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Unveiling the Visionaries: Masayoshi Son and Omar Al-Shabaan’s “The Garage” Initiative in Riyadh

Why are visionaries so crucial in tech? They dream, they dare, they disrupt. In Riyadh’s latest tech marvel, “The Garage,” two such visionaries take center stage: Masayoshi Son, the intrepid CEO of SoftBank, and the dynamic Omar Al-Shabaan. This opening piece will delve into their backgrounds, their dreams for this project, and why “The Garage” stands out as a beacon of innovation.

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Masayoshi Son, known for his audacious bets in the tech world, brings his trademark foresight to Riyadh. Why did he choose Riyadh, you might wonder? The answer lies in the city’s burgeoning tech scene, ripe for a revolution. Under Son’s guidance, SoftBank has turned into a global powerhouse, shaping the future of technology. “The Garage” is more than a project; it’s a testament to Son’s belief in transformative ideas and his commitment to invest in them.

Then there’s Omar Al-Shabaan. Why is he pivotal to this project? His expertise and local insight make him an indispensable part of this venture. Al-Shabaan, with his deep understanding of the Middle Eastern tech landscape, complements Son’s global perspective. His role in shaping “The Garage” goes beyond mere management; it’s about bridging cultures, technologies, and ideas.

The Garage Riyadh Locations

“The Garage” in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has emerged as a significant hub for startups in the Middle East. This innovative space, spanning 28,000 square meters within the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology.

Finally, what’s so special about “The Garage”? It’s not just another tech hub; it’s a symbol of Riyadh’s leap into the future. This project promises to be a melting pot of innovation, where ideas from around the globe converge and evolve. It’s where Son’s global vision and Al-Shabaan’s regional prowess meet, creating a synergy that could redefine the tech landscape of the Middle East.

In the next parts, we will delve deeper into the essence of “The Garage”, its impact, and the global connections it aims to foster. Stay tuned as we unravel the layers of this intriguing initiative, spearheaded by two remarkable visionaries.

The Garage – A New Era in Tech Innovation

Why is The Garage in Riyadh a landmark in the startup world? It represents a transformation from a mere structure to a cradle of innovation. Established within the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, this 28,000 square meter area now serves as a vibrant ecosystem for over 300 startup companies.

Initiated in April 2022, The Garage has repurposed its space to become more than a physical location. Why is this significant? It symbolizes a commitment to nurturing entrepreneurial spirit. Various programs, including The Garage Plus, ACCESS, and The Garage Incubator, have been instrumental in graduating over 230 startups. These companies, led by 450 founders from over 50 countries, have collectively amassed revenues exceeding SAR 24.5 million (around $6.5 million) and garnered investments surpassing SAR 215 million (about $57.3 million).

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Why do we celebrate these achievements? Because they represent the power of human creativity and business acumen. The Garage has become a beacon for startup events, hosting over 40 gatherings with the participation of 150 startups, drawing more than 3,500 attendees including investors and industry experts. This bustling activity marks The Garage as a pivotal hub for startups, fostering groundbreaking ventures right in the heart of Riyadh.

In essence, The Garage is not just a location; it’s a thriving community of innovators and entrepreneurs, shaping the future of technology and business. It’s a story of transformation, resilience, and the relentless pursuit of innovation.

Masayoshi Son

Masayoshi Son in Black and

Why is Masayoshi Son a figure of such significance in “The Garage” project? His journey as an entrepreneur and his relationship with Saudi Arabia are key to understanding this. Son, the founder of SoftBank, is renowned for his visionary approach to technology and investment. His ties with Saudi Arabia, particularly through the Public Investment Fund (PIF), have been a cornerstone in SoftBank’s expansion and its ability to fund transformative tech ventures.

The alliance between SoftBank and Saudi Arabia‘s PIF is a testament to Son’s strategic prowess. Notably, the PIF committed an astounding $45 billion to SoftBank’s Vision Fund, showcasing immense trust in Son’s ability to identify and nurture tech giants of the future. This investment reflects Saudi Arabia’s confidence in Son’s judgment and the mutual commitment to advancing the tech landscape.

The last available PIF report about investments in SoftBank that I found. Name: PIF Annual Report 2021.pdf

This collaboration has far-reaching implications for projects like “The Garage.” Son’s investment philosophy, characterized by bold and forward-looking decisions, aligns perfectly with the ambition of “The Garage” to be a hub of technological innovation in Riyadh. Son’s ability to drive growth and innovation in technology companies is mirrored in the project’s objectives to nurture startups and shape the future of tech entrepreneurship in the region.

In Riyadh, Son’s influence extends beyond financial investment. His entrepreneurial spirit, combined with the substantial backing of the PIF, offers “The Garage” an unparalleled advantage in the tech world. This partnership is not just about capital infusion; it’s about bringing a global perspective, innovative approach, and a network of resources to the burgeoning tech scene in Riyadh.

In essence, Masayoshi Son‘s involvement in “The Garage” is a blend of visionary leadership, strategic investments, and a strong partnership with Saudi Arabia. It’s a relationship that’s set to redefine the tech ecosystem in the Middle East, with “The Garage” at its core, benefitting from the unique combination of Son’s entrepreneurial acumen and Saudi Arabia’s ambitious investment strategy

SoftBank and PIF Public Investment Fund of The Kingdom Of Saudi Arabia

Here are 10 key achievements and investments of the collaboration between SoftBank and the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia:

  1. Significant Commitment to Vision Funds: Saudi Arabia’s PIF has been a major investor in SoftBank’s Vision Funds, contributing a substantial $45 billion to the first fund and planning to invest in the second fund as well.
  2. Strategic Global Investments: The collaboration has led to investments in a diverse range of global tech companies, with SoftBank’s Vision Fund supporting various innovative ventures.
  3. Leading Global Investor: In 2023, the PIF was the top global investor among sovereign wealth funds, spending $31.6 billion across 49 deals.
  4. Investment in Emerging Markets: The partnership has focused on emerging markets, with investments in companies based in the Middle East and Africa, such as the $125 million financing for Unifonic, a Saudi Arabian company.
  5. Tech Sector Focus: Both SoftBank and the PIF have shown a strong focus on the technology sector, investing in companies like Uber Technologies, Tesla, and other tech startups.
  6. Economic Diversification for Saudi Arabia: The PIF’s investments are central to Saudi Arabia’s efforts to diversify its economy beyond oil, as part of its Vision 2030 initiative.
  7. Expansion of US Equities Portfolio: The PIF’s US equities portfolio grew by 18% in 2023, with significant investments in consumer segments, including gaming companies.
  8. Support for Unicorn Companies: SoftBank’s ventures have supported the growth of unicorn companies – startups valued at over $1 billion – in the Middle East region.
  9. Investments in Sustainable and Green Assets: The PIF is increasing its focus on green assets, with substantial investments in environmentally friendly projects.
  10. Building a Diverse Investment Portfolio: The collaboration has helped both SoftBank and the PIF to build a diverse and robust investment portfolio, encompassing various sectors and regions.

These achievements highlight the dynamic and influential role of the partnership between SoftBank and Saudi Arabia’s PIF in shaping the global tech investment landscape.

Omar Al-Shabaan

Omar Al Shabaan and Masayoshi Son

Omar Al-Shabaan’s role in Riyadh’s startup scene is significant, marked by over 15 years of experience in entrepreneurship, business development, and consultancy. As the co-founder and CEO of The Space, he has been instrumental in fostering a supportive environment for startups in Saudi Arabia.

  1. Entrepreneurial Leadership: Al-Shabaan’s journey as an entrepreneur and business developer has deeply influenced Riyadh’s startup ecosystem.
  2. Co-founder of The Space: The Space, co-founded by Al-Shabaan, is a Riyadh-based co-working space, incubator, and accelerator, playing a pivotal role in nurturing startups.
  3. Merging with Vibes: Under Al-Shabaan’s leadership, The Space merged with Vibes, combining 20 co-working spaces across eight cities in Saudi Arabia. This merger has created a substantial network for entrepreneurs.
  4. Impact on Local and Regional Economy: The merger and expansion of co-working spaces under Al-Shabaan’s guidance have had a positive impact on both the local and regional economy.
  5. Extensive Network of Partners and Clients: The Space, post-merger, boasts a network of over 2,000 partners and clients, including entrepreneurs, startups, and government and private entities.
  6. Supporting a Diverse Range of Startups: The Space has incubated more than 150 companies from 40 countries, reflecting Al-Shabaan’s commitment to diversity in entrepreneurship.
  7. Prior Roles in Innovation and Digitization: Al-Shabaan has served as the Partnership Director at Misk Innovation and as an advisor for the National Digitization Unit in the Saudi Government, highlighting his expertise in digital transformation.
  8. Educational Background: His educational background, with an MBA and an Executive Master in Corporate Communication, has provided him with a solid foundation for his entrepreneurial ventures.
  9. Experience in Diverse Sectors: Al-Shabaan’s work experience spans various sectors, including his roles at Nestle, Healthcare Development Holding group, and Tam Development.
  10. Vision for Future Growth: His future plans include expanding and growing The Space at both local and regional levels, aiming to further support and develop the entrepreneurial landscape in Riyadh and beyond.

Omar Al-Shabaan’s achievements and endeavors in Riyadh represent a significant contribution to the growth and development of the startup ecosystem in the region, helping to shape a vibrant community of innovators and entrepreneurs.

  1. How much did Softbank invest in WeWork?

    SoftBank Group Corp’s investment in WeWork, the flexible-workspace company, totaled approximately $16 billion over several years, leading up to WeWork’s bankruptcy. This substantial financial commitment began with SoftBank’s initial investment of $4.4 billion in early 2017. Following this, SoftBank invested nearly an additional $12 billion in equity and debt in WeWork through its various entities, including the Vision Funds.
    In January 2019, WeWork raised an extra $2 billion from SoftBank, reaching its peak valuation of $47 billion. However, by August 2019, WeWork filed for an IPO and disclosed losses of $1.9 billion for 2018. The IPO was later withdrawn in September 2019, with co-founder Neumann stepping down as CEO due to concerns about WeWork’s future prospects. In October 2019, SoftBank had to assemble a $9.5 billion rescue package to bail out WeWork, valuing the company at $8 billion at that time.
    Despite new management efforts in 2020 to turn around WeWork’s fortunes, SoftBank struggled to improve the company’s performance. WeWork went public in 2021 through a deal with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), valuing it at $9 billion. However, in November 2023, WeWork filed for bankruptcy.

January 29, 2024

1 Comment
  1. Author
    Aleksei Dolgikh 5 months ago

    Masayoshi Son and Omar Al-Shabaan is brilliant leaders! Waiting for the time when we will meet in person, one day!

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