Manama, December 2, 2020 — Wa’ed, the entrepreneurship arm of Aramco, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) today with OQAL Angel Investors Network, the leading early-stage investor group in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, in a move to accelerate the pace of start-up investment in both countries.
The MOU was signed in a virtual ceremony by Wassim Basrawi, the Wa’ed Managing Director, Faris Al Rashed, Chairman and Founder of OQAL, and Khaled Zainalabedin, the President and Founder of OQAL in Bahrain. The ceremony was also attended by Latifa BaNasr, the Chief Executive Officer of OQAL in Saudi Arabia.
Under the agreement, OQAL will channel promising start-ups for potential investment to Wa’ed Ventures, the VC arm of Wa’ed, which is the largest and most active institutional VC investor for Saudi-based start-ups. Wa’ed Ventures has a portfolio of 30+ Saudi-based companies. In addition to accelerating investment opportunities, the collaboration aims to promote start-ups that further innovation, digital transformation and economic diversification.
“We are pleased to announce this collaboration with OQAL, which has pioneered angel investing in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. This is the first in a series of efforts by Wa’ed that aim to increase the intensity of our investment activity in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East,” Mr. Basrawi said. “At Wa’ed, we are committed to helping grow the next generation of Saudi-based start-ups. Through this partnership with OQAL, we want to accelerate promising ideas and entrepreneurs and strengthen our ecosystem.”
Faris Al Rashed, Founder & Chairman of OQAL, said the arrangement with Wa’ed Ventures will give young business founders a chance to shape the region’s economic future. “Access to early stage investment financing is key to help nurture start-ups, and our partnership with Wa’ed Ventures, a strong backer of Saudi-based start-ups, is invaluable.”
Khaled Zainalabedin, the President and Founder of OQAL in Bahrain, said: “We are very excited about this collaboration, which opens doors for Bahraini entrepreneurs and Bahraini start-ups to a significant source and access to both financial and business support as they expand their presence and operations across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.”
The partnership is the first of its kind by Wa’ed, which Aramco set up as a leading entrepreneurship center in 2011 to support Saudi-based businesses that diversify the economy and contribute towards economic development in the Kingdom. Over the years, Wa’ed has invested in such successful Saudi start-ups as FalconViz, a maker of drones for mapping, surveying and monitoring, and Hazen.ai, which uses artificial intelligence to improve road and traffic safety.
Dhahran-based Wa’ed is accelerating the pace of its investment and support of the Saudi start-up ecosystem, having recently entered initiatives that target companies aiming to become vendors to Aramco and other members of the company’s supply chain. The company also pursues a broader mandate to support development of an entrepreneurial culture in Saudi Arabia.
OQAL Angel Investors was set up as the first angel investors group in Saudi Arabia in 2011 and opened its branch in Bahrain in 2019. Currently, 190 angel investors in Saudi Arabia and 28 angel investors in Bahrain belong to OQAL’s network, and the chapters are the largest and most active in each country. To date, OQAL has screened more than 5,000 businesses and funded many firms that went on to success, such as Careem, the ride sharing app, and Hunger Station, the food delivery app.
OQAL is one of the most active early-stage investment firms in Saudi Arabia, according to business portal MAGNiTT and Harvard Business Review, and has deployed more than 60 million SAR in 70+ local and regional start-ups, which to date have generated more than 100,000 jobs.