Silicon Valley and Saudi Arabia are still closely intertwined despite age-old controversy

Project renderings in the window of the NEOM pop-up store on the closing day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Friday, Jan. 20, 2023.
Stefan Wermuth—Getty Images

It was just as Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi went missing in Oct. 2018 that Saudi Arabia announced it had formed a global advisory board for the $500 billion passion project of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman: the futuristic megacity called NEOM.

The announcement spotlighted many venture capital and tech industry elites, such as Sam Altman, who was then the president of Y Combinator; Marc Andreessen, cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz; Travis Kalanick, the founder of Uber; SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son; and IDEO’s then-CEO Tim Brown. 

These individuals would “help shape NEOM’s future” through their knowledge and “connections with potential long-term strategic partners,” NEOM’s CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr said at the time.

Right after the announcement was made—with the Saudi government under global scrutiny for its role in Khashoggi’s disappearance—many of those individuals immediately attempted to distance themselves from the project: Altman and Brown stepped away from the project, Apple claimed its then-design chief, Jony Ive, had never been part of it. Others, like Marc Andreessen, declined to comment at the time.

The revelation that followed—that Khashoggi had been killed and then dismembered by agents of the Saudi government—led the U.S. tech ecosystem to take a second look at its backers. Some would publicly speak out and call the tech sector to dig into their investor base and pay attention to where their LP money was coming from. 

But the murder of Khashoggi doesn’t appear to have had too much of a long-term impact on the intertwined relationship between the Gulf, with its billions in oil money, and the tech industry’s deep pockets.

As was first reported by The Information yesterday afternoon, the Saudi Public Investment Fund venture arm, Sanabil Investments, recently made many of its venture investments public on its website, including previously undisclosed investments in dozens of firms spanning Andreessen Horowitz, Craft Ventures, TCV, Coatue, Polychain Capital, and the accelerator firm and venture fund Techstars.

Fortune reached out to 36 of the venture capital firms Sanabil Investments disclosed that it backs, as well as the aforementioned advisory board members. KKR and SoftBank, on behalf of Masayoshi Son, declined to comment. None of the other firms or individuals had responded by the time of publication. Representatives for Sanabil Investments and NEOM did not respond either.

In a statement to The Information, Village Global’s cofounder said, “We think highly of the team there. We don’t otherwise share information about any of our LPs as we’re obligated by various confidentiality provisions in our agreements with them.”

Here is the full list of firms where Sanabil Investments reports to be a limited partner:

– 1984 Ventures
– 500 Startups
– 9Yards
– Andreessen Horowitz
– B Capital Group
– Coatue
– Collab Fund
– Costanoa Ventures
– Craft Ventures
– Dragoneer Investment Group
– eWTP Arabia Capital
– Flagship Pioneering
– G Squared
– General Atlantic
– Greenoaks Capital Partners
– Griffin Gaming Partners
– Human Capital
– ICONIQ Capital
– Insight Partners
– JAZZ Venture Partners
– JMI Equity
– Legend Capital
– March Capital
– OrbiMed
– Polychain Capital
– Race Capital
– Soma Capital
– Stripes
– TA Associates
– Techstars
– Third Point Venture
– Treasury Fund
– Uncorrelated
– Valar Ventures
– Valor Equity Partners
– Village Global

An update on NEOM…While it is unclear who serves on the advisory board of NEOM (or whether there is one at all), Saudi Arabia has pushed on with its grand plans for NEOM. Last month, the Saudi Arabia-focused human rights group ALQST, which conducted an investigation into the project, published a report alleging that five people of the Huwaitat tribe have been sentenced to death for peacefully resisting and speaking out against the forcible displacement of their tribe so that the land could be used for the project. At least 15 members of the tribe have allegedly been sentenced to prison between 15 and 50 years, according to ALQST. 

See you tomorrow,

Jessica Mathews
Twitter: @jessicakmathews
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Jackson Fordyce curated the deals section of today’s newsletter.


- Quantexa, a London- and New York-based decision intelligence solutions platform for the public and private sectors, raised $129 million in Series E funding. GIC led the round and was joined by Warburg Pincus, Dawn Capital, British Patient Capital, Evolution Equity Partners, HSBC, BNY Mellon, ABN AMRO, and AlbionVC.  

- Mercy BioAnalytics, a Natick, Mass.-based extracellular vesicle-based liquid biopsies company, raised $41 million in Series A funding. Novalis LifeSciences led the round and was joined by Sozo Ventures, Hatteras Venture Partners, iSelect Fund, American Cancer Society BrightEdge, Broadway Angels, and others. 

- Florence, a New York-based health care enablement software platform, raised $20 million in seed funding. Thrive Capital, GV, and Salesforce Ventures co-led the round and were joined by Vast Ventures, BoxGroup, and Atento Capital.

- VICIO, a Barcelona-based burger stand company, raised €17 million ($18.53 million) in Series A funding. IRIS Ventures, soccer athletes Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann, and Barlon Capital invested in the round.

- HeatTransformers, a Woerden, Netherlands-based heat pump installation company, raised €15 million ($16.34 million) in Series A funding. Energy Impact Partners led the round and was joined by Fair Capital Partners and InnovationQuarter

- Push Security, a London-based SaaS security platform for IT and cybersecurity teams, raised $15 million in Series A funding. GV led the round and was joined by Decibel and other angels. 

- Decentral Energy Managers, a Johannesburg, South Africa-based renewable energy developer, raised $12.1 million in funding. Flyt Property Investment and Anuva Investments invested in the round. 

- Spendflo, a San Francisco-based SaaS buying and management solution platform, raised $11 million in Series A funding co-led by Prosus Ventures and Accel Partners.

- Monite, a Berlin-based invoicing and payables automation platform, raised an additional $5 million in seed funding led by Third Prime

- SEPURA Home, a Victoria, Canada-based food waste separation device company, raised $3.7 million in seed funding led by BLANCO.

- Franklin, a Wilmington, Del.-based cash and crypto payroll company, raised $2.9 million in  seed funding. gumi Cryptos Capital and CMT Digital co-led the round and were joined by Arca, Sfermion, Portage Ventures, and Synergis Capital.

- Adludio, a London-based mobile advertising platform, has secured a further £2 million ($2.48 million) in funding from Mercia.

- Narrato, a San Francisco-based A.I. content creation and collaboration platform, raised $1 million in pre-seed funding led by AirTree Ventures


- Bridge Investment Group acquired Newbury Partners, a Stamford, Conn.-based investment manager, for $320.1 million.

- BlueHalo, an Arlington Capital Partners portfolio company, acquired Verus Technology Group, a Leesburg, Va.-based counter UAS systems company for drone detection. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

- Covanta, backed by EQT, agreed to acquire Circon Holdings, a La Porte, Texas-based environmental services provider, from Kinderhook Industries. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

- GreenGroup, backed by Abris Capital Partners, acquired UAB Zalvaris, a Kaunas, Lithuania-based industrial waste management company. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- mrge, backed by Waterland Private Equity, acquired SourceKnowledge, a Montreal-based cost-per-click ad network. Financial terms were not disclosed.  

- The Rohatyn Group acquired Ethos Private Equity, a Johannesburg-based alternative asset management firm. Financial terms were not disclosed.


- SATS acquired Worldwide Flight Services, a Paris-based air cargo logistics provider, from Cerberus Capital Management for €2.25 billion ($2.45 billion).

- Ethos Capital acquired Newforma, a Boston-based project-information management software producer, from Battery Ventures. Financial terms were not disclosed.


- Holcim acquired Duro-Last, a Saginaw, Mich.-based commercial roofing systems company. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- Recognize acquired a majority stake in 2X, a Berwyn, Pa.-based marketing-as-a-service solution for the B2B sector. Financial terms were not disclosed.


- MidOcean Partners, a New York-based alternative asset manager, raised more than $1.5 billion for a fund focused on investing in mid-market companies. 

- Ensemble, an Austin-based venture fund, raised $100 million for a fund focused on early-stage startups. 


- A16z crypto, the Menlo Park, Calif.-based crypto investment arm of a16z, hired Jason Rosenthal as an operating partner. Formerly, he was with Google.

- NightDragon, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm, hired Dorin Baniel as a principal and head of EMEA. Formerly, she was with Glilot Capital Partners

- The Engine, a Cambridge, Mass.-based venture capital firm, hired Rachel Sha and Colleen Calhoun as operating partners. Formerly, Sha was with Sanofi and Calhoun was with GE Energy Ventures.

Correction, April 4, 2023: The online version of this newsletter has been corrected to reflect that Point72 did not participate in Monite's additional round of seed funding.

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