The Entrepreneurship Institute at the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM-EI) is driving a growth in technology-based start-ups, with the launch of several new ventures resulting from its Entrepreneurial Emerging Leaders (EEL) Acceleration Program. The new businesses, which focus on innovative products and processes in manufacturing and the digital economy, will contribute to the ongoing efforts to establish the Kingdom as a global tech hub.
Among the start-ups created with the Institute’s support is IR4LAB, an enterprise that uses blockchain technology to verify the certification status of job applicants. One of the founders of the business is, Majd Al Afifi, who was awarded a 2030 Entrepreneurship Scholarship and went on to join EI in 2016 and launch his enterprise in 2017. IR4LAB has since secured an investment of SAR 5.63 million from Saud Aramco Entrepreneurship (Wa’ed), to help take the business forward.
Another outcome of the Institute’s ecosystem is Meem Web Solutions, a company offering a unique platform that optimizes business process automation. Founder, Syed Shamaail Jafri, received a grant of SAR 50,000 from the Institute’s Keys of Goodness fund. Explaining his business goals, Shamaail said, “Though large organizations usually have an enterprise resource planning system, they continue to use legacy practices that mean they maintain a paper-based office. Our aim is to provide a single platform to automate all processes and to create paperless offices, making an important contribution to the green society.”
Majd and Shamaail are two of several success stories coming out of the Institute’s EEL Program, which provides aspiring entrepreneurs with incubation facilities, training in key business functions, and enterprise coaching and mentorship, alongside access to finance through the Keys of Goodness fund. Other businesses emerging from the program include Helper Robot, an enterprise providing robotics prototype development and training, and Mahsool, an e-commerce platform selling and promoting the Kingdom’s finest dates.
The EEL Acceleration Program has also played a part in nurturing serial entrepreneurs who have applied their entrepreneurial mindset to react to changing circumstances. Among them are Ali Alsalhi and Ahmad Ibrahem Almassrahy, who have established two new businesses since 2015. Starting out with Khout3d, a start-up focussed on localizing the fabrication of 3D printer filaments, the pair then reacted to the pandemic by setting up another business, Kanaf, dealing in the manufacture of face shields to protect those working on the frontline.
Having already established themselves as successful entrepreneurs, Ali says they have ambitious growth plans for the future. He revealed, “We export about 5% of our production outside the country and our vision is to increase this to 70% in five years. With five current employees, 80% of which are Saudi nationals, we also aim to create more job vacancies. We are now one of three biggest suppliers in Saudi Arabia in the field of 3d printer products and our ambition is to be one of top in the Middle East region in the next seven years.”
Speaking about the role of KFUPM-EI, in developing entrepreneurs, Dr. Wail A. Mousa, Founding Dean of the Institute, said, “High-growth start-ups will have a vital role to play in the diversification of our economy and we see a strong and ever increasing entrepreneurial spirit across our community. Through our programs, we aim to nurture this spirit and to provide the practical support required to establish and build these businesses, to reach their full potential and to make a lasting contribution to the Kingdom’s economic prosperity.”