial Monitor, or GEM, index, 70% of the Kingdom’s population is under the age of 30.

Abdullah Al-Amri, a 24-year-old fashion entrepreneur, owns a streetwear fashion brand called Bucketbox. Educated in the United States, he wanted to create his own niche in the fashion industry and a brand that was both contemporary and woven into the roots of his culture.

“I really plan to go a lot further. I want to explore fashion styles other than streetwear,” Abdullah revealed, adding that his business has been making good profits since he launched the brand in Riyadh in 2019.

“It’s great to see the landscape changing and people becoming more open to creating and investing in any industry that interests them,” he added.

Another promising development that is creating a conducive business climate is the state of Kingdom affairs. According to the GEM report, the Kingdom also outperforms 43 nations in entrepreneurship, business outlook, business response to the COVID-19 outbreak, and government response to the pandemic.

Put the pedal to the metal

There are a burgeoning number of business accelerators that spot talent and propel them to the next level. One such company is Jeddah-based Blossom, which runs intensive programs for start-ups.

“We help startups understand how to get early traction and understand who their early adopters are and how to pitch to investors,” said Emon Shakoor, founder of Blossom, one of Saudi Arabia’s leading business accelerators that runs programs. three-month MBA-type intensives.

Over the past few years, Blossom has mentored nearly 400 companies, 49 of which have received seed investments. The companies have raised nearly nine million dollars in seed investment.

Shakoor understood that empowering women was her motivation to launch this career. “Not enough women-led tech companies are known,” she said, explaining that there is a lack of opportunity where more male-led companies are getting more investment.

Emon further claimed that Blossom is Saudi Arabia’s first female-focused accelerator that operates under an “umbrella of inclusivity.”

All of these developments have surely placed the region in a dominant position to drive the next wave of entrepreneurship as the non-oil economic era approaches.

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