How Saudi Arabia’s tech unicorn dreams can fuel IT sector growth

Initiatives to develop highly successful startups take place in context of a general effort in the Kingdom to grow the tech sector—with the goal of encouraging IT job growth and helping private enterprise and public services alike to flourish.

Like their mythical counterparts, tech unicorns can be elusive, yet the hunt for the next billion-dollar startup continues and Saudi Arabia intends to grow its own. Looking to the success of Middle Eastern startups like UAE-based Careem, the ride-hailing app acquired by Uber for US$3.1 billion, the quest to nurture tech unicorns in Saudi Arabia is driven by a number of trends that have potential benefits for IT professionals and the country's business climate as a whole.

Initiatives to develop highly successful startups take place in context of a general effort in the Kingdom to grow the tech sector, develop tech talent, build IT infrastructure, and cut bureaucratic red tape – all with the goal of helping private enterprise and public services to flourish.

The Saudi Arabian government has been investing heavily in digital transformation efforts outlined in its Vision 2030 strategy to diversify its economy from oil, and venture capital money is further fueling the development of IT resources and talent.

The Saudi Arabian startup ecosystem is not as large as that of its neighbors but it is the fastest-growing in the Gulf region due to reforms implemented under Vision 2030.

STV, Saudi Arabia's US$500 million venture capital fund, predicts that VC investments in the Kingdom will continue to grow rapidly and that annual investment capital has the potential to expand tenfold, from $50 million in 2018 to $500 million in 2025.

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