February has been an action-packed month for us and for our portfolio companies, what a great start for the year!
We mentioned in our January newsletter that we are looking at Saudi startups for 2018 and this month’s piece is our take on the market. Definitely eyeing those SaaS models 👀!
To the kingdom
2017 was a transformative year for Saudi Arabia. The kingdom saw reforms across the board, including an encouraging strategy to focus on technology and innovation as drivers of economic growth. Along with government institutions, such as the SME Authority, an increasing number of entrepreneurship support organizations, from incubators to training programs are working toward nurturing and pushing the ecosystem forward. In addition, new trading licenses allowing foreign entrepreneurs to set up businesses will attract more founders and investors to the market going forward.
These developments, combined with an inflow of capital, open up great potential for innovation. For this month’s market map, we took a look at 113 active Saudi tech startups and the sectors they are focusing on. We then identified areas of development or gaps in the market where we would like to see more action.
E-commerce is the most prevalent category and the first stop for most startup ecosystems. They include a range of businesses from multiproduct stores (e.g.Ashal) to platforms for buying cars (e.g. car7araj), books (e.g. Rofoof), and many more.
As covered in previous maps, the food & grocery space is massive in MENA. In Saudi, this category includes multi-vendor food delivery sites (e.g. Hunger Station), grocery delivery (e.g. Nana Direct), restaurant POS systems (e.g. Foodics) and restaurant review apps (e.g. Qaym).
Several companies in on-demand services provide platforms for hiring workers for short terms tasks, such as handymen (e.g. Sakrobe), home cleaners (e.g. Matic), and movers (e.g. Vanoman). Similarly, delivery and logistics includes services to purchase and deliver almost everything (e.g. Mrsool).
Picking up slowly, the fintech sector includes payment service providers (e.g.Faturah) and crowdfunding (e.g. Mojtm3 Ta2). In travel, companies provide bookings (e.g. Almosafer) and local guides (e.g. Daleeli). The transportation category includes startups providing ride-hailing services (e.g. MyTaxi), as well as GPS tracking for fleet (e.g. SafeRoad), school buses (e.g Hafilaty) and family drivers (e.g.Sawwagy). In the social category, companies are providing social media analytics (e.g. Lucidya) and social networks (e.g. Sarahah). Media startups are creating online content (e.g. Uturn), audiobooks (e.g. Dhad) and publishing platforms (e.g.Qalam). Companies in bookings help users discover and book salons (e.g.Spoilee), events (e.g. HalaYalla) and photographers (e.g. Sawerly). Lastly,technology is a broad category that includes companies doing innovative things such as 3d mapping (e.g. Falcon Viz) and crowd management (e.g. Hoshood).
These are the segments that have many startups in global markets but are not yet exploited in the Saudi market. For example, in oil and gas tech, large players such as Saudi Aramco Ventures have invested in US startups providing drilling-related analytics and IoT. It would be interesting to see technologically advanced localplayers help the oil and gas industry manage its complexities. Another interesting untapped sector is construction technology, which potentially includes project collaboration software, inventory management, and specialized drones.
Although there are companies that offer some of the functionalities listed in the Untapped box, we are still not seeing single players dominating these categories and it would be interesting to see how they evolve.
Know of other leaders in the Saudi market?
Think you could use one of those untapped services?
Join the discussion at #arzanVCchats
Show ’em what you got
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Lastly, we wish our readers in Kuwait a happy national and liberation day.
Keep it real,