Today was the first day for the ZHAW students and the school delegation visiting companies in Riyahd, Saudi Arabia. The first stop was at BIAC, a consulting company acting as a business incubator and accelerator that targets mainly high potential start-ups and mature tech companies, among other types of companies. As it was the first stop, it was also our first insight into what they call “Vision 2030”, something that was later on mentioned by the other companies as well. The Saudi Arabian “Vision 2030” is based on opening the Kingdom’s doors to international companies, creating opportunities for foreign investment and to diversify their economy away from oil dependency. BIAC’s value proposition is to provide support for foreign companies to enter Saudi Arabia. They’ve highlighted the need of having a business development accelerator due to the significant differences such as language barriers and legislation. According to BIAC, there are a minimum of 20 steps in order to establish a business in Saudi Arabia and they promote a program that focuses on 5 main steps. They accelerator helps to speed up growth of start-ups over a period of 9 months and their incubators help launch new businesses in less than 3 years. BIAC’s business was so successful that they went through a reform last September in order to scale-up to bigger companies, since in the beginning their main focus was exclusively start-ups. Now they work with the Badir’s program, a Saudi Arabian incentive created to boost specially innovation and competition. They’ve developed bootcamps that help improve business areas within just a few days and help creating an entrepreneurial mind set. Moreover, the company invited some of its previous clients that have successfully launched a business with the help of BIAC and a key point mentioned by them was that BIAC provided them with a network that became crucial for their success. Even businesses that are from different areas or sectors, they were able to meet through the program and exchange knowledge that allowed them to learn from each other experiences as well as meet investors. After providing us with a great presentation over their business activities, the company ended our encounter hosting a delicious lunch for the students and school delegation.
At the second stop, the Monsha`at Academy, the students learned about how small and medium enterprises in Saudi Arabia get supported by a government program, which provides 24 workshops that are free of charge and individual help from experts in the field on how to do business in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia if necessary. The workshops include general knowledge about marketing, entrepreneurship, doing business, attracting financiers, and much more. The Monsha’at project aims that Saudi Arabia becomes less dependent on oil revenue by 2030 in terms of the GDP by increasing innovation in different sectors such as e-commerce, education, as well as all other kind of industries and by scaling up enterprises. Moreover, the concept of the best practices approach is used to give SME’s the chance to establish themselves successfully in the Saudi Arabian market. In addition, Monsha`at provides help for foreign companies on how to do business in the kingdom and gives legal as well as financial advice. Approximately 7000 local and international companies have already used their services. Therefore, the Monsha`at Academy program, established in December 2020, can already show some success stories.
The last destination of the day was Ad Diriyah. The students were split up into two groups where each of them received their own personal tour guide. The tour took them through the At-Turaif quarter, where the old seat of power of the Al Saud family is located. The palace and all the quarters surrounding the narrow alleyways are built with mudbricks that created an amazing rustic ambiance during the scenic sunset. After visiting the throne of the prior generation, the tour continued in the adjacent museum, where the history and importance of Saudi Arabia and the Al Saud dynasty is displayed through a combination of old relics and modern interactive applications covering the significance of their forefathers. After the museum the next pitstop was a nearby rooftop where they witnessed a marvelous combination of old and new in the shape of a lightshow projected onto the old ruins of At-Turaif. The show presented the formation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in a tremendous audiovisual fashion. The students concluded their visit of Ad Diriyah by witnessing a choreography of the national men’s sword dance known as the Ardha at the foot of the old quarter. The Ardha is a combination of singers, dancers carrying swords and a narrator harmonizing on the stage. Afterwards, the students went back to the hotel and onwards to a well deserved dinner.