Wa’ed, the entrepreneurship arm of Aramco, tripled the amount of money it loaned to Kingdom-based start-ups during 2020, and injected significantly more money into new businesses through venture capital (VC) investments, as it began a multi-year effort to raise support for Saudi entrepreneurs.
The Dhahran-based venture, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Aramco, increased loan disbursements to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Saudi Arabia to SR31 million in 2020, from SR10 million in 2019. In venture capital investments, Wa’ed deployed SR43 million, up 34%from SR32 million in the previous year.
The number of loans financed rose to 12 in 2020 from four in 2019, and venture capital deals executed increased from seven to nine over the same period.
Since its inception in 2011, Wa’ed has deployed more than SR375 million to enable the growth of hundreds of innovative, disruptive digital businesses in Saudi Arabia through a unique end-to-end combination of loans, VC investment and incubation services.
Under its mandate to help diversify the Saudi economy and support entrepreneurs, Wa’ed targets game-changing SMEs across all sectors whose technologies are unique, innovative, ready for market, and address a gap in the country. Diversifying the Saudi economy beyond oil and gas by investing in other sectors is one goal of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 initiative, an ambitious blueprint to ensure sustainable economic growth into the future.
By supporting first-mover companies whose products measurably raise the quality of life in Saudi Arabia, Wa’ed has helped grow the Kingdom’s nascent start-up ecosystem into one of the fastest-growing hotbeds of entrepreneurship in the world.
In 2020, Wa’ed responded to the challenges of COVID-19 by going virtual and redesigning workflows to streamline procedures and manage new realities, creating efficiencies that generated higher loan and VC investment volumes. Wa’ed believes the workflow enhancements it introduced will continue to boost operating performance long after the pandemic ends.
“I am very grateful for the confidence and support we receive from Aramco and the Kingdom, which enables Wa’ed to fulfil its unique pioneering role as an advocate for innovative new businesses that localize technologies and services which are needed in Saudi Arabia and can help improve quality of life,” said Wassim Basrawi, Wa’ed’s Managing Director. “In a very challenging year, I am proud of the Wa’ed family, which includes my team and our resilient entrepreneurs, for rising to the challenges and keeping us on track to deliver an even greater impact in 2021.”
Through its mentoring and start-up incubation activities, Wa’ed is a thought leader in Saudi Arabia, offering a wide range of cutting-edge professional certification, patent development and incubation support services, as well as a range of entrepreneur networking events that attracted more than 3,000 people during 2020.