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Saudi Vision 2030: A land of opportunity

One of the key aims of Saudi Vision 2030 is a comprehensive diversification of the Saudi economy, which has sparked the rise of renewable energy players. We caught up with George Eitelhuber CEO and Founder of NOMADD Desert Solar Solutions to find out what the vision means for his business. 

Catherine Ford: What opportunities do you see opening up for your business as a result of Saudi Vision 2030?

George Eitelhuber: Saudi Vision 2030 is incredibly exciting and far reaching. It is a blueprint for change and development that will see the creation of a massive solar energy sector in Saudi. This comes just as solar power has begun to successfully compete with subsidised conventional energy on price. Saudi is in a unique position to take advantage of this new opportunity. But with every opportunity comes challenges, and Saudi's solar challenge is dust.

NOMADD solves this challenge, economically, environmentally and technically. It can do this because it was born here in the Saudi desert. NOMADD is the perfect example then, of how supporting local innovation can result in tailored local solutions to local challenges, thus allowing massive industry evolution. How well things like NOMADD are supported and accelerated, will become the barometer to measure how well Saudi can be the creator of its own future. NOMADD needs support to take its operations to the next level, and embody the 2030 vision. We hope very much that this vision will be shared by those who could support us.

CF: What, if any, competitive pressures do you as a start-up in a fast growing industry feel under?

GE: Competitive pressures are increased when a promising technology is delayed. NOMADD was first conceived in 2010. It took until 2016 to receive the first major funding round, because the risk profile of emerging technologies has remained unappetising to local investors. This put us two years behind where we could be in terms of commercial success. Not so over the border, where we have seen the emergence in the last two years, of competing technologies, who finally saw the opportunity and have rushed a flawed product through development to fill the gap in the value chain.

CF: What a shame

GE: We did the hard work of defining the problem and tailoring the solution. Others have now seen the same opportunity, and threaten to overtake us with a faster road to commercialisation thanks to massive state sponsored grants and soft financing that we were unable to secure here in Saudi. Despite this, NOMADD will succeed, and we will do so for two reasons. Firstly, because our development path has been longer, with more learning into the technology, and ultimately a better product. And secondly, thanks to timely intervention by King Abdullah Universities Innovation Fund, who invested $1M this year to keep our forward progress.

But this problem remains for those who come after us. As everyone knows: having a better product does not always mean commercial success. Without timely and risk-accepting support at the earlier stages of development, powerful economic development opportunities in the kingdom will continue to struggle to fulfill their full potential for the nation. At worst, we could see them disappear behind better supported foreign competition. This, not early stage investing, is the risk we cannot afford to take.


If you would like to hear more from George, he will be speaking at the Saudi M&A and Private Equity Forum on 16 November in Riyadh. Visit the website to find out more and how to book your place

Catherine Ford Editor-at-Large Mergermarket

Catherine Ford is the Editor-at-Large for the events division of Acuris. She is a consultant editor to event programmes, and engaged in the development of timely editorial content for global corporate finance, M&A and capital markets related conferences and events. She routinely moderates discussion panels at conferences across the region. She has worked for Acuris since early 2002, holding a number of senior editorial roles in the company’s European, US and Asia-Pacific head offices.

Catherine Ford Editor-at-Large Mergermarket

Catherine Ford is the Editor-at-Large for the events division of Acuris. She is a consultant editor to event programmes, and engaged in the development of timely editorial content for global corporate finance, M&A and capital markets related conferences and events. She routinely moderates discussion panels at conferences across the region. She has worked for Acuris since early 2002, holding a number of senior editorial roles in the company’s European, US and Asia-Pacific head offices.

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