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Ventures' General Partner Maxim Shashenkov about KSA and it Potential for Startups

10 min

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NRG Ventures’ General Partner, Maxim Shashenkov, shared his thoughts and observations after the Fund’s recent trip to Riyadh on both KSA and its opportunities, as well as the potential for technology startups originated by founders from the former Soviet Union (FSU):
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is changing and developing fast, and it is a vastly underestimated opportunity for FSU founders, and for FSU businesses in general. The country stands to be one of the main beneficiaries of the current political situation, as the demand for its oil and the reliability of supplies are on the rise.

According to the International Monetary Fund, Saudi Arabia would be the fastest-growing economy in 2022 (7.6% GDP growth), overtaking both India (6.8%) and China (3.2%). In some ways, the current KSA leadership is trying to repeat and even overtake earlier UAE’s successful drive to diversify away from the oil industry to other promising sectors (transport, construction, tourism, travel, hi-tech, agriculture etc).
Technology is the ‘name of the game’ in town, with a larger number of local private and institutional investors getting more actively involved in VC investments, and the number of local startups and VC ecosystems are on the rise.
I visited KSA many times this year, and am under the impression that the country is accelerating toward a major leap forward. The younger generation is rapidly moving to the front rows of business and finance (people under the age of 29 amount to two-thirds of the kingdom's population), and almost all people in business, VC, and top corporations are Western-educated and trained. It is a very exciting combination of modernity and traditions.
On top of everything, the good news is that the Saudis are very welcoming to professionals and startups coming from FSU. They need human capital, technology, skills, and IT professionals, and FSU is perhaps the best source of those for now.
Our two weeks in Riyadh were full of meetings and lively interaction with the local investor and VC community, which displayed real interest to engage FSU startups (we brought in 13) and assist us in building a bridge between KSA, GCC, and FSU. NRG Ventures is committed to organizing similar events in the region in the near future while continuing to play this highly positive role for both the Saudi and FSU economies.”