The Region’s Entrepreneurship Backbone


By Anousha Vakani, Noura Al Joaib and Mona Sabr
Budding entrepreneurs and striving business owners, check out this list of programs dedicated to serving you.

 1- Saudi Aramco Entrepreneurship Center (Wa’ed)

Founded: 2011
Success stories: Innosoft, LSS, Areeb World, QTech, High Sky and more.

Saudi Aramco, the world’s leading oil company, has always been at the forefront of economic growth. In November 2011, the Saudi Aramco Entrepreneurship Center — also known as Wa’ed, was established with the aim to continue enhancing Saudi Aramco’s social contribution as it supports the Kingdom’s comprehensive economic development.

The center assists in the development of local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in a range of sectors by helping entrepreneurs establish or expand their ventures through a variety of financial offerings, along with offering guidance and tools that nurture entrepreneurs and their businesses. The programs consist of Wa’ed Loans, a debt funding program with robust pre-funding and post-funding support, and Wa’ed Equity, an economic development program that offers equity partnerships in promising ventures. Additionally, the center conducts periodic training workshops and hosts coaching sessions regularly.

So if your dream is to pursue your very own startup, or would like to take your business venture to the next level, contact Wa’ed to help you make it happen.

Location: Saudi Aramco

2- Riyadah – National Entrepreneurship Institute

Programs: Iradah Program, Incubator Program

Riyadah is a non-profit initiative that began in Riyadh but is located throughout the Middle East. It was founded through a partnership between the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources and the Technical & Vocational Training Corporation under the name ‘National Entrepreneurship Institute’. Riyadah aims at being the model of entrepreneurship and the development of small and medium sized businesses (SMEs). They achieve this by supporting self-employed business owners and entrepreneurs (male & female) through training, consulting, guidance, facilitating access to financing and licensing and full support throughout the incubation period.

Riyadah believes in the saying ‘Where there is a will, there is a way,” therefore they dedicate themselves to supporting the youth of the Middle East who are interested in owning their own business but do not have any previous experience, yet they have the determination and will to succeed.



3- Oqal

Founded: 2009
Founder: Faris AlRasheed
Success stories: HungerStation, First Practice, Shakwa, Shakes, Gumesh and more.

Originally from Riyadh, non-profit entrepreneurship center Oqal combines two of the most important things needed for any startup in its name – ideas and funds. Oqal’s goal is simple: to connect talented entrepreneurs with brilliant ideas to angel investors. With over 120 angel investors at present, Oqal has various success stories under its belt, from the very popular car service, Careem to Pillars & Bloom, an education and career counseling service. If you have an idea you think needs to be heard, head over to Oqal’s website and fill out the application form. The submitted project is evaluated by the Oqal team and, if accepted, you will be invited to pitch your idea to potential investors where funds can reach up to five million Riyals. All you need to bring is your idea, lots of energy and ambition.


4- Prince Sultan Fund For Women Development

Centers: Business Support & Funding, Prince Mohammed bin Fahd Youth Leadership Center and Princess Jawaher Center.
Success stories: A Cup of Cake, Authentic Folklore Gallery, Sun Gardens School, Creative Agenda and more.

The Prince Sultan Fund houses the very first business incubator dedicated for women in the Eastern Province. With a vision to empower Saudi women and in turn contribute to the growth of the Kingdom’s economy, the Prince Sultan Fund boasts several women-led success stories including the Golden Lens Studio and My Little Cake Shop. Apart from funding, the center offers training and workshops, leadership forums, seminars, panel discussions, networking opportunities, legal advice and accounting services.

Location: Albinali Tower, Khobar – Dammam Highway

Tel: +966-13-8140038

5- Industrial Development Center (IDC)

Programs: Incubator Program

The Industrial Development Center located in Jubail supports small businesses that are based on new ideas that support market needs. The center helps young entrepreneurs throughout the process in order to ensure success of the project. Services include everything required for emerging businesses such as; feasibility studies, providing offices, assisting in marketing & communications strategies and the development of funding strategies and long-term business plans, accounting, administrative services etc. The Royal Commission of Jubail and the Jubail Technical Institute sponsor the center.



6- KFUPM Entrepreneurship Institute (EI)

Programs: Center for Business Incubators, Center for Entrepreneurship Education, Entrepreneurship Studies Center KFUPM EI has three centers that support entrepreneurship at KFUPM. Each center complements the other, and the institute serves as a place where great ideas meet the support they need to become reality. The institute focuses on six main areas: Energy, Petrochemicals, Water, Construction, Nanotechnology and Consumer Technology. Aspiring entrepreneurs have three options: the first is to take part in the pre-incubation program which offers short courses in startups. The second opportunity is the Incubation Program itself where the teams pitch their ideas and go through a screening process before joining the Incubation Program. This program helps in refining business models and plans and provides extensive mentoring from successful business figures and investors as well as mentors from the university and Dhahran Techno-Valley. The third opportunity that startups are offered by KFUPM EI is to run their business from the incubator at a nominal rental fee, furthering their networking and investment chances.

Tel: +966 13 860 7781

7- StartUp Lab

Launched: July 2013
Success stories: Indielabs, Order Me, ElectroAim, Mister Fixer and more.
Programs: Business Incubation Program, CO-OP to Entrepreneur Program

Located in KFUPM, StartUp Lab is Aramco Entrepreneurship Center’s business incubator. StartUp Lab is home to its flagship program “CO-OP to Entrepreneur” which supports the establishment of new businesses by university students even before they graduate, transforming them into job makers rather than job seekers. Entrepreneurs are also offered office space and equipment, grants and business development training and advisory, technical consultancy, networking opportunities and access to partners such as Microsoft and Fab Lab. It’s open to all aspiring entrepreneurs, just be sure your business plan is paired with important qualities such as team dynamics, competency and good communication skills.

Location: KFUPM
Tel: +966-13-8805819



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