Aramco invites Silicon Valley to help find and fund new golden startups
President and CEO Amin Nasser touts partnership as company launches Prosperity 7 Ventures office in California.
Aramco and Silicon Valley can partner to develop a new generation of technologies that help solve global energy and emissions challenges, president and CEO Amin Nasser told leading venture capitalists at the launch of Prosperity7 Ventures’ new office in Palo Alto.
Linking Aramco’s past to showcase the transformative potential of collaboration, he noted that it was a partnership between Saudis and geologists from California that gave birth to the company 90 years ago, leading to oil discoveries that reshaped global energy markets and spurred unprecedented economic growth.
The signing of the concession agreement on May 29, 1933, was, in the language of today’s venture capitalists, a moonshot that became a unicorn, he said.
I believe that much of our growth and success over 90 years is down to never losing that pioneering, can-do, startup spirit, with Americans and Saudis coming together as one team.
— Amin Nasser
“We welcome your partnership as we further reduce our emissions and develop lower carbon solutions while meeting the world’s energy needs,” he added.
Nasser spoke just a few blocks away from Stanford University, where Max Steineke studied before venturing to Saudi Arabia and working with Saudi desert guides, with unwavering determination and grit, until they discovered first commercially viable oil at Dammam Well No. 7, which was later named the Prosperity Well. This backstory inspired the name of the company’s diversification venture capital fund.
Looking to collaborate
Prosperity7 Ventures is a global fund exploring for disruptive technologies across industries, that will bring prosperity to the world. The $1 billion fund was established in 2019 with China and the United States as the main geographic focus areas. With offices and teams in Beijing, Shanghai, New York, and now Palo Alto, Prosperity7 is on a mission to investing in the most disruptive technologies and business models.
The event in California, hosted by Prosperity7 executive managing director Aysar A. Tayeb, began with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the fund’s newest office in Palo Alto. It was followed by a majlis-themed gathering that featured a series of panel discussions and conversations between Silicon Valley leaders and Aramco executives.
We are in the heart of Silicon Valley, looking to collaborate with other investors, and to partner with visionary entrepreneurs and innovators, to solve big problems.
— Aysar A. Tayeb
Ahmad O. Al-Khowaiter, executive vice president of Technology and Innovation, presented Aramco’s journey with innovation, then joined a panel on energy transition through innovative technology together with Yi Cui, director of the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford; Julio Friedmann, former DoE official; and Murat Sonmez, CEO of Pulses. The panel was moderated by Mahdi F. Aladel, CEO of Aramco Ventures.
Talking Artificial Intelligence
Through a fireside chat with Tayeb; Kai-Fu Lee, AI expert and chairman and CEO of Sinovation Ventures, shared a spirited view on the future of AI and its impact on our lives. Specifically, Lee noted the potential for job displacement and the need for society to adapt and prepare for these changes.
Nabil A. Al Nuaim, senior vice president of Digital and Information Technology; Jay Puri, executive vice president at Nvidia; and Lip-Bu Tan, chairman of Walden International; discussed accelerating the digitization of everything through AI. Moderated by Abhishek Shukla, senior director at Prosperity7, the panel highlighted the significant implications of generative AI on enterprises and how many departments and workflows could benefit from the impending changes. They also discussed the importance of addressing and managing data privacy and security concerns arising from the proliferation of AI.
Al Nuaim signed a memorandum of understanding for a collaboration project with Nokia Bell labs on advanced technologies.
Tayeb and John Chambers, chairman emeritus of Cisco, discussed the future of venture ecosystems and Saudi Arabia’s role in the international innovation economy. He emphasized the unique combined potential of Saudi Arabia, Aramco, and Prosperity7 to contribute to the global innovation economy through strategic investments, deep partnerships, and fostering an innovation friendly environment.
Sheila O. Al-Rowaily, CEO of Wisayah Global Investment Management, together with David Lyon, vice chairman at JP Morgan; and Gerald Keefe, head of Global Banking at HSBC; moderated by Prosperity7 managing director Jonathan Tower, provided their respective views on the current macro environment and potential investment opportunities. Al-Rowaily spoke to the importance of having a long-term and globally minded view in managing investments across cycles.
In another lively fireside chat with Tayeb, Tim Draper, head of Draper Associates, reflected with optimism on the state of the venture ecosystem and how to position one for success in these wildly dynamic times. Draper shared his unique perspectives as a member of a multigenerational family of venture capitalists and crypto enthusiast.
“This event was significant because it brought together innovators from every field to focus on solving collective challenges,” Al-Khowaiter said.
Achievements in the Far East
Despite being in its formative years, Prosperity7 was recognized in the top 40 foreign venture capital funds in the China Ventures awards for two consecutive years. Several of its portfolio companies were also recognized as “top 10 investments” in the categories of big data, AI, and advanced manufacturing.
There is more to celebrate as Aramco Ventures closed its 100th investment in May, and recently came in 10th in Climate 50’s annual ranking of the most impactful climate tech investors globally. The ranking, consisting of both private and corporate investors, recognizes the most impactful global climate investors allocating capital to the building of cutting-edge technologies that move the world closer to a net zero planet.
In addition to the recognition, of specific note is Aramco Ventures being the third-highest ranked corporate investor in the listing.
Looking to the future
Aramco is planning to accomplish a lot more through its venture capital programs. “Prosperity7 is an example of how the strength and scale of Aramco are being mobilized so that big ideas become reality,” Aladel added.
Silicon Valley veterans were enthusiastic about Prosperity7 and looking forward to collaborating. “The timing of Prosperity7’s launch is perfect because we’re now seeing the impact of technology like generative AI that’s changing the world, and because of the focus on sustainability and ensuring that we provide a sustainable future for all,” said Murat Sonmez, co-founder and CEO at pulsESG Inc. “We welcome Prosperity7 to Silicon Valley.”
Caption for top photo: Amin Nasser cuts the ribbon at the new Prosperity7 Ventures office in Palo Alto, California. He is joined by Ahmad O. Al-Khowaiter, Aysar Tayeb, and Mahdi Aladel.