Dubai’s Step Conference announces expansion to Saudi, first edition to take place in Riyadh next …

500 Startups, one of the most active early-stage investors has also recently launched its accelerator program in Riyadh in partnership with Misk.

Dubai-based Step Group, the company behind Step Conference, one of the leading technology events of MENA has announced its expansion to Saudi. The announcement was made by company’s co-founder and Ray Dargham at ongoing Step Conference in Dubai today. Step Saudi’s first edition will take place in Riyadh next month.

Founded in 2012 by Ray Dargham, Nizar Fakih, and Bahaa Moussalli, Step Group has become one of the leading digital media and events company of the region with online publications like StepFeed and YallaFeed, and its annual event Step Conference that had started with 300 attendees in 2012 and has grown to become a two-day conference with five tracks that now attracts thousands of startups, founders, digital media professionals, investors, and government officials every year in Dubai.

The company is backed by Wamda Capital, Dtec Ventures, EquiTrust, and North Base Media.

Step Saudi will be the second big regional startup and technology event to make it to Saudi. Beirut-based ArabNet has been organizing an annual conference in Riyadh for almost seven years that is currently the leading event (by a private player) in this space. ArabNet, last year, had also announced its further expansion into Saudi after receiving a license to open an office in the country.

Because of the increased activity in the Saudi startup ecosystem and massive digital transformation push by the government, the country is becoming an attractive market for many regional players. Apart from ecosystem enablers like ArabNet, Step and RiseUp, many regional VCs are also looking to set up their shops here, Dubai-based MEVP and Kuwait-based Arzan VC being two of them. 500 Startups, one of the most active early-stage investors has also recently launched its accelerator program in Riyadh in partnership with Misk.

Step has not shared any details about the event but we’ve reached out to their team to learn more and will update the story if we hear back.

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UPDATE 1-Saudi’s PIF to raise stake in ACWA Power, to expand overseas

… and recycling, and to technology companies, such as a $45 billion agreement to invest in a technology fund led by Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp.

(Adds detail on investments, background)

By Hadeel Al Sayegh and Stanley Carvalho

ABU DHABI, Feb 13 (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) plans to increase its stake in ACWA Power IPO-ACPO.SE to 40 percent from 25 percent and is looking to invest in electric vehicles and solar power, its managing director said on Wednesday.

The sovereign fund also plans to boost its staff to 700 by the end of the year from 450 now, and is aiming to open offices in London and in the United States – initially in New York and then in San Francisco, Yasir al-Rumayyan told a conference in Abu Dhabi.

“We will be the largest investor in renewable energy,” he said. “Oil, we think, is very important to us, we don’t want to waste oil only on transportation.”

The fund has made substantial commitments to other green projects, including renewables and recycling, and to technology companies, such as a $45 billion agreement to invest in a technology fund led by Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp. It also owns stakes in electric car makers Tesla and Lucid Motors.

PIF is also backing the country’s plans to diversify into solar power as well as waste management, infrastructure and entertainment.

The fund, which has $360 billion in assets according to the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute, is also an investor in ride-hailing firm Uber Technologies, which he said at $3.5 billion was its largest private equity investment.

In October, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said PIF will surpass its target of increasing its assets to $600 billion by 2020.

Rumayyan said Uber brought more than 150,000 jobs to Saudi Arabia, mainly for young citizens.

“That is what we are trying to do with our other (international) investments,” he said “We are bringing back some of these companies to Saudi to improve our domestic economy.” (Additional reporting by Marwa Rashad; Writing by Saeed Azhar; Editing by Louise Heavens)

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Bithumb Will Launch a Crypto Exchange in the United Arab Emirates

Bithumb, among the largest crypto exchanges in the world, is starting its expansion to the Middle East with the launching of a crypto exchange in the …

Bithumb, among the largest crypto exchanges in the world, is starting its expansion to the Middle East with the launching of a crypto exchange in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It has signed an agreement with the local company Nvelop for the initiative.

Bithumb has been, indeed, substantially active. As shared last week it announced the launching of an over-the-counter trading desk for digital assets — and as mentioned in the end of january it is planning to go public in the US through a reverse merger initiative.

And in terms of geographical expansion the United Arab Emirates will be just the first experience of the crypto exchange in the region. Bithumb is planning to further its enlargement to countries like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, among others.

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Saudi regulator launches regulatory sandbox to test fintech

… design of a sandbox regulatory environment that allows local and international financial technology firms to test new digital solutions as the kingdom …

The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) has announced the start of the design of a sandbox regulatory environment that allows local and international financial technology firms to test new digital solutions as the kingdom pushes for economic transformation.

The move follows similar initiatives by other regulators in the GCC and aims to help the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority understand and assess the impact of new technologies on the financial services market.

“Saudi has one of highest outflows of remittances in the region. Hence working on innovative ideas for cross border transfers, domestic payments, peer-to-peer lending for SMEs and other fintech ideas is a priority,” Mohamed Roushdy, head of technology at Dubai Asset Management, told Zawya.

“Saudi has one of highest outflows of remittances in the region. Hence working on innovative ideas for cross border transfers, domestic payments, peer-to-peer lending for SMEs and other fintech ideas is a priority”

“Sandbox could play a great role in getting those ideas to the market with the support of banks, which will be part of the sandbox next to fintechs,” he added.

Sama plans to transform the initiative into an “intelligent financial centre” that allows local and international companies to test digital solutions they intend to launch in the kingdom, the regulator said in a statement.

The list of permitted fintechs so far is comprised of Geidea, Bayan Payments Company Limited, HalalaH, Saudi Digital Payments Company (STC Pay), Saudi Post, Brightware, and Tap Payments, according to SAMA.

The sandbox environment will be linked to the kingdom’s Vision 2030, an overarching road map that aims to overhaul and diversify the country’s economy away from oil. The Financial Sector Development Program (FSDP), geared to transform and diversify the financial sector, and support national economy through financing and investment initiatives for private sector, are among the key pillars of Vision 2030.

Société Générale and several other banks are already eyeing opportunities that this economic transformation might bring.

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Shell Lubricants offers services to ‘Uber’ partners

RIYADH — Shell Lubricants Saudi Arabia announced the launch of its first steps of supporting Uber partners through its “Shell Fastlube” service …

RIYADH — Shell Lubricants Saudi Arabia announced the launch of its first steps of supporting Uber partners through its “Shell Fastlube” service centers throughout Saudi Arabia.

Shell Fastlube” service centers will offer distinctive services to “Uber” partners in the first step, followed by similar steps in the future, which reflect the strategy of Shell Lubricants Saudi Arabia for upgrading its marketing activities and create new innovations.

The announcement of the new services came with the success of the event held by “Uber” under the name of “Uber Town” for their partners who have succeeded in getting the highest rating by the end consumers, and implemented the applications’ programs with high accuracy, as well as the keen desire of Shell Lubricants Saudi Arabia to contribute in supporting of their motorists aiming at developing public transport plans in the Kingdom.

Mohamed Al Bezra, General Manager of Industrial and Retail Sales in Shell Lubricants Saudi Arabia, expressed his pleasure for this step of supporting and assisting “Uber” aiming at upgrading of sustainable transport in the Kingdom by providing distinctive services through “Shell Fastlube” service center throughout Saudi Arabia, and contribute to the success of public transport service in the Kingdom.

“Shell Fastlube” service centers offer various services for “Uber” partners, including, quick engine and brakes check-up, after sales counseling, engine oil change using “Shell Helix” motor oils such as ULTRA, HX7 HX8, HX5, HX3. In addition to the oil change, “Shell Fastlube” offers genuine and authorized spare parts which fit all petrol cars engines, along with 12 free maintenance check-ups. — SG

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