Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) continue diversifying Saudi Arabia’s economy, especially in e-commerce, delivery applications, and digital payments. The government is creating an environment with new regulations, reforms, and financial support for SMEs. And as more Saudi entrepreneurs venture into the startup sector, resources may seem limited. And here, Saudi Arabia’s Biban 23, the region’s largest startup, SMEs, and entrepreneurship conference, is aiding in transforming the SME sector into an engine for economic growth in the kingdom.
Biban engaged over 105,000 participants and witnessed the signing of over ten deals and memorandums of understanding worth billions. Biban 2023 also welcomed a roster of over 350 speakers from the kingdom and across the world, including Lee Young, Minister of SMEs and Startups, Republic of Korea; Steve Chen, CTO and Co-Founder of YouTube; Jeff Hoffman, Chairman of the Board, Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN), and Chris Barton: Founder and Creator of Shazam.
To bolster the sustainability of Saudi Arabia’s SME sector, the SME Bank announced financing products for enterprises worth $2.8 billion for three years. The outlay will be spent on several products, existing and new programs, such as direct and indirect lending programs, financing guarantee programs, and other investment programs, Saudi Press Agency reported.
The Saudi Export and Import Bank signed an agreement with the Saudi National Bank to provide financing solutions for the export of non-oil commodities worth over $26.4 million.
At the summit, the speakers emphasized that startups should address local issues rather than chase innovative concepts. The event highlighted that the market is extensive and can accommodate a variety of ideas. Entrepreneurs must consider developing products that meet regional demands by reinterpreting existing ideas through cultural values.
“There’s a lot of people here in the kingdom and the region that have great ideas. So having access to mentorship, events like Biban, and having access to people who’ve done this before and having access to content about entrepreneurship to help local entrepreneurs launch it into a business is important,” said Jeff Hoffman, chairman of the Global Entrepreneurship Network.
He added that the market is “so big that there’s room for everybody,” and the SME ecosystem is “growing fast, although relatively new”.
Today, Biban hosted the renowned Entrepreneurship World Cup (EWC), a global startup competition, providing participating enterprises with an opportunity to win a $1 million prize pool and access a range of mentoring, training, and networking opportunities. It is based on a joint initiative by the Global Entrepreneurship Network and the Misk Foundation.
After four days of fierce competition, White Helmet, a company that provides a platform to manage and monitor construction operations remotely, has won $300,000 of the total cash prize.
The EWC attracts top talent from around the world. The competition’s other finalists were Digiphy, Biogrip, GENEngine, Waykana, Hera Health Solutions, Marlow, Morpheus Network, NDR Medical, and Desert Control.
Monsha’at signed MoUs with Zoho, Neoleap, GoDaddy, and Accenture Saudi Arabia to empower the SME ecosystem. Nusaned Investment Co. and Banque Saudi Fransi also signed a deal worth $53.3 million to finance emerging SMEs. Diriyah Gate Development Authority signed an MoU with Monsha’at to boost entrepreneurship in Diriyah. Sadara Chemicals also signed an agreement with Monsha’at to facilitate SMEs’ access to purchasing opportunities and develop local content.
Digital payment solution provider Visa has also partnered with Monsha’at to build capacity for a digital economy while enabling female entrepreneurs in the kingdom.
These deals create new opportunities for SMEs and encourage innovation, entrepreneurship, and business development in the country.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia wants to develop smartphones, energy, and the gaming sector with South Korean firms. Young Lee, South Korea’s Minister of SMEs and Startups, said her government is keen to help Korean firms expand to the Saudi market.
The five-day event ends today at the Riyadh Front Exhibition & Conference Center.
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