Co-working spaces in Saudi

I’ve been to several co-working spaces around the world. Some in the US, Europe and Japan in the last couple of years. It is very obvious that it is a trendy and hot thing and I guess it is contributing a lot to the ecosystem and entrepreneurial community out there, due to the huge mingling and networking effect it has.

Great international examples

Workbar, wework, GREENTOWNLABS, and so many others might not be the pioneers but they are certainly some of the well known ones. Some are general spaces while others are focused on a certain theme or type of customers. I rememeber visiting a co-working space in Manhattan, NYC, that was only suitable for authors and writers. GREENTOWNLABS for example is focused on green energy start-up companies.

The scene in Saudi

While most of the business world here still does not understand the true meaning of a “Co-working” space, I think there is a very strong chance for it to succeed in this part of the world as well, for many reasons. People here still think of co-working spaces like serviced offices! There is a huge difference between both. SERVCORP is one of the well known examples of serviced offices in Saudi Arabia.

(Update 2017) It seems SERVCORP started offering co-working space service recently but I have my doubts that it will be a true co-working space.

WhiteSpace is one of the examples that understands the difference between a co-working space and a serviced office, yet they decided to focus on being a serviced office service provider due to market demand.

Some of the smart ones had started already as I can see few in Riyadh and I recently heard about ones in Jeddah as well. The Space was one of the pioneer co-working spaces in Jeddah and SHEWORKS is one of the first ones I read about in Riyadh, which is a co-working space dedicated for females.

It seems that there are more coming into the scene lately as a quick Google search shows some, that I haven’t visited yet, such as Regus and The Work Hub in Jeddah and I’m sure there are more in Riyadh and other cities.

Vision 2030

With the announcement on April 2016 of the Saudi’s Vision 2030, there is a huge focus on SMEs and start-ups. The whole government is shifting its focus from being an oil-dependent economy and diversify that which is all explained on the Vision 2030’s website. Immediately after the announcement Saudi Arabia has invested in many international companies such as Uber through the Public Investment Fund (PIF).

Many government entities and ministries underwent restructuring process to align with this vision. This shows how serious the government is and there is a clear focus in the vision on the importance of SMEs and entrepreneurial activity.

SMEA initiatives

As one of the outcomes of the vision, Saudi’s Small and Medium Entreprises Authority, monsha’at was established and it has many initiatives to be implimented across the kingdom, one of which is co-working spaces. I’m really keen to see how it will be executed and wish it a great success. Though it is a semi-governmental initiative, it has to have a revenue stream in order to be sustainable, otherwise, it will be shutdown.

Have you been to any of these co-working spaces? Where you a member of any? Let me know in the comments to discuss it further.

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