The coronavirus pandemic and energy market outlook pose a crucial test for startups and entrepreneurial initiatives in Gulf Arab states. Recent interest in ed-tech and health-care startups directly relates to new public health measures. However, Gulf governments introduced entrepreneurial programs to support local employment and promote commercial hubs following previous economic shocks. Incubators and accelerators backed by long-term government funds provide continued support for entrepreneurs. Regional governments also seek to grow private equity and venture capital funds that focus on Gulf markets as part of efforts to expand private sector involvement in the region’s ecosystem.
The interrelated economic crises that emerged in early 2020 present new commercial opportunities for some Gulf startups, but many ventures will struggle to attract investments and adapt to changing consumer preferences. What sectors and industries reflect growth areas for Gulf startups? How can Gulf-based startups thrive in the current commercial environment? What new obstacles have emerged within the region’s ecosystem? And where can Gulf-based startups expect to find willing investors and enablers over the coming months and years?
Philip Bahoshy, Founder and CEO, MAGNiTT
Sonia Gokhale, Founding Partner, VentureSouq
Mazin Al Zaidi, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Ministry of Investment, Saudi Arabia
Robert Mogielnicki, Resident Scholar, AGSIW