With the support of leading Strategic Partners Saudi Aramco and SABIC, the U.S.-Saudi Arabian Business Council successfully launched the first U.S.-Saudi SME Forum on Oct. 1-2, 2018.
The Forum was supported by Sponsors Social Development Bank, Raytheon, and official carrier Saudia Airlines, and attended by high level corporate and government leaders, Fortune 500 companies, and nearly 300 U.S. and Saudi SMEs at the JW Marriott in Los Angeles, California.
“The U.S.-Saudi Arabian Business Council organized this forum in collaboration with the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority (Monsha’at), U.S. Small Business Administration, and U.S. Commercial Service in order to emphasize the important role SMEs play in boosting bilateral trade, while also providing a platform to facilitate knowledge transfer and co-innovate solutions in key areas such as renewable energy, bio-tech, A.I. and robotics, and entertainment”, said Abdallah Jum’ah, Saudi Co-Chairman of the Business Council and Former CEO of Aramco.
“The 2018 SME Forum served as an advantageous occasion for attendees to forge partnerships and connect with forward-thinking companies, market makers and entrepreneurs to bring the vision of Saudi 2030 to life. Governmental and societal changes in Saudi Arabia are driving significant opportunities for the Small and Medium Enterprises sector, especially in the areas of technology, energy, entertainment and manufacturing” added Steve Demetriou, U.S. Co-Chairman of the Council and Chairman and CEO of Jacobs.
During a keynote speech, Mr. Nadhmi Al-Nasr, CEO of Neom, and Mr. Jim Breyer, Founder and CEO of Breyer Capital, highlighted the growing importance of digitalization, data analytics in linking SMEs with valuable strategic opportunities, and the role of AI and automation in transforming the SME landscape within the Kingdom.
The Forum’s sidelines offered in-depth case study workshops led by SABIC with selected Saudi and U.S. SMEs, who collaborated together on real-world business opportunities and challenges in automotive spare parts manufacturing and the renewable energy market.
Sandy Climan, American Film Producer and President of Entertainment Media Ventures, facilitated a panel session with U.S. and Saudi entertainment experts on how to best to alter risk-aversion culture, the common attitude of fear of failure, and build internal support for innovation.
Other notable speakers and panelists included Paddy Padmanathan, President and CEO of ACWA Power; Abdullah Aldubaikhi, CEO of Bahri, and Josh Giegel, Co-Founder of Virgin Hyperloop One.