Silicon Valley is known by people all over the world as being based in California. But if the highly emerging technology field in Saudi Arabia is anything to judge by, it wont be long before people all over the world know a whole lot more about Makkah Techno Valley too.
Fawaz Saad, is one of the people who came up with the idea for Makkah Techno Valley in 2010. A team of academics at Umm Al-Qura University in the city of Makkah, wanted to do something towards building a knowledge-based society as well as a knowledge-based economy. The idea was to to diversify the Saudi economy so as not to be dependent on oil. Speaking to Arabia Now, Fawaz said, “We have to invest in human development and emphasize the importance to move towards and encourage innovation and entrepreneurship. We have no other choice if we want to survive after the age of oil.”
Since the announcement last year of Saudi Vision 2030, an initiative of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salaman, job diversification, entrepreneurship and investment in youth and technology, have been some of the key pillars the Kingdom is seeing growth in. It’s one of the reasons why Fawaz Saad and his team came up with the idea of Makkah Techno Valley. During his interview with Arabia Now he said, “ It was surprising to me how entrepreneurs such as Steve Jobs, BilI Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and many others have created needs and solved problems in order to make the world a better place for all of the human beings. They created jobs for millions of people. I am sure that we can make something similar through our Techno valleys.
In the last 5 years there has been a tremendous effort and spending from the government and the private sector towards digitalization and funding for technology and startups. One example of this is indicated in the investment in Uber by the Public Investment Fund.
Clearly energized by the enthusiasm of people in Saudi Arabia interested in growing sectors related to innovation, technology and entrepreneurship, Mr Saad told Arabia Now, “You see all the effort that has been given by everyone in the ecosystem of entrepreneurship and I can confirm it by looking to the eyes of our youth. I have met thousands and thousands of entrepreneurs in SharkTank and many other events. For example, in the last month I have coached more than 1000 startups in Jeddah for the Arabic version of SharkTank. Everyone knows this is the future and they are addressing problems in the society and trying to solve it with their technologies and passion.”
His entrepreneurial spirit keeps Fawaz very engaged in emerging start ups and he says, “I’ve been following the outcomes of all incubators & accelerators in Silicon Valley. I love most of them and I like the environment. People there breath technology and innovation.” It’s a leaf he’s taken out of their book, having just launched his own startup app Tawseel, as part of supporting digital transformation which is part of the heart of Saudi Vision 2030.
Tawseel is an on-demand delivery platform that matches clients who have items to ship with freelance drivers available to deliver parcels, packages, and food. It’s almost like an Uber for delivery, as you get to see your delivery item on a map in real time as it arrives or leaves to your destination. It’s one of the first real-time deliveries anywhere.
Now operating now in 10 cities across the Kingdom, Tawseel has more than 80,000 registered clients, and has created opportunities for more than 3000 drivers, with the goal of employing more than 8000 secured drivers when the app is ready to scale.
Having visited over 500 different tech companies and incubators in Silicon Valley, Japan and the UK, Fawaz is one the key leaders in this filed in the Kingdom. In his closing thoughts of his interview with Arabia Now, Fawaz said, “We as young Saudis believe in our leadership and the Vision 2030 which will take us to be at the top. We are full of hope and passion to participate in it.” It seems the future of Makkah Techno Valley and all the innovation already underway there is just waiting for the consumer to embrace.