Startup incubation programs in Saudi serve as crucial pillars to boost entrepreneurship and innovation.
Supporting the startup ecosystem, these programs help small business owners hone their skills, bridge gaps between ideas and reality, and spur innovation.
Besides, they help shape solid businesses by enabling entrepreneurs to verify their ideas, develop strong business models, and cultivate essential skills.
Here are some of the most active startup incubation programs in Saudi.
Recognized as one of the notable startup incubation programs in Saudi, BADIR was launched as a Technology Incubator Program by King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology in 2007. It maintains a considerable presence, operating from centers strategically located in cities such as Riyadh, Dammam, and Jeddah.
The program’s management shifted gears in 2016 when the Business Incubators and Accelerators Company (BIAC) took over the reins. BIAC has since broadened its scope to now include establishing and operating business incubators and accelerators.
However, BIAC’s contributions go beyond just infrastructural support. It delivers project management services, tailor-made consultations, and training services to build the capacity of human resources involved in startups.
According to 2021 data, BIAC has infused around $100,000 into a variety of emerging businesses. Moreover, according to BIAC, its total investments in startups saw an increase to $135.47 mn from 2010 to December 2019, spread across 184 deals.
Venture Lab represents the incubation arm of Prince Muhammad bin Salman College of Management and Entrepreneurship.
This incubator serves a six-month period marked by sizable contributions to the nurturing of early-stage fintech and ed-tech companies. Additionally, it enjoys a broad reach, extending its support to entrepreneurs from both inside and outside the borders of Saudi Arabia.
The incumbent startup incubation program in Saudi brims with valuable services. This diligently designed setup plays an instrumental role in helping young startups weather initial challenges and lay a strong foundation for their ventures.
This Saudi incubation program is powered by Umm al-Qura University. Significantly, it focuses on incubating and accelerating businesses leveraging Hajj and Umrah methodologies.
The venture strategically channels its resources through a multitude of paths. One of its courses involves investing in startups that display growth potential and equipping them with the necessary financial support to expand and evolve.
In addition, as with successful Saudi incubation programs, it takes on the responsibility of constructing and administrating both incubators and accelerators. Similarly, it offers comprehensive training, propels software development, and oversees the operational aspects of modeling laboratories.
Aligning with the demands of the digital age, the program likewise embraces the role of information systems and technology. Lastly, it partakes in the organization of multiple events, conferences, and exhibitions.
Belonging to one of the largest and most innovative universities in the Arab world, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) innovation program rightfully earns its spot on this list.
The program’s objective focuses on the growth and empowerment of small and medium-sized enterprises within the country. In addition, this Saudi incubation program uses the university’s invaluable resources, providing participating entrepreneurs with tailored access to their cutting-edge facilities.
Moreover, KAUST actively invests in high-tech startups through venture capital funding. Ranging from seed investments (less than $200,000) to early-stage backing (up to $2 mn), the institution remains a long-standing strategic partner in propelling these ventures to success.
InspireU is a corporate digital incubator and accelerator brought into existence by the Saudi Telecom Company (STC). The focus of this startup incubation program in Saudi is to nourish those specializing in information and communications technology and digital innovation.
The program unfolds over a span of four to six months, during which startups receive all-encompassing support. This not only includes a seed grant of up to over $26,000 but also a wide array of resources such as mentorship, logistical assistance, and office space. Furthermore, startups can employ STC’s formidable infrastructure to enhance their operations.
As of May 2020, InspireU has successfully fostered 38 digital startups. Unlike most incubators, InspireU does not stake an equity claim in the startups it supports.
Biotech operates as a business incubator under the umbrella of the King Abdullah International Medical Research Center. It has a dedicated focus on nurturing startups operating within the biotechnology and nanotechnology sectors.
In providing support to these startups, Biotech offers several benefits, such as providing office spaces, flexible lease arrangements, and direct business advice and guidance, among others.
On top of that, they facilitate mentoring services, connect startups to capital, and provide other technical resources to empower young businesses.
Beyond these, Biotech likewise offers an array of R&D and innovation services. It further extends its service portfolio to include various research support, consulting, and capacity-building programs.
The rapid development of Saudi’s startup ecosystem testifies to its commitment to innovation and the growth of its SME industry.
As this ecosystem continues to expand, Saudi can look forward with optimism to a more robust future with the success and growth that will be achieved by its enterprising startups and SMEs.
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