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SAUDI ARABIA - Economy

Fahad S. Alidi

Managing Director, Wa’ed Ventures

Bio

Fahad Alidi has over 13 years of experience leading multiple projects and divisions in Saudi Aramco. Before joining the Saudi Aramco Entrepreneurship Center as managing director of its venture capital arm, he served as head of integration and interface in Aramco’s Industrial Investments Program, after leading the integrated resource planning division at Aramco Power. Alidi has also joined the World Economic Forum as a Global Fellow, leading engagements with executives across 30-plus financial institutions and establishing the oil and gas climate related financial risks workstream.

"We were quick to identify the vital importance that financial technology has for advancing the region, and in 2014, we decided to invest in the payment processing fintech PayTabs."
Fahad S. Alidi is Managing Director of Wa’ed Ventures.
What is Wa’ed’s mandate?

Wa’ed was established in 2011 by Saudi Aramco under the official name of the Saudi Aramco Entrepreneurship Center to unlock the entrepreneurial capacity within the Kingdom. Initially, our core functions revolved around business coaching and mentoring for emerging start-ups, and we also offered SME lending as a supportive function; however, between 2013 and 2014, we recognized a massive shift in the local ecosystem; on the one hand, there was an increasing capability among founders to develop new technologies, and on the other, venture capital was starting to become a reality globally but not exactly within the Kingdom. We realized that in the local ecosystem, there was limited venture capital (VC) activity at that time, and it was at that same period when Wa’ed became the recipient of a USD200-million venture capital fund, making it one the first institutional VCs in the Kingdom. Since then, our mandate was meant to evolve at each ecosystem shift to enable us to become an entity that propels innovation and advances digitization within the Kingdom through its VC arm. We see ourselves as a major ecosystem contributor and we continue to position ourselves as an anchor for the Kingdom’s innovation ecosystem.

What is the dynamic between Wa’ed and the fintech space in Saudi Arabia?

When it comes to the fintech space in Saudi Arabia, we were definitely one of the first VCs that were eager to enter this space and take risks, even at the very earliest stages when regulatory terms were not yet established to support the industry. We were quick to identify the vital importance that financial technology has for advancing the region, and in 2014, we decided to invest in the payment processing fintech PayTabs. Today, we are reaping the benefits of our foresight, as we continuously experience the massive growth trajectory that many of our portfolio companies in fintech were able to achieve. Boosting the local fintech ecosystem is becoming one of our central strengths as a well-rounded VC. Our multilateral partnership with Fintech Saudi, an amazing organization and a formidable enabler for the fintech space in the Kingdom, is particularly valuable, not least as it acts as a connective channel between our work as a VC and the work of local regulators who seek to encourage innovation in the fintech space. 6

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