Saudi start-ups raise $3.110 million funding in 2nd quarter of 2018

Time : July 30, 2018

RIYADH – The technology start-ups incubated by the Badir Program, one of the King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology initiatives, has successfully raised around SR11.660 million ($3.110 million) in the second quarter of 2018, up by 7.66% from the previous quarter when SR10.830 million ($2.888 million) was raised, according to a new report released by Badir Program.

After a relatively strong first quarter, the funding scene in Saudi Arabia was able to keep pace in the second quarter of 2018, showing strong signs of ecosystem growth in the Saudi market, according to the latest Badir report.

The report revealed that individual investors were the most active in terms of funding size, having pumped 7.450 million ($1.987 million) into Saudi startups across 4 deals in the second quarter. They were followed by venture capital firms with 2 deals reaching a combined total of 1.40 million ($373 thousand), the funding of the private sector companies reached to SR2.800 million ($747 thousand) approximately through 1 funding deal, while the volume of loans has not exceeded SR10,000 ($2,666).

The data showed that the total funding has been increased to SR150.951 million ($40.253 million) since the establishment of the Badir program in 2008 until the end of June 2018.

The analysis has revealed that the Individual investors have the biggest stake in Badir incubated start-ups since its inception in 2008 at SR60.9 million ($16.256 million), representing 40% of the total funding. The venture capital firms came in second with financial support to such companies at SR49.03 million ($13.074 million), corresponding to 32% of the total.

Badir report has shown that the funding of the private sector companies reached to SR32.842 million ($8.758 million) equivalent to 22% of the total, while funding by the governmental institutions shelled out about SR7.057 million ($1.881 million), while the volume of loans does not exceed SR1.06 million ($282,6 Thousand).

Currently, the number of Badir incubated technical start-ups increased by 18% to reach 228 companies at the end of June 2018, compared to 193 in 2017.

Commenting on the results, Nawwaf Al Sahhaf, CEO of Badir Program for Technology Incubators, said: “The Saudi startup industry is seeing bright prospects and it was more activity in the second half of 2018. I am very optimistic about this year as we will see the surge in more investments and opportunities in seed round and angel funding for most startups. Series A and Series B is also bullish of the ever-growing and expanding Saudi start-up industry.”

“With the increased awareness campaign for the Incubator programs, we were able to reap better results with more funding from the anticipated quarters. Saudi startups have a wide range of financing options as funding volumes in the Saudi market have increased steadily, with a lot of fresh money flowing into seed and early-stage companies,” Al-Sahhaf added.

Badir Program is one of the leading programs of King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology. The program was established in 2008 to improve and support technical entrepreneurship throughout the Kingdom by helping the strategic policy applied in entrepreneurship and incubators in collaboration with government agencies, universities and the private sector.

This article was first published in  Saudi Gazette

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Badir-incubated biotech start-ups raise $2.66m in 2017

Time: June 30, 2018

RIYADH — The Saudi biotech start-ups incubated by Badir Biotechnology Incubator, under the Badir program belonging to King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), has successfully raised close to SR10 million ($2.666 million) in new funding last year.

The funding deals were led by venture capital firms, individual investors’ networks, along with other governmental institutions. In detail, self-financing accounted for approximately 15% of the total amount of investment financing reaching about SR1.5 million. The share of government investment in these projects reached SR3.5 million, equivalent to 35% of the total investment and SR5 million for venture capital companies, which is equal to 50 % of the total amount of financing and investment.

Badir Biotechnology incubator was established in 2010 within the King Fahd Medical City complex in Riyadh. The incubator works to encourage and support the establishment and development of the biotechnology business sector, through assisting the commercialization of research projects as well as private sector biotechnology innovative products and services. Its aim is to create advanced medical services, support the localization and commercialization of biotechnology and contribute to the advancement of the health sector in the Kingdom.

Nawaf Al Sahhaf, CEO of Badir Program for Technology Incubators, said: “Badir Biotech Incubator aims to encourage and support the launch of new biotechnology projects. The Incubator hosts pioneering projects for researchers, technicians, and doctors in the fields of biotechnology and life sciences, such projects that have the potential to grow into promising and valuable companies in the Kingdom.”

Al-Sahhaf said: “The Biotech Incubator has received over 400 applications since its establishment, and it is currently incubating about 26 technical projects, all of which achieved sales of SR15 million and created more than 116 job opportunities to Saudi young people.”

He added: “We look forward to supporting biotech start-ups which have the basic factors that enable them to make quantitative changes in the main technology sectors. We expect a rise in the average of establishing and funding this type of companies in the coming years, especially following the adoption of new alternatives for offering flexible funding opportunities, hence assisting them in developing their investment plans and increasing their future expansions.”

This article was first published in Saudi Gazette

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Saudi universities to open doors to small businesses in R&D push

Time: June 27, 2018

Small businesses in Saudi Arabia are to be given access to the research facilities of local universities, under plans being developed by the country’s Research and Development Office (RDO).

The initiative comes as the Kingdom looks for ways to encourage the growth of its SME sector and the country’s R&D ecosystem, in line with the Vision 2030 economic transformation program.

“We’re looking at how can we actually encourage universities to share their facilities with industry, specifically small and medium enterprises,” Dr. Hisham Alhadlaq, the director general of the Ministry of Education’s newly-created Research and Development Office (RDO), told reporters at a press event in London on Wednesday.

“When it comes to the big multinational companies they already have their own R&D centers but when it comes to SMEs usually they don’t have that capacity, so we’re working on encouraging universities to work with local industries so they can share their facilities.”

Alhadlaq said that information technology was an obvious initial area of contribution between universities and SMEs, “but we’re looking at expanding also in other areas that could be beneficial to them.”

He made the comments during a visit to the UK by the RDO — a division of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education — to explore collaborations with British universities and research institutions.

“We have traveled here to understand how the more mature national R&D system of the UK was designed and how it has evolved over time,” said Alhadlaq.

The RDO, established in March of this year, has been given a mandate to enhance the capability of Saudi public universities to conduct high quality research and development, as part of an official R&D program launched by the ministry last year.

The new office has a mandate to enhance the R&D capabilities of universities within Saudi Arabia — in collaboration with the Saudi private sector and international institutions — with a specific focus on technology transfer and aiding the country’s SME sector.

Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 program, designed to transform the Kingdom’s economy away from a reliance on oil revenues, aims to raise the contribution of SMEs to the economy to 35 percent by 2030 from around 20 percent in 2016.

The RDO has a projected budget of $1.6 billion, of which $75 million has been earmarked for international partnerships focusing on key areas such as in renewable energy, climate change, pollution management, efficient water usage, cybersecurity and Red Sea studies.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Start-up of the Week: ‘Blossom’ — Showing the way to women entrepreneurs

Time: June 26, 2018

JEDDAH: Blossom, a Jeddah-based accelerator that focuses on female-led technology startups in Saudi Arabia, was launched in Dec. 2017.
It is the first and only accelerator that aims to empower and enable female-founded startups in Saudi Arabia.
A lack of resources to support growing women-led startups in the Kingdom prompted Eman Shakoor, the CEO, to establish Blossom to help other women to overcome the challenges she faced when she tried to build her own startup earlier in the same year.
Shakoor told Arab News: “I realized the growing potential and ambitions among Saudi women to start their own businesses. However, I also noticed the need to provide more access to resources and networking for them to really build up something amazing and sustainable.”
The accelerator gives early-stage startups the opportunity to participate in a boot camp and a demo day, while providing them with resources, knowledge, networking, and access to nearly 35 mentors in various business fields over a two-week program.
“A total of 28 applications were received during our first round earlier this year, shortlisted to 12 suitable applicants. From these, only four (Maison Glamour, Noorah Kareem, Passioneurs, and Ewahimprov) were selected to be part of Blossom’s first cohort,” the Blossom chief said.
Applicants are evaluated on the experience of the founding team, the product’s value, the business’s scalability and its current stage of operations.
Shakoor said: “We are looking for early-stage existing startups that have at least one female founder, an innovative tech-product that solves real problems and is backed up by market research, with a good understanding of competition, scalable future growth and, finally, the team’s experience and commitment to the business, and its product.”
As for the program’s objectives, the startups can expect guidance in refining their business models and improving their technical strength. During the two-week intensive program, participants are provided with 24/7 access to a co-working space, one-on-one sessions with expert mentors to help them in improve their businesses.
The entrepreneur said: “Startups get mentorship on everything from business models, introduction to entrepreneurship, lean principles, product design, marketing, accounting and financing, legalities, and pitching/presentation skills.
“We also organize public events and workshops focused on networking, idea-sharing, and inspiration throughout the year.”
She said: “Our main goal is to promote entrepreneurship and make it trendy among Saudi women by using Arabic names for our events.”
Since its launch, the accelerator has arranged three events: Techpreneurship Sprint (a one-day business plan competition targeting technology startup ideas); the SELLA Event (a technology entrepreneurship networking event focused on idea-sharing, inspiration, and networking); and the THIQAH Event (a female- empowerment event that teaches women how to become more confident, and to create the company they deserve).
“Going forward, and sponsored by SEDCO, Bin Dawood and other organizations, the accelerator is aiming to accept three to seven applicants in two rounds every year, for a three-month acceleration program that ends with the opportunity to pitch their ideas and products to well-known investors at the demo day,” Shakoor said.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Middle East leads the world in angel investing

Time: June 11, 2018

Dubai: Middle Eastern entrepreneurs are leading the way when it comes to angel investing, according to an HSBC report on ‘Private Banking Essence of Enterprise’.

Two-thirds of entrepreneurs in the Middle East (66 per cent) are angel investors, funnelling both capital and expertise back to the entrepreneurial community, with the United States accounting for 54 per cent and the Asia-Pacific region accounting for 45 per cent.

The report, which researched the views of over 3,700 successful entrepreneurs across eleven countries globally, also found that differences exist between generations in how they perceive and approach angel investing.

More than half of younger Middle Eastern entrepreneurs (57 per cent) view angel investing as a way to connect and collaborate with peers, thus staying up-to-date with industry progress. In comparison, 52 per cent of an older generation of Middle Eastern entrepreneurs view angel investing as a way to diversify and grow their investment portfolio.

“Middle Eastern entrepreneurs are well and truly at the forefront of angel investing in comparison to their counterparts in the US and Asia. They not only understand the positive impact it can have on their business activity but also recognise the opportunity it provides them to collaborate and learn from their peers,” said Sobhi Tabbara, HSBC’s Global Market Head of Private Banking, Middle East.

When it comes to sourcing new investment opportunities, over half (53 per cent) of Middle Eastern entrepreneurs source these through their friends, rather than using a financial adviser (38 per cent). They also perceive their role to be supportive, cultivating business development and leadership skills.

Social impact

Nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of Middle Eastern entrepreneurs consider social responsibility, being active in the community, or environmental responsibility as their top priority as a business owner, compared to the global average of 21 per cent.

“With nearly a quarter [of] Middle Eastern entrepreneurs viewing social impact as their top business priority, it is clear to see that this group of entrepreneurs are also one that want to give back to society, understanding the benefits that doing good can have in helping to grow their business,” Tabbara.

The HSBC research also suggests a strong relationship between an emphasis on social impact and entrepreneurial ambition in the Middle East. Half of Middle Eastern entrepreneurs projecting high growth ambitions said that they started their ventures with the intention of creating positive social impact.

This suggests social impact should be seen as an integral part of the recipe of entrepreneurial success in the Middle East, and not separate from it.

Those entrepreneurs who project high growth ambitions are also more likely to have a mentor. In the Middle East, 89 per cent of entrepreneurs have a mentor relationship, viewed as a highly effective tactic for learning and development, in comparison to Europe (59 per cent) where it seems that entrepreneurs are yet to be convinced of the value of mentorship.

The research was conducted by Scorpio Partnership between December 2017 and January 2018, covering mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore, the UK, Germany, France, the US, Switzerland, Australia, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

This article was first published in Gulf News

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Why Saudi Arabia Keeps Partnering With Blockchain Startups (Video)

Time: June 07, 2018

Saudi Arabia is getting friendly with U.S.-based blockchain-focused startups.

The Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology recently partnered with ConsenSys, a Brooklyn-based production studio focused on building enterprise software products powered by Ethereum. The ministry co-hosted a “blockchain bootcamp” with ConsenSys as part of its efforts to support technological development.

The three-day bootcamp provided in-depth training on how to create a development environment and build decentralized applications. You might have noticed that this isn’t the first time Saudi Arabia has gotten cozy with a blockchain startup. It recently also partnered with Ripple, the San Francisco-based fintech startup known for the XRP coin.

The kingdom’s defacto central bank teamed up with Ripple to pilot instant cross-border payments between banks in the region using the blockchain. Ripple said this would allow for faster, cheaper, and more transparent transactions.

The Saudi central bank is also working with the United Arab Emirates central bank to issue a digital currency that would be accepted in cross-border transactions between the two countries. As the Saudi government continues to experiment with digital currencies, it signifies a transfer of focus from oil to emerging technologies, such as blockchain and digital tokens.

Ahmed Al-Thenayyan, Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister for the technology industry and digital capacities, said that AI, Internet of Things, and the blockchain “serve as major contributor[s] to the Industry 4.0 and the development of GDP.”

This article was first published in FORTUNE

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Start-up of the Week: Laith, a chic and minimalistic brand

May 28, 2018

JEDDAH: Laith is a chic and minimalistic brand inspired by the Parisian “10-item wardrobe” method, which encourages people to mix and match the 10 items in their closets.

The brand was designed by Saudi Arabia’s designer Jalila Nayil, and was launched in February 2018.

“Since our minds are always cluttered, and we live a very busy life, I aim to reduce stress through my collection,” she told Arab News.

“Dress up or down, you will always look elegant. It’s versatile, it’s cohesive, it’s your go-to wardrobe.”

The clothing line’s pilot collection AW2018 primary colors were black and ivory, and consisted of 31 items and different fabrics.

“They are the classiest and most universal colors — I wanted to start with the basics,” said Nayil.

She uses different fabrics for her clothing line such as crepe matte, crepe silk and velvet.

“The lining is Italian crepe de chine and 100 percent silk. Each of the fabrics is in ivory and black. I wanted to mix and match the fabric to create and focus on texture.

“I wanted to use the matte crepe to create a chic, practical look, and you will find it in the blazer, slim pants, Kaftan dress and the trench coat.

“Whereas silk crepe is more on the comfortable and elegant side, which compliments all the fabrics. You can find it in the dress, the wide-leg trousers, the crop top and the flowy top. The silk ties down both fabrics, creating a subtle contrast.

“Lastly the velvet, which gives you the ultimate luxurious appearance. You can see it in the blazer, slim pants, dress, wide-leg trousers, and trench coat,” she explained.

Nayil’s next collection SS19 is expected to consist of neutral colors. The designer said each of her collections expresses a certain theme.

“I see what is missing, what is needed and I work from there,” said Nayil, “keeping elegance in mind.”

“I want people to feel confident and free,” Nayil said.

This article was first published in  Arab News

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Start-up of the Week: Amirni – Making a difference in the field of logistics in Saudi Arabia

May 22, 2018

  • Amirni.com is a one-stop shop where one can find all of its services and products
  • Clients can either call or use the chatting feature on the company’s app for all questions or concerns

JEDDAH: Amirni Express Co. (AX) is a Saudi-based logistics, mail and goods delivery company that provides on-demand delivery services through its own fleet of cars and drivers.
Established in 2016, AX currently covers Riyadh, Jeddah, Makkah, Dammam and Alkhobar. AX allows both the general public and businesses to send or receive anything, anywhere, and at any time within Saudi Arabia, and soon in the greater Gulf Cooperation Council region. All retailers and consumers can select products and set up a scheduled delivery time on demand by simply using the company’s app or through its website, or by calling directly.
Aiming to ease the life of Saudi consumers, AX was founded on the principle: “To Simplify and To Serve.” In an era of technology, it plays an effective role in the delivery of goods and services in an efficient and professional manner. The company’s main objective is to be available at all times and places providing technical delivery services using an application designed to service wherever you are in the Kingdom. Everything from restaurant deliveries to pharmaceutical pick-ups, and bulk services can be arranged.
Specifically, in the field of delivery services, Amirni Express Co. realizes the importance of pharmaceutical delivery. It offers its services 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Its website, Amirni.com is a one-stop shop where one can find all of its services and products. In addition, discounts and special offers are frequently presented to Amirni clients. By using state-of-the-art GPS technology, clients can track their orders and acquire the exact time of arrival. Clients can also choose their most convenient payment method, as all of their vehicles are equipped with a point-of-sale system that accepts debit and credit cards. Clients have the payment options of ATM, or cash, or via MADA network.
Amirni CEO, Abdullah Alnajar described what is next for his company. “In the near future, each of our consumers will have access to Moe-Bot, an in-app A.I. Assistant, who will help them save money in addition to anticipating their needs before they are requested so that their needs are readily available by the time they are desired. We are morphing into an artificially intelligent ecosystem that profoundly understands each consumer and supplier!”
Since Amirni’s goal is to enrich delivery services and make it easily accessible to customers, it manages all data, orders, and requests through their own in-house call center. Clients can either call or use the chatting feature on the company’s app for all questions or concerns. The call center is available at all hours of operations (8 a.m. to 2 a.m.).

This article was first published in  Arab News

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Generation start-up: Golden Scent sniffs out success

May 20, 2018

 

In February, the firm co-founded in 2014 by Malik Shehab in Saudi Arabia, announced expansion plans after a successful December 2017 Series A funding round

In the Middle East, the growth of the online beauty market may be starting from a lower level than Europe or the US, but it is accelerating.

One of the leading lights in the GCC is Golden Scent, a Saudi Arabian start-up platform. In February, the firm co-founded in 2014 by Malik Shehab, announced expansion plans after a successful December 2017 Series A funding round. In that round the company secured backing from major players including Saudi Aramco Entrepreneurship Ventures, Equitrust – the investment arm of Choueiri group – Wamda Capital and Raed Ventures – the investment arm of Almajdoui Holding. It did not disclose the value of the funding it received.

It is the founders’ experience of the European market that gave them the impetus to start Golden Scent.

“When [co-founder] Ronny Froehlich and I were living in Europe in 2013, we noticed the boom of the e-commerce industry, especially in the beauty section,” Mr Shehab tells The National. “Our first step was doing our research, and we found out that in GCC, women spend four to six times more on beauty than the average woman in Europe. With the added special benefits the e-commerce provides such as shopping at the comfort of your home and variety of options to choose from, we knew Golden Scent would be successful.”

According to Euromonitor International, the Middle East and Africa (MEA) will be the fastest-growing region in beauty and personal care products. The MEA’s $25.4 billion market will grow by over 6 per cent a year over the next five years, outperforming global markets where the sector is expected to grow 3 per cent a year. Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which together account for a quarter of the MEA’s market, will grow by 12 per cent and 5.8 per cent, respectively. Additionally, Saudi Arabia dominates the overall sales market with a national spend of $5.3bn.

Retail e-commerce sales in the Middle East are forecast to rise significantly between 2017 and 2020, according to a report by ResearchAndMarkets.com. The primary driver for that is increased internet penetration, already surpassing 90 per cent in many countries in the region. Shoppers are also warming up to the idea of online shopping, although the tradition of brick and mortar shopping remains strong. Online retail sales are forecast in the report to double by 2020 compared to 2017 for the Arabian Gulf countries.

It is just such predictions that have inspired Mr Shehab to grow the business. “At the moment we are expanding our product portfolio from fragrance focused to beauty products to have a wider product portfolio,” he says. “We started with fragrances and until now we are focused on fragrances and this is our speciality and what we are known for and always will be.

“We did many steps to ensure our product expanding plan works, starting from studying the market, hiring the experts to shifting to a bigger warehouse.”

Mr Shehab says the importance of bringing in the right experience can’t be overplayed. “To be able to succeed, you need to surround yourself with experts who are specialised in their field and scale it with them and be on top of everything,” he says.

“At Golden Scent we invest in our people by sending them to training and conferences to expand their knowledge and skills. Any employee of Golden Scent can register themselves to any course they believe they need to enhance their skills to do better at Golden Scent and Golden Scent bears the cost of the course,” Mr Shehab says.

“In order for the company to grow the people need to grow, too.”

According to EMI Research, the GCC’s retail value of fragrances is forecast to be worth $3.6bn in 2021 – $2.1bn in Saudi Arabia, and $807m in the UAE.

Understanding the local market is crucial, says Mr Shehab. “Like any business you have to keep up with the local culture and trends happening every second of the day otherwise the company will fail.

“Our marketing team does market research and social media reports on a weekly basis to keep up with what’s happening and join the party if there is any going on.”

New trends are also helping to drive the market, including the fashion for natural ingredients and organic products, hairstylist and founder of the Dubai-based professional hair styling tools brand Eeideal, Haysam Eid, told The National last year. “Brands such as [France’s] Corine de Farme and [Australia’s] Organic Care are becoming more mainstream due to their strong distribution channels and competitive pricing. As more and more consumers become aware of the advantages of these products and witness the positive effects of going green, the popularity and acceptance of organic products continues to be positive.”

Digital influencers are key, says the Emirati beauty blogger Dina Al Sharif, who has been working with brands as an influencer for nine months, just two years after launching her Instagram feed. “I’m pretty sure that brands now rely on influencers more than anything to promote a product. They are aware that when a real person talks about a product, people believe it more.”

The growing global preference for clean, green and sustainable beauty products has taken root in the MEA, with analysts TechSci Research indicating the regional market for natural and organic cosmetics could grow annually by 12 to 15 per cent over the next five years.

That would place the retail value anywhere between $4bn to $5bn by 2022, driven, according to TechSci, by increasing consumer awareness and demand for products that are not only better for their health, but better for the environment and society overall.

For Golden Scent, the future is indeed bright. As Omar Almajdouie, founder and managing partner of Raed Ventures said when announcing the firm’s backing of the Saudi Arabian start-up: “The company has already broken even, achieving a double digit million dollar in revenues.

“The strong growth as well as the vision and excellence of the founders who built Golden Scent to the number one beauty online destination in the GCC, has led us to invest in this excellent opportunity.”

That assessment is one with which Mr Shehab concurs. He says within five years he sees “Golden Scent as the number number e-store in the Middle East for beauty.”

He will, of course, have competition. Firms in the region vying for a slice of the pie included the UAE-based Bashacare, launched a year before Golden Scent. Bashacare, founded by Jad Haidamous, is an online retailer of beauty and skincare products. The selection of brands is limited in terms of access and most brands it carries are sold in pharmacies, clinics or luxury spas.

Offering a different online beauty service is Blowout&Go, a provider of mobile blow-dry, hair styling and makeup services across Dubai and the UAE. The team of qualified hair stylists and makeup artist travel directly to the customer, whether it be a home, hotel or office, “providing the same high quality experience which you would expect in a salon but with the convenience of never having to leave your door”, it says.

So given that Golden Scent will have its work cut out for it to achieve its lofty targets, but what drives Mr Shehab to pursue them?

“I didn’t start to sell the company. I started to build a company,” he says. “If you work hard, do the homework and research, and keep trying, you will never fail.”

And what gives him the most pleasure about the start-up he says, is, “The joy of checking the website orders in the morning and day before.”

This article was first published in  The National

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Start-up of the Week: A helping hand with new hobbies

Time: May 15, 2018

JEDDAH: Fadi Yahya founded Suplift with the goal of helping people start new hobbies and to learn new skills by bringing them together.

Yahya, the chief hobbyist at Suplift, describes himself as a builder, fixer and an artist. He realized there was a need for such an entity when he tried to learn to play the guitar for almost five years without any real progress.

Suplift was launched in February 2016 in Jeddah as a platform that “provides the opportunity to learn new hobbies and leisure skills and encourages people to share their passions with others.”

It is a platform that deals with the lack of leisure activities among the young population of Saudi Arabia, and the realized need of such activities has been highlighted in the Quality of Life program 2020 (one of the Vision Realization Programs of Saudi Arabia).

The word Suplift is the combination of the two English words, supporting and uplifting, which summarize the platform’s core activities and mission.

Yahya explained: “Relying on the 3Cs approach (classes, community, and content) and Suplift’s Discovery Events (Estakshif), we want people to discover their abilities and hobbies as well as promote their hidden talents.”

Suplift aims to organize four small discovery events a quarter featuring four different activities. The participants will have the chance to discover each one performed by experts and passionate individuals from their community. This will introduce the tools, methods, and exercises needed for a skill to be mastered or performed.

Since its launch, Suplift has arranged several discovery events in Jeddah, such as music and horse riding, for people to come and discover new hobbies and activities. Its website provides a wide range of classes/hobbies under different categories, such as learning a musical instrument (guitar, piano and oud), fitness (yoga and tai chi) and languages (English, Spanish and French).

Yahya said: “We have more than 250 coaches available on Suplift, with an extensive list of hobbies.”

The site provides the learners with a direct access to real-life classes in their cities and communities, created by local experts in those skills and hobbies. It also offers a corporate program that focuses on teambuilding activities, through sharing hobbies and skills among the team members of an organization.

The founder explained: “The program aims to improve workplace relationships and to boost employees’ abilities and loyalties.”

Ernst and Young Saudi Arabia (EY) benefited from this program in its offices across the country earlier this year as a part of the company’s International Women’s Day’s activities. Additionally, one of the Quality of Life program’s (QoL) main goals is to reach 420 local hobbies clubs in the Kingdom by 2020.

Yahya said: “Suplift objectives are already in line with the QoL program goals and objectives.” “We are committed to helping in clubs’ creation and facilitating sponsorships in order to maintain sustainability,” he said. “Our headquarters are currently in Jeddah but we are planning to launch our office in Riyadh by mid-2018, and expand further to the Eastern Province as well.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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