Tech is the new oil in Saudi Arabia


As in “Follow the money, especially when it looks smart”.

Tech is the new oil in Saudi Arabia /img/saudi-arabia-eye-of-sauron.jpg

Three years ago, the ties of american Big Tech were in doubt after the Khashoggi case. Two years ago, the New York Times asked why do the US tolerate Saudi money in tech, and somebody immediately replied “THIS is why”.

This year, while Silicon Valley likely still runs on Saudi Money “Riyadh vies to be a tech hub, and young Saudis find new cachet in the startup scene”.

“Tech has changed the way that young Saudi are thinking about money,” a startup owner told Rest of World, as part of a larger piece on tech in Saudi Arabia.

Tech is “about making money in a way that people perceive as impactful and smart”, but also respectable and cool.

Thi trend that can be attributed, in part, to Crown Prince Muhammed’s own fascination with Silicon Valley, and his plans to to spend over $7 trillion dollars within the next 10 years across the public and private sector to diversify its economy away from oil. More details about this strategy are in the full article and in my own earlier post.

Fact is, in the last five years, Saudi Arabia’s tech scene has seen a dramatic transformation, funding for Saudi ventures grew by 102%, and the attitude of both young Saudis, and at least some of their parents toward technology greatly changed, according to a Saudi startup founder. When he started the company, in 2016, his family asked “Why don’t you look for a real job?” Five years later, he says:

“Typically, the fathers would always say become doctors or engineers…Now, my father is pushing my brothers - and even my sisters as well - to join startups.”

A big cause of this shift is that the two-thirds of Saudi Arabia’s under-35 population will be “the first generation of Saudis who aren’t promised the subsidiaries of a state funded by oil revenue”.

In other words, the real reason for this almost sudden switch to technology isn’t glamour, as much as “a new anxiety for young Saudis, one the crown prince speaks of publicly”. An anxiety caused by finally realizing, at all levels of Saudi society, how huge, and unsustainable, their current oil addiction is.

What I found right below the last paragraph of the full article seemed a proper summary of the whole larger story, even if it was just the slogan for the “Rest of the World” South Asia newsletter:

“The future of global tech will be determined outside the West.”

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