Igniting the Entrepreneurial Spirit in Saudi Arabia

In 2017, Saudi Arabia revealed the Vision 2030 Plan, a progressive reform program to move beyond big oil and create a modernized country open for more diverse global business.

“Today, we have a people who are convinced that by working very strongly together, Saudi Arabia and all of its projects and programs can reach new horizons in the world,” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said last year at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh.

As part of a biannual, five-year program in support of the Vision 2030 Plan, Mohammed I. Alsubeaei & Sons Investment Company (MASIC), a principal investment firm, hosted a two-day entrepreneurship workshop in February. This workshop focused on the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and molding a business. Syracuse University‘s Professor Alexander McKelvie, associate dean for undergraduate and master’s education and entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises department chair, as well as Professor of Entrepreneurial Practice John Torrens, developed and taught the curriculum.

“This is a very exciting time for entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia with many
social and political reforms and government support being put in place,” said
McKelvie. “It was an honor to work with the new generation of men and women
leading a wave of entrepreneurship in the Kingdom.”

While in Saudi Arabia, Torrens and McKelvie reunited with a Whitman
alumnus, Nasser AlAgil ’10, who they invited to speak at the entrepreneurship
workshop about his success as an entrepreneur.

AlAgil’s path to Syracuse University began when he came to the United
States to attend Trinity-Pawling School in downstate New York. When he was
a senior, he came to Syracuse to visit his cousin Abdulaziz AlAgil ’09 (ENG).
AlAgil found the Whitman School to be a great fit for him and he chose to major
in accounting and finance with a minor in economics. He was a member of the Whitman Investment Club and Beta Alpha Psi Fraternity, through which he
assisted fellow Whitman students with Introduction to Accounting and Managerial
Accounting classes. AlAgil interned as an auditor at KPMG in New York
City one summer, which he found to be a valuable experience. He credits his
Whitman professors and classes with helping him develop skills to communicate
on a professional level and handle situations in the corporate world.
According to AlAgil, the capstone class for all Whitman seniors (Strategic
and Entrepreneurial Management) stood out most in his mind.

“We did everything—figuring out where we were going to get the money,
marketing, distributing, accounting,” shared AlAgil. He appreciated using the
knowledge and skills he had developed in courses throughout college and
seeing how they came together in a hypothetical “real-world” business. “It was
the best class I have ever taken.”

Upon graduation, AlAgil returned to Saudi Arabia, where he worked as a
management consultant for Deloitte & Touche. He went on to work in business
development for the Gift Garden Company. In November of 2015, after a great
deal of research and planning, he opened his first CrossFit gym.

To AlAgil, life came full circle as he was able to help teach entrepreneurial
concepts with Torrens, who had taught the entrepreneurship class that first
fostered AlAgil’s entrepreneurial spirit so long ago.

Torrens, himself, was overjoyed to share the experience with his former
student and to work to encourage the further development of Saudi Arabia’s
business and culture. McKelvie and Torrens look forward to developing innovative
entrepreneurship curriculum, a continued partnership with Saudi Arabia
and to further sharing the entrepreneurial spirit with its people.

Arielle Spears