Saudi Arabia: A hotspot for the digital generation

Saudi Arabia: A hotspot for the digital generation

From working in Parliament in Austria to pushing the boundaries of digital tech in Riyadh, LEAP 2024 speaker Margarete Schramboek (Board Member at Aramco Digital; Former Minister of Economy and Digital, Austria) has a passion for the potential of digitisation to transform our world. 

We asked her what entrepreneurs should think about if they want to launch in the Saudi Arabia market – and how she carries experiences with her from one role to the next. 

Here’s what she told us. 

Could you share your career journey so far, and particularly any pivotal moments along the way that sparked your interest in the digital tech space? 

“When I was young there was not much digital, I got my first laptop at university and my first cell phone when I started to work. By coincidence I started my career in the tech field – I must admit it was not planned at first. But when I saw the opportunities and the impact on people’s lives I was fascinated, and I stayed. 

“Three big phases characterise my career: 

  1. The classical career as a manager of big tech corporates.
  2. The second as a minister of digital and economic affairs.
  3. And now I am in the third phase, the exciting phase of an entrepreneur, advisor, and board member in a completely new country. 

“Renewing yourself is key in such a fast-changing world, walking through the doors that life is generously opening for you. A pivotal moment in my career was when I was CEO the first time at the age of 32. At that time – when startups did not exist yet – this was rather early. It was the moment to bravely admit to myself that leading a tech company was a lot of work, and that it was fun at the same time. It was a big adventure that had just begun.” 

What did you learn from your position as the former Minister of Economy & Digital for Austria – and has that experience enabled you to approach your current role from a unique perspective? 

“The role of minister makes it possible to gain even broader and more comprehensive access to the economy, society, and administration. Understanding the diversity of companies and accompanying them part of the way through their digital transformation is extraordinarily exciting and broadens horizons. 

“The holistic view and experience make it possible to contribute even more to every task. The creation of a new company like Aramco Digital offers many opportunities to contribute to the increase of efficiency of its customers and the digital resilience of a whole country. The digital transformation and automation of Saudi industry as well as cybersecurity are just two focal points.” 

What's life like for you in Saudi Arabia, and what do you enjoy most about Riyadh? 

“It is amazing: it is vibrant and adventurous. Saudi Arabia is a fascinating country for me. Riyadh is a worldwide hotspot. It is the place to be, especially for a young digital tech generation. 

“I am happy that I can contribute not only to the world of established corporates such as Aramco, but also to the startup scene. Showing especially to tech startups the opportunities in Saudi-Arabia is key. With small financing opportunities in Europe, Saudi Arabia with its young population of 36 million people, is a market that is vastly growing. It is only about five flight hours away from Europe and thus is a must to look at for each startup entrepreneur. 

“Stay tuned for a new joint venture to be launched during LEAP 2024: a team that did not think of Saudi-Arabia as a place to be at the beginning, but is happy to have found an investment and a great new partner. More still to come.”

What advice would you give to a tech company interested in launching in the Saudi Arabia market? 

“Saudi Arabia is currently the place to be. Companies that want to do business here must be fast and innovative. Seize the moment, be brave and professional. The possibilities here are many, you just have to take advantage of them. 

“Understand your business, form a strong team and have a vision. Saudi Arabia has the Vision 2030 – so always [consider] what your idea and company can contribute to it.” 

Finally, what did you most look forward to at LEAP 2024? 

“It is about connecting with people. Having inspiring talks and ideas. My brain last year was full of new insights and inspiration. At LEAP 2024, I again expect to meet shapers and makers for the digital transformation, which is not less than the transformation of people’s lives. Together we will seek for the right and new answers to the challenges of this world for the sake of the next generations. LEAP as the Digital Davos will again make a difference. I am excited to be part of it.” 

Thanks to Margarete Schramboeck at Aramco Digital. Did you miss LEAP 2024? Don’t worry! Join us in Riyadh for the 2025 edition – watch this space. 

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