Saudi Arabia invests millions in Dubai-based digital theme park start-up

Saudi Arabia is expanding its portfolio in the entertainment sector with the kingdom latest investment focusing on a Dubai-based startup that creates digital theme parks in shopping malls.

According to a report by the Financial Times, the kingdom’s Riyadh Season has provided the majority of the $55 million debt and equity raised by HyperSpace. The latest funding round was led by Galaxy Interactive, a New York-based venture capital firm, and included participation from other international investors.

In Dubai, HyperSpace is the brainchild behind AYA, the immersive, experiential entertainment park, located at Wafi City, which opened its doors in December last year. The company is now targeting the opening of its House of Hype in Riyadh and Dubai. According to the company, led by blockchain and gaming expert Alexander Heller, House of Hype will celebrate hype culture, with a focus on fashion, games, music and NFTs.

While the Saudi outlet will open in Boulevard City in a few weeks, as a part of the Riyadh Season, the Dubai Mall venture, spread across 100,000 sq ft, which is set to open in Q4 2023.

In March, the Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia (MISA) facilitated 14 investment agreements to develop the kingdom’s sports, entertainment, and construction sectors as part of a sponsorship programme hosted by Invest Saudi, the government’s investment arm, with HyperSpace being one of the entities signed on to expand its presence in the country.

Saudi Arabia has been actively diversifying its economy beyond oil and gas, as a part of its Vision 2030 plan, with the country’s General Entertainment Authority (GEA) spearheading many of these projects, including the annual Riyadh Season, which kicks off on October 28 with the highly anticipated fight between the current WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and UFC heavyweight Francis Ngannou.

Turki Al Sheikh, Chairman of the Board of Directors of GEA announced in September the country was banking on drawing 10-12 million visitors to its annual entertainment money-spinner.

For the country, which only recently opened its doors to live entertainment events, the Riyadh Season and its counterpart seasons, have proved to be a revenue earner for Saudi Arabia. In 2021, Al Sheikh revealed on X (formerly known as Twitter) that “direct and indirect income” from Riyadh Season 2019 reached SAR 6 billion amid spending of SAR 3.1 billion. The Net income from 2021’s Riyadh Season was set to exceed SAR 2.9 billion, while the event for 2020 never took place on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.




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