More than 6,000 attendees, including senior government officials and enterprise decision-makers; 250 global speakers, and 150 investors came together to mingle and exchange ideas on digital innovation and entrepreneurship over two days at Arabnet Riyadh 2019.
Held on the 10th and 11th of December under the theme ‘Connecting the Kingdom’, the event also hosted more than 300 exhibiting startups in the Kingdom’s largest tech entrepreneurship showcase.
“For years, Saudi Arabia has been the region’s largest economy, boasting consumers of the highest purchasing power and a young tech-savvy population; but recent developments make this an especially opportune time to move into the Saudi tech scene,” said Omar Christidis, Arabnet Founder and CEO, during the opening ceremony.
The event included the Inspire Saudi track, sponsored by Monsha’at, which focused on startups and investments in tech companies and featured top global investors from Silicon Valley, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Hong Kong, France, Mexico, and the MENA region as well.
The opening panel discussed the key drivers for achieving vision 2030 in the Kingdom from the perspective of entrepreneurship, innovation, and digitization. Mr. Christidis conducted a fireside chat with American billionaire and venture capitalist, Tim Draper, the Founding Partner of Draper Associates and DFJ, whose prominent investments include Baidu, Skype, Tesla, SpaceX, and Twitter to name a few. The track also included a game show for VCs, called the 10 second VC, as well as a panel on breaking the boys club to empower women entrepreneurs.
On the other hand, The Finverse forum, which was sponsored by Saudi Fransi Bank, tackled issues related to digital banking and fintech, while the CIO Forum, sponsored by Mastercard, explored the best practices for digital transformation across government and enterprise with CTOs and CIOs from the National Water Company, Alamar Foods, Arab National Bank, as well as experts from IBM, Mastercard, and others.
The Ad/Edge track tackled how brands, agencies, and publishers are adapting their strategies to keep up with cutting-edge technologies, consumer behaviors, and the structural changes that are reshaping the industry. It featured top speakers from big brands, such as Lars Silberbauer, Head of MTV Digital Studios, Senior Vice President at Viacom; Elie Chammas, Sales Director and Team Lead - GCC, TikTok; and Kaswara Al-Khatib, Chairman, Webedia Arabia.
Furthermore, discussions on the DMS Stage focused on enabling digital players to thrive and contribute to Vision 2030, addressing the most relevant topics bound to impact the future of digital marketing in the Kingdom.
Arabnet Riyadh also featured a number of dynamic initiatives to support entrepreneurs, including The Academy, which featured workshops on entrepreneurship, marketing, and e-commerce; and Pioneering Women, which featured talks and mentorship sessions by successful female executives.
Entrepreneurs behind fast growing startups shared their stories at Sawalif Riyadiya, including the Founders of Noon Academy, Mrsool, UnitX, and Qoyod, all of which have raised funding rounds in the millions of dollars.
And over the course of the two days, more than 500 one-on-one meetings took place between startups and investors at the Investor Lounge, sponsored by Startup Bahrain, to help them get the investment and support they need to succeed.
Finally, a new addition to Arabnet Riyadh this year was the Masterclass, a half-day track consisting of workshops focused on educational sessions on angel and individual investing, from deal sourcing to post-investment value growth and exits.
Three Competitions & a Demo Day
At the closing ceremony, the winners were announced for Arabnet’s signature competitions. The Startup Battle, sponsored by Riyad Bank, celebrated three winners from Saudi Arabia: in 1st place, Rihlaty; in the 2nd place, Oreyeon; in the 3rd place, Ghallah. The three winning startups will get the chance to participate in the Arabnet Startup Championship and compete for a $20,000 cash prize and acceleration in Silicon Valley.
Winners of the Ideathon competition were also announced. The winning idea was The Barber. In the 2nd and 3rd place were AGZA and CouriMe respectively. We will be looking at the winners in detail over the weeks to come, so stay tuned!
Arabnet also hosted Ebtakr, an annual award and exhibition organized by Monsha’at, dedicated to honoring Saudi Inventors that have registered IPs and exposing them to investors and the ecosystem. The event also hosted the 1st Flat6Labs Regional Demo Day, in which 16 portfolio startups poised to disrupt the startup tech scene in their industries pitched to more than 150 investors and business leaders.
Arabnet Riyadh 2019 was held in Strategic Partnership with the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises, Monsha’at, and with the support of a wide range of sponsors that include Saudi Telecom Company (STC), Seera (AlTayyar Group), Mastercard, Saudi Fransi Bank, Digital Marketing Services (Choueiri Group), Riyad Bank, AlKhaleejiah (Saudi Research and Marketing Group), TikTok, SAMBA, Meem Bank, Dawiyat (Saudi Electricity Company), Teads and many more.