Women-owned Creative Startups — The Engines of Economic Growth in Saudi Arabia
Three KSA female-led startups win seed funding through Creative Startup’s pitch competition.
Celebrating the end of their inaugural LABS pre-accelerator in Saudi Arabia (KSA), Creative Startups, in partnership with the U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah, OceanX, and AlMashtal, invited the ten participating women-led startups to pitch their businesses for the chance to win up to $5,000 in seed funding. Each business was given two minutes to demonstrate their startup’s value and viability to judges Ahmad Maqram of Vocally, an online platform meant to help musicians monetize their talent, and Rola Fayyad of Viavii, an online marketplace that enables travelers to personalize their travel experience. At the end of the pitches, the Consul General of the U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah, Ryan M. Gliha, announced the winners, recognizing all of the startups’ immense potential and impact.
Taking home the top prize of $5,000, Muse Rawan Jewelry demonstrated a keen knowledge of their customer base and the desirability of their product. This jewelry house creates one-of-a-kind pieces that reflect KSA’s rich culture, designing pieces inspired by Saudi artifacts and architecture. A particularly beautiful line of necklaces shaped like the characters within Musnad script, an ancient language developed in the region around the ninth century BC that many researchers believe to be an origin for all other alphabets. Other collections offer jewelry inspired by art, like the two-eyed statue located in Taima that dates back to the fourth and fifth centuries BC. Explaining that Saudi Arabia is one of the largest consumers of gold, diamonds, and jewelry, the founder expressed their expectation of increasing customer acquisition through the growth of their online sales and presence, allowing them to share their heritage with an increasing client base.
One of the first tiny-house architecture firms of its kind in the KSA, 21st Bedouin was awarded the 2nd place prize of $2,500. Tapping into the growing tourism sector, 21 Bedouin’s tiny houses will be available on booking platforms, and the startup will partner with hospitality lodges and land developers, offering their clients the option to either purchase a tiny-house or rent it per day. Their small-scale homes will blend seamlessly into the environments they’re placed in, remaining eco-friendly while connecting the inhabitants with nature in a way that is currently missing from most of our everyday lives. As stated by the founder, “21st Bedouin is building the tiny house movement, one square meter at a time.”
For the third-place prize of $1,000 in seed funding, the judges selected Qintar Jewelry, whose pieces are made to combine the humanist and philosophical tradition of Saudi culture and art.
Creating their jewelry in collaboration with Saudi artists, each collection is different and communicates the artist’s skills, talent, and heritage while also carrying on common elements throughout the designs and displaying their enthusiasm for pure art. Qintar recognizes the importance of small details, paying close attention to their packaging and providing their customers with certificates of authenticity for their gold and gems. Their founder expressed that Qintar is “something more than just simple jewelry, combining art and gold to create a product that is meaningful and unique and conserves [their] culture and contributes to the future.”
Giving final remarks, Consul General Gliha thanked Creative Startups for offering their pre-accelerator program, expressing that it is a “great opportunity for participants to move their businesses toward sustainable growth via mentorship and the sharing of business expertise.” The partnership with Creative Startups reflects the importance of the United States and Saudi Arabia’s mutually beneficial relationship and long history of economic, educational and cultural exchange. The collaboration’s aim to accelerate female-led business is aligned with the KSA’s Vision 2030, a blueprint for economic and cultural development in the region. Through the support of these startups, Creative Startups and the Consulate General hope to contribute to the Vision’s goal of increasing the participation of women in the labor market from 22 to 30%. Consul General Gliha stated, “Saudi Arabia’s investment in women is yielding results. I have been deeply impressed by the commitment Saudi women demonstrate in improving the future of their country, and I applaud energetic Saudi women entrepreneurs and the new jobs and opportunities they create.”
“Supporting female entrepreneurs and creators not only moves the world toward gender equality, it is instrumental in ending poverty and discrimination globally.” — Alice Loy, Creative Startups CEO & Co-founder
Of the accelerator’s cohort, Creative Startups CEO and co-founder Alice Loy expressed that she expects the impact of the businesses to be extremely beneficial in their regions and beyond. Reflecting on the United Nations’ sustainable development goal to empower all women and girls and their designation of 2021 as the year of creative economy for economic development, Alice said, “supporting female entrepreneurs and creators not only moves the world toward gender equality, it is instrumental in ending poverty and discrimination globally. In many regions, creative women-run businesses represent a mostly untapped resource, and supporting these visionaries is of increasing importance as the creative sector continues to grow in its contribution to the global economy.”
Creative Startup’s Saudi Arabian LABS pre-accelerator is not their first experience working in the region. Before this inaugural program, Creative startups mentored 55 alumni companies across the MENA region through their Kuwait-based accelerator, Savour, created in partnership with the venture capital firm Messilah Ventures. Globally, Creative Startups is unique in its focus on the creative economy, offering mentorship to over 330 startups from 18 nations. Their programs’ alumni are comprised of 72% women and BIPOC founded companies, and overall, the startups they’ve mentored have increased new revenues by $75 million USD. By aiding in the growth of creative industries, Creative Startups helps creators actualize their visions, adding to the quality of life globally.