At LEAP24, Saudi Arabia Promises To Provide $1 Billion to an AI Business Accelerator

At LEAP24, Saudi Arabia Promises To Provide $1 Billion to an AI Business Accelerator

Business activities in the Gulf are picking up speed ahead of Ramadan, which is anticipated to occur next week, before the holy month’s calm arrives.

LEAP24, billed as the world’s largest technology show, opened in Riyadh this morning. Many of the industry’s biggest names, including Google, Microsoft, Oracle, Dell, Cisco, SAP, Amazon Web Services, Alibaba, and Huawei, were there.

At the conference, the kingdom quickly made headlines by announcing a $1 billion commitment to its new accelerator program for entrepreneurs using artificial intelligence.

The program has been running for less than a year, and Abdullah Alswaha, the Saudi Arabian Minister of Communications and Information Technology, revealed the government’s substantial capital injection.

The National Technology Development Program, the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority, and the U.S.-based global AI community New Native have partnered to create the accelerator, known as GAIA. Nearly fifty AI startups have already been hired by the project, which is housed out of The Garage, a startup hub in Riyadh that opened its doors last year.

AI does seem to be taking center stage at LEAP, as Saudia, the national airline of the kingdom, will be launching its virtual travel assistant at the four-day event.

Mohammad, the humanoid robot, who is Sara’s “male” counterpart, is also working the event. Sara made waves at last year’s conference with her Arab dancing and her many Mideastern languages.

Saudi Arabia became the first nation in history to give a robot citizenship in 2017. That year, Sophia, a creation of Hanson Robotics, a firm based in Hong Kong, made her premiere at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh.

The King Abdul Aziz foreign Conference Center in Riyadh is home to over 1,800 domestic and foreign exhibitors, including 600 startups. To highlight the country’s digitalization initiative, the Saudi government is showcasing 30 of its agencies.

A largely receptive audience will hear from Meta executive Greg Marra on developing the metaverse. The GCC is one of the fastest-growing markets for augmented reality, gaming, and digital currencies.

Zayad Salem, who oversees sports activities at Kijami Saudi Arabia, will discuss the direction of sports in the kingdom.

Additionally, speakers from the cap table include Chris Rust, Partner of Silicon Valley VC firm Clear Ventures, Reema Khan, CEO of U.S. private equity fund Green Sands Equity, and Noor Sweid, Managing Partner of Dubai VC fund Global Ventures.