50 Most Promising Saudi Startups 2016

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia unveiled Vision 2030, its plan to diversify away from oil. Important players in that shift will be entrepreneurs.

Although some big investors showed no sign of activity in 2016, notably the corporate venture arms of Saudi Telecom and Mobily, others, such as Saudi Aramco’s Wa’ed and Qotuf AlRiyadah/Flat6Labs Jeddah, are spending time and money developing a startup ecosystem. Tuba Terekli, who heads Qotuf AlRiyadah/Flat6Labs Jeddah, has invested in 38 companies so far, including mobile game developer Ayah Studios, which has nearly two million downloads, and Maharah, a provider of on-demand home maintenance services, which now employs 450 people.

Startups are also getting a boost from universities. King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) runs KAUST Innovation Fund that has made investments in NOMADD, a manufacturer of automated solar panel cleaning technology, and Sadeem, which makes sensors. King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals’ Dhahran Techno Valley also incubates startups and provides seed investment; they include Telaa, which developed anti-corrosion material for pipelines that is supposed to be more effective and environmentally friendly than existing technology, and ConCure which uses less water in making concrete.

We narrowed the list this year to 50, down from 100, and came up with stronger candidates. Twenty-four are new, including C3 Films, Cura and Rwaq. E-commerce still dominates, but startups are becoming savvier at using technology to collect and analyze data from transactions. Examples include OrderMe and Morni. Out of the 50 startups, 16 are still bootstrapping.

Methodology: We looked at more than 250 startups, and ranked them according to the amount of equity raised (startups whose sole funding came from loans were excluded), and source of funding. We also took into consideration business models and the potential size of the market. The majority of entrepreneurs were forthcoming and transparent about their funding, but a few asked us to publicly withhold that information. Startups are maximum six years old.

 

ImageRankNameDescriptionFounder(s)FundingInvestorsFoundedSectors
1PayTabsOnline payment processing toolsAbdulaziz Fahad Aljouf$16.5 millionSaudi Aramco's Wa'ed, angel investment2013Financial Services
2UTURNMedia productionKaswara Al-Khatib$10 millionLeap Ventures2011Media
3C3 Films*Media productionAlaa Yoosef Faden and Ali KalthamiNULLSelf-funded2011Media
4MorniOn-demand roadside assistanceSalman Al-Suhaibaney$1.1 millionRaed Ventures, 500 Startups2014Services
5FalconViz3D aerial survey and mappingAnas Dahlawi, Neil Smith, Luca Passone, Mohamed Shalaby$1.1 millionKAUST Innovation Fund (grant), Saudi Aramco's Wa'ed2015Technology
6OrderMeFood delivery appMohammad Al-Abdulqadir$1 millionSaudi Aramco's Wa'ed, Khalid Almoayed & Sons2014Logistics
7Ayah Studios*Mobile game developerSalem Alanzi and Sami AlsaifUndisclosedQotuf AlRiyadah/Flat6Labs Jeddah, undisclosed VC2014Gaming
8AcadoxOnline coursesMohammad Alhareeqi, Mustafa Nabulsi, Nedal MouradUndisclosedSTC Ventures, KAUST Innovation Fund2010Food & Beverages
9YatooqArabic coffee makerLateefa Alwaalan$100,000Self-funded2011Education
10Abi Sayara*Online seller of new and used carsNiko Ruokosuo$1 millionAngel investment2010E-commerce
11IndielabsSoftware developerKhaleel AlHaboubUndisclosedNaif Al Qahtani2014Technology
12Cura*TelemedicineWael Kabli, Mohammad Zekrallah$800,000NULL2015Digital Health
13Sadeem*Smart sensorsAhmad Dehwah, Mustafa Mousa, Esteban Canepa, Christian ClaudelUndisclosedKAUST Innovation Fund2016Technology
14NoonOnline coursesAbdulaziz Alsaeed and Mohammed AldhalaanUndisclosedAngel investment2013Education
15Near MotionCustomer engagement toolsFaisal Alferdos$375,000Saudi Aramco's Wa'ed2014Technology
16NOMADD Desert Solar SolutionsAutomated solar panel cleaningGeorg Eitelhuber$305,000KAUST Innovation Fund2012Technology
17MaharahBooking app for home maintenance servicesMujahed Marghlani, Saleem Barnawi, Ahmed Mereyani$288,000Qotuf AlRiyadah/Flat6Labs Jeddah, angel investment2015Services
18FoodicsCloud-based restaurant management systemAhmad AlZaini and Mosab AlOthmaniUndisclosedRaed Ventures2014Business Services
19Visual ExperienceVirtual reality and 3D film productionAbdulwahid and Mohammed Al-Zaydi, Peter Rautek$250,000KAUST Innovation Fund2014Industrial
20Telaa*Anti-corrosion coating technologyMohammad Al-BualiUndisclosedSaudi Aramco's Wa'ed (grant)2015Technology
21Hachid*Crowd management technologyBasim Zafar, Jens Schneider, Mohamed Shalaby, Bernard Ghanem$200,000KAUST Innovation Fund (grant)2015Services
22SawerlyOnline platform to book photographersHussein Attar and Mohamed Al Zahrani$227,000QB Co., Qotuf AlRiyadah/Flat6Labs Jeddah2013Media
23RayzSocial media marketingBander and Rayan Alwabil, Yazeed AlghuraibiUndisclosedNaif Alrajhi Investment, angel investment2012Services
24Wade7Animated math and science videosWesam YaghmourUndisclosedQotuf AlRiyadah/Flat6Labs Jeddah, Saudi Aramco's Wa'ed2013Education
25ConCure*Concrete makerMohammed Khalil, Feras Kafiah, Husam Walwil$90,000King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals' Dhahran Techno Valley2012Construction
26Dokkan AfkarE-commerce platformAmmar Waganah, Abdullah Bajri, Mohammed Karam NasrallahUndisclosedMobily Ventures2012E-commerce
27TamProjects*Develops and manages employee award programsAbdullah Alyousef, Salim Bamakhrama, Rawaa Baksh, Omar Al Juraisi, Abdullah AldammakUndisclosedAngel investment2015Services
28iRehabOnline physical therapyReem Al-Sowayegh and Ahmed Zawawi$45,000Qotuf AlRiyadah/Flat6Labs Jeddah, Saudi Aramco's Wa'ed (grant)2015Healthcare
29Rwaq*Free online Arabic coursesFouad Alfarhan and Sami Al HussayenUndisclosedAngel investment2013Education
30Warsha Plus*Trading platform for auto partsAbdulrahman Hassan Shahbar, Mohammed Abdullah Al Qurashi, Naif Saeed Bin JahlanUndisclosedQotuf AlRiyadah/Flat6Labs Jeddah2015E-commerce
31Farm Tech*Organic lifestock farmingHassan Alghamdi and Talha Sheikh Al-Basatneh$18,000Qotuf AlRiyadah/Flat6Labs Jeddah2016Agriculture
32Jybly*Shipping serviceAbdulaziz Algain, Qusai Alsharif, Faisal Alhussayen$18,000Qotuf AlRiyadah/Flat6Labs Jeddah2015E-commerce
33Mother & Child*Online guide for pregnancy and parentingNehad Sulaimani$18,000Qotuf AlRiyadah/Flat6Labs Jeddah2015Health & Wellness
34VanomanOnline platform to book moving servicesFadi Almaghrbi, Banan Alhajaji, Sohaib Albarade$18,000Qotuf AlRiyadah/Flat6Labs Jeddah2015E-commerce
35SmartableGamified educational platformSaud Bawazeer, Mohammed Aqeel, Hamzah Kattan$18,000Qotuf AlRiyadah/Flat6Labs Jeddah2014Technology
36Taxi Food*Online food deliveryGhassan Alharbi$18,000Qotuf AlRiyadah/Flat6Labs Jeddah2016Food & Beverages
37B8akApp to book home maintenance servicesKhalid Alhmili and Eyad AlshabaanNULLSelf-funded2015Services
38Halayalla*Manages corporate sports activitiesNadeem and Faheem BakhshNULLSelf-funded2016Sports and Fitness
39YoTableRestaurant reservation appReda and Rashed Islam, Mahmoud ElsaidNULLSelf-funded2015Food & Beverages
40FitleeOnline personal trainersAlwaleed AlkeaidNULLSelf-funded2014Sports and Fitness
41Artistia*Online retailer of handicraftsLeena AlAufi, Marwan Cheguenni, Lulwa AlsoudairyNULLSelf-funded2015E-commerce
42Nabd AppPersonalized Arabic news appAbdur-Rahman El-SayedNULLSelf-funded2013Media
43Polyinspect*Monitoring tool for oil & gas fiberglass pipesAhmed Saleh AlOmariNULLSelf-funded2016Technology
44Lammt*Events platformAnmar FathaldinNULLSelf-funded2014Event Management
45SDB*Wearable device for early breast cancer detectionNermin Sa'adNULLSelf-funded2016Digital Health
46HroofAnimated video productionSultan Alyazeedi and Faris HamdanNULLSelf-funded2015Media
47Spoilee*Beauty service booking appAbdullah AlghadouniNULLSelf-funded2015Services
48SmartmethodsDesigns electronic modules and circuitsWessam MunshiUndisclosedAngel investment2011Technology
49Hobby District*Online retailer of electrical hardwareBader AlSaif and Fawzi MudawwarNULLSelf-funded2015E-commerce
50Feeedz*App aggregating merchant discountsAhmed Wafa and Mohammad SharafNULLSelf-funded2014Services

Researchers:

Jason Lasrado, Ahmed Mabrouk, Ranju Warrier