Here’s Why Saudi Arabia Has The Potential For Incubating A New Breed Of Entrepreneurs
A quintessentially Saudi “founder”: Piecing together a persona, based on my travels
This article originally appeared on April 15, 2022 in Entrepreneur Middle East.
Thanks to Saudia Airlines and the tourist visa that Saudi Arabia now offers as part of its efforts towards realizing Vision 2030, my family and I were recently able to walk in the footsteps of ancient travelers on the Incense Route, and experience firsthand the richness of the Arabian culture. And during this journey, as an economist and frequent advisor to founders of startups, I couldn’t help but wonder: what would a founder from such a culture based on warmth and respect be like? Would their startup be different than the products of sheer capitalism that we’ve come across everywhere else? Would their startup be more beautiful?
Saudi Arabia’s unique DNA
The warmth that comes so naturally to people in Saudi Arabia was discernible right from the start. We took a walk by the corniche, the morning after we reached Jeddah. Arab elders relaxing by the water simply complimented us on our daughters frolicking like butterflies. I did not get any disapproving looks for not wearing an abaya or a headdress; the overall feel was that of easy, welcoming hospitality. Unassuming kindness reflected in every interaction we became part of in the days to come.
For instance, it was fascinating when our stargazing guide in Gharameel, driving up ahead of us, went out of his way to buy chocolate milk and fine cookies for our girls, so that they don’t starve in the remote desert as we read the heavens. In hindsight, such a sublime experience interrupted by “hangry” kids would have been an utter loss. Instead, we were able to create a once-in-a-lifetime memory, thanks to this young Saudi man’s generosity. If he were a founder of a startup, could he possibly build products that hurt his customers’ greater wellbeing? Definitely not.
Meanwhile, Atif Alboulawi, a historian-geek-archaeologist all rolled into one, gave us a private tour of Hegra, the UNESCO World Heritage site in AlUla, Saudi Arabia. Narrating a 2000 year long history of this Nabatean…