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Business leaders Inspiring a Kingdom The entrepreneurs and startups shaping Saudi Arabia

Forbes Middle East has unveiled the top 100 entrepreneurs shaping the future of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during an exclusive ceremony held at the stunning Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh.


Under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Governor of Riyadh, we were privileged to be joined by more than 350 people for the important event. The over-whelming majority of these inspiring individuals represented home-grown talent, with over 80% of the heads on the ranking being Saudi Arabian nationals.


Delivering his keynote speech, Dr. Nasser Bin Aqeel Al Tayyar, President of Arab Publisher House and Publisher of Forbes Middle East praised the vital role of the Saudi leadership in supporting entrepreneurship according to the vision and directives of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.


Al-Tayyar noted that the number of startups in technology and IT doubled this year compared with 2014, and that entrepreneurs were more willing to transparently share data and financial information with Forbes Middle East about their companies. He explained that the multiplicity and diversity of startups would ensure that the Saudi economy would remain sustainable and lively, adding that the achievement of the leadership’s ambitious goals would require concerted efforts and the exchange of ideas between decision-makers in the public and private sectors. Al-Tayyar called on top officials, businessmen and investors from various sectors to extend more support to entrepreneurs and provide help to the younger generations armed with science and ambition in order to bring about stability and comprehensive development in the Kingdom in future.


Mr. Sa’ad Bin Nahar Al Badah, CEO of Saudi Manpower Solutions Company, was also on hand to praise the awardees, saying: “The Saudi Government spares no effort in supporting entrepreneurship in accordance with the vision of the wise leadership”, adding that: “This provides a strong incentive for entrepreneurs to make more efforts in order to improve their brands and compete in various regional and global forums.”


Turki Abdullah Al Sideri was honored as Person of the Year 2015 for his 41 years of excellent service as General Supervisor at Alriyadh newspaper.


Forbes Middle East was supported by several organizations in hosting the event, including: Smasco, ATG, fast Auto Technic Co. Ltd. – Maserati KSA, EPG , JLL, the real estate investment and advisory firm, Elite executive services, Elegant resorts, AL Riyadh Newspaper, Sugar Sprinkle, and Spring Rose.      


Mrs. Khuloud Al Omian, Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Middle East said: “We at Forbes Middle East are always proud to highlight the achievements of the region’s most promising startups. The people we honor this evening have not only accomplished great success individually, they are also bringing innovation to their industries and pride to their Kingdom. They are shaping the future of the business world in the whole Middle East and we are delighted to throw our full support behind them as they grow and expand.”

Detail about our rankings

Of the top 100 startups, e-commerce and IT were the top sectors with 15 rankings each. Marketing and advertising was second with 11 rankings, and the services sector was third with 8. The rest were in a range of sectors including food and beverages, entertainment and industrials fashion.


Entrepreneurs Shaping Saudi Arabia’s Future

Technology and innovation are disrupting industries around the world. The largest taxi company owns no vehicles (Uber); the most popular media platform creates no content (Facebook); the most valuable retailer has no inventory (Alibaba). Entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia are also harnessing the power of the internet and social media to create businesses that didn’t exist six years ago. UTURN Entertainment, which started out as a YouTube channel with a few funny videos, now aggregates original content on its platform, and distributes it across social media. It has become the largest online entertainment network in the Middle East, and has launched the careers of artists, turning them into UTURN stars.


Sawerly spotted an opportunity in the fragmented market for corporate and special events photographers. It has 1,000 photographers on its platform who bid for projects from customers.


E-commerce is one of the hottest sectors in the Middle East, and Dokkan Afkar (translation: the ideas’ shop) sells a lifestyle by curating a selection of merchandise from budding designers in Arab countries, potentially building their brands.


Those three appear on this year’s FORBES MIDDLE EAST list of top 100 startups in Saudi Arabia. They have the potential to shape not only the country’s future, but the rest of the Middle East.


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