New Saudi Arabia Techstars accelerator to boost startups

By Kate Birch
To drive innovation in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia partners with global startup accelerator and VC fund Techstars to help nurture and grow startups...

A new startup accelerator has been set up in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to help fast-track startup success for businesses. The result of a collaboration between globally renowned investment accelerator Techstars and Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Communications and Infomration Technology, the newly launched Riyadh Techstars Accelerator will focus on attracting startups to the MENA region and helping them build and grow their businesses across the Middle East and North Africa region. 

Having invested in more than 2,400 startups worldwide to date, Techstars is now bringing its mission to 'make innovation and entrepreneurship more accessible' to the Middle East, helping to drive Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, the country’s blueprint for social transformation and economic diversification. 

Saudi Arabia's entrepreneurial ecosystem evolves

Pointing to Saudi Arabia’s young population, 70% of whom are youth, and who are the country’s “digital natives”, Dr Ahmed Altheneyan, deputy minister for Future Skills and Digital Entrepreneurship outlined the plan to leverage their energy and curiosity to leapfrog with innovation. And with the expertise of Techstars, to come together to “scale the impact of their combined resources and capabilities to truly accelerate digital entrepreneurship across the Kingdom”.

According to Altheneyan, the Kingdom is already witnessing the growth of a vibrant venture capital investment community, along with rapid technology adoption. 

“With entrepreneurship on the rise in Saudi Arabia, and the unwavering community commitment to developing a strong startup ecosystem in the region, putting down roots in Riyadh is something we’ve been looking forwad to,” says Gagan Bhatia, Techstars GM. “We look forward to making entrepreneurship more accessible.”

How will the accelerator work?

Designed to help entrepreneurs and startups advance their ideas and businesses, Riyadh Techstars Accelerator will begin accepting appications for its 13-week programme on May 10, 2021 with the programme taking place between November 2021 to February 2022. 

Techstars has been active in the MENA region for many years. Not only does it have similar accelerator programme in UAE (Techstars Dubai Accelerator and Techstars Hub71 Accelerator in Abu Dhabi), but it’s run more than 700 Techstars Startup Weekend events over the years. Participants receive funding, along with hands-on mentorship, access to curated workshops and resources. 

Who are Techstars and what do they offer?

Now a decade old, Colorado-born Techstars is a seed accelerator that provides investment and innovation to help startups take off. They operate accelerator programmes and venture capital funds across major US cities such as Boston, Seattle, NYC and Chicago, and globally since 2013, beginning in London and expanding to Canada, Germany, Israel, South Africa, Australia, France, Dubai, Oslo, Singapore, India, and most recently Saudi Arabia. Similarly, its famed Startup Week events have expanded internationally too across Europe, Asia and Africa. 

Techstars has invested in more than 2,400 ocmpanies with a combined market capt of more than US$204 bn. techstars’ success stories include digital remittance Remitly, which achieved unicorn status last year. 

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