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A venture partnership agreement between King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (VCPEA) signifies the development of a deep tech, early-stage pipeline of startups into the Kingdom's growing ecosystem. Shown here (left to right): CEO Qusai A. Alsaif of Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (VCPEA) and Vice President of KAUST Innovation Kevin Cullen proudly display the signed agreement via a Zoom meeting. Photo: KAUST
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) has become a member of the Saudi Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (VCPEA), an industry body representing the Kingdom's venture capital sector. The partnership will allow KAUST Innovation Ventures — the only university-based deep tech investment fund in the Kingdom — to continue supporting the Kingdom's emerging deep tech startup ecosystem.
Entrepreneurship is a key initiative of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 to diversify the economy. According to a report by MAGNiTT, 2020 was a record year for the Saudi startup ecosystem, with venture capital funding increasing by 55% to USD $152 million, despite COVID-19. E-commerce saw the greatest number of investments, accounting for 45% of deals. KAUST's membership will enable the University's venture fund to accelerate the development of a deep tech, early-stage pipeline of startups into this growing ecosystem.
"Deep tech startups can be difficult for investors, as they are often a greater risk and require more time and patience to bring a technology to market and a return on investment," said Kevin Cullen, vice president of KAUST Innovation." Our mission is to support these founders as they work toward solving some of the future's most intractable challenges. This partnership with VCPEA and the access to its incredible venture capital investment network will enable KAUST to grow this ecosystem."
VCPEA, a professional association established in 2018, now has more than 20 members, including Aramco Wa'ed and Saudi Venture Capital Company. KAUST will be the first university to join as a member.
"We are excited to partner with KAUST to take technology and innovation to a new height," said Qusai A. Alsaif, CEO of VCPEA. "VCPEA's goal of encouraging and stimulating venture capital and private equity investment is uniquely aligned with KAUST's mission of supporting entrepreneurs and fostering their technological innovation from ideas to commercialization. Our objective is to connect one of the leading universities globally with our elite network of investors. With KAUST joining our network of members and partners, we look forward to leveraging this as we continue to grow our ecosystem. We see a huge opportunity for impact through this partnership to provide additional networks and resources to the entrepreneurs."
KAUST will be a benefit to VCPEA by opening avenues into investing in technology aimed at scientific advances in sectors such as AgriTech, aerospace, energy and clean-tech, robotics and advanced materials. KAUST, in turn, will benefit from the expansive VCPEA network, including the Ministry of Investment, to enable easy access for investors. Additionally, KAUST Innovation Ventures will be able to gain access to the latest investment regulations and have the ability to exchange deals and investment opportunities with other members, raising the visibility of its portfolio startups while attracting more international deep tech startups.