The Female-Focused Future of the Saudi Arabian Economy
Creative Startups Welcomes Their Newest Accelerator Cohort of Women-Led Startups
Creative Startups, the world’s leading accelerator for creative entrepreneurs, welcomes a new cohort of women-led startups into their inaugural LABS pre-accelerator program in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Created in partnership with OceanX, a leading provider of consultant services, and AlMashtal, a collaborative space for creative thinkers, and with funding support by the United States Consulate General in Jeddah, the five-week intensive accelerator guides founders to move their businesses toward substantial growth.
Out of over forty applicants, ten startups were chosen for the inaugural accelerator, representing a spectrum of creative industries from filmmaking to digital marketing to design and wearables. The cohort includes: Pansy, a literary publisher; Muse Rawan Jewelry House; Creative Mark, a design and architecture firm; 12 Films a Year; Studio Thalatha, a design company; 21st Century Bedouin, a tiny-house travel startup; Efreez Art Studio; The Place, a marketing and branding firm; Qintar Jewelry; and سينين, a culinary goods business.
Accelerating female-led companies is integral to the Kingdom’s ambitions outlined in Vision 2030, a blueprint of long-term goals meant to further develop Saudi Arabia’s vibrant society and thriving economy. The plan states that Saudi Arabia considers “culture and entertainment indispensable to our quality of life” and as such calls for greater investment in and support for creative small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). While SMEs only contribute 20 percent of Saudi Arabia’s GDP, the 2030 goal is 35 percent.
“Research has shown over and over again that women and women-owned companies are engines of economic growth and development.”
The US Consulate General in Jeddah shares these priorities. The US and Saudi Arabia have a long history of economic, educational, and cultural exchange that is mutually beneficial to both countries, and the US Consulate General works to maintain this relationship by partnering with programs and initiatives that further the economic development outlined in Vision 2030. According to the US Consulate General, supporting the Creative Startups LABS pre-accelerator is a part of “its effort to bridge the gap between business communities from the United States and Saudi Arabia with a focus on women and youth entrepreneurial empowerment.”
New women-led startups represent a substantial area for growth towards these objectives, as currently only 4 percent of new firms have top-level female leadership. Vision 2030 aims to make Saudi Arabia a top global destination for tourists and creatives and the nation’s major investment into the creative sector make this the perfect time to launch new ventures led by women, like the startups represented in Creative Startup’s accelerator cohort.
Speaking with the new cohort in the first virtual meeting of the pre-accelerator, US Consulate General Public Affairs Officer, Dale Lawton, expressed this need for women-led startups, saying that “research has shown over and over again that women and women-owned companies are engines of economic growth and development.” He said, “When women’s entrepreneurship activities succeed and when societies invest in promoting those businesses, it leads to greater economic development and more peaceful long-term stability, and that is why the US Consulate invests in these kinds of projects.”
In addition, Creative Startups partnered with the Saudi-based consulting company OceanX because of their substantial contributions to developing the creative sector in the region. For 7 years, OceanX has enabled and supported entrepreneurs, allowing them to achieve the highest levels of success for their projects. In addition, Creative Startup’s partnership with the Riyadh-based AlMashtal Creative space supports their mission of developing a thriving creative entrepreneurial community in the Kingdom, given the co-working space’s commitment to fostering an environment where talent and creativity can flourish.
Before this inaugural program in Saudi Arabia, Creative Startups worked with and developed 55 alumni companies across the MENA region through their Kuwait-based accelerator, Savour, in partnership with the venture capital firm Messilah Ventures. Given most accelerators’ focus on technological industries, Creative Startups is the only global accelerator for creative entrepreneurs. Since launching their first accelerator in 2014, they have served over 330 companies from 18 nations, 72% of which were founded by women or people of color. Their programs’ alumni have created almost 900 jobs, raised nearly $300 million USD in investments, and increased new revenues by $75 million USD. Contributing to the growth of the passion economy, Creative Startups is a vision realizer for creatives around the world.