by Ahmad Al-Naimi, September 5, 2013
How do you foster entrepreneurship in a risk-averse culture?
Some would say that Saudi Arabia has all the ingredients for a thriving entrepreneurship scene: top talents, lavish resources, and increasing government support. However the tangible result (in proportion to the potential) is by all scales inhibited. Observers argue that Saudis’ are missing one key element for a successful recipe: risk taking.
A risk-averse culture limits deal flow and restricts innovation. The tens of business incubators around Saudi Arabia and the investment institutes will tell you that innovation and deal flow are their top two challenges. Our young talents graduate from the best schools and race to the biggest corporates seeking security, leaving no “buffer” in between.
Wa’ed have recently launched their own take on business incubators. Wa’ed Startup Lab, located within the campus of King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM), is a new breed of business incubators that is fast-paced and technically-biased. But what is most impressive about this initiative is the fact that they have solved the risk-aversion challenge.
Last month Wa’ed Startup Lab announced the first round of CO-OP to Entrepreneur, a pioneering program that enables senior university students with innovative ideas to form teams and create companies as part of their academic curriculum. This initiative essentially creates a fail-safe environment for innovative ventures, where student-entrepreneurs work full-time for 3 to 7 months (depending on their majors) under the provision of Wa’ed Startup Lab and with the support of an army of high caliber mentors, technical partners such as Microsoft, and networking opportunities with industry leaders.
The CO-OP to Entrepreneur initiative is significant to the ecosystem because ambitious entrepreneurs no longer need to compromise their academic pursuits or limit their scaling potential. More importantly, the program brings several long term benefits, such as fostering entrepreneurship from the bottom up, offering unparalleled internship experience, and potentially creating successful companies that will diversify the economy and boost creative job opportunities.
Currently Wa’ed Startup Lab is hosting six student-led startups all from KFUPM, with plans to scale-up future rounds to include all universities within the Kingdom.
Wa’ed (Saudi Aramco Entrepreneurship Center) is Saudi Aramco’s arm in fostering entrepreneurship in the Kingdom, offering a wide range of support services for the local economy, including debt and equity funding, business development training and mentorship, and best-in-class business incubation. You can learn more about Wa’ed from their website: http://www.waed.net