Saudi Arabia's Wa'ed Ventures Invests In Paris-Based PASQAL And Tokyo-Based Terra Drone As Part Of Its New Global Agenda
Wa'ed Ventures leading a US$14 million bridge round for Japanese startup Terra Drone is part of its agenda to invest in global companies.
Saudi Aramco-owned venture capital firm Wa'ed Ventures has announced two global investments, which includes partaking in a US$108 million equity Series B round raised by Paris-based quantum computing startup PASQAL, as well as leading a $14 million bridge round for Japan-based drone and urban air mobility technology company Terra Drone. The latter marks Wa'ed Ventures' first foray into the Asian market.
The Series B round raised by PASQAL was led by Singapore-based Temasek, and besides Wa'ed, it saw the participation of the European Innovation Council (EIC) Fund, a Brussels-based entity that offers grants to small businesses that are technology- or science-driven, and Bpifrance, a France-based public investment bank. The round also saw the return of PASQAL's previous investors such as Quantonation, a Paris-based VC firm that is dedicated to quantum technologies, the Defense Innovation Fund, a UK-based small businesses fund, Daphni, a Paris-based VC firm, and Eni Next, an Italy-based corporate VC firm.
PASQAL co-founder Alain Aspect has built his startup upon the technology for which he was awarded the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize in Physics. With plans to widen its existing operations in Europe and North America, Aspect believes the fresh influx of capital will play a major role in expanding PASQAL's presence in other areas of the world as well, including the Middle East and Asia (MEA). In an interview with Entrepreneur Middle East, PASQAL co-founder and CEO Georges- Olivier Reymond said that the MEA region stands to receive many benefits from the use of quantum computing. "The energy sector will be one of the first to benefit from quantum computing, which has the potential to address many pressing issues to distribute the energy more efficiently," Reymond said. "Our computers are especially equipped to solve these problems, as demonstrated by our work with Électricité de France [a French multinational electric utility company] in exploring smart charging optimization problems. In Saudi Arabia, we will leverage our technology to specifically address the oil and gas sectors."
But Reymond also acknowledged the fact that certain hurdles remain in the MEA region when it comes to ensuring a more widespread adoption of quantum computers. "Today, there are two limiting factors preventing the adoption of quantum computing by enterprises- the lack of computers, and the lack of real-world solutions," he said. "At PASQAL, we can deliver on both, with quantum solutions that are already available. This funding round validates that neutral atom technology is a premier platform for delivering real-world quantum applications, and we are proud to see its potential recognized by top investors." While the PASQAL team is keen on accelerating the company's research and development efforts to build a 1,000-qubit quantum computer in the short term, and fault-tolerant architectures in the long term, the company also plans to increase the production of its quantum systems for on-premise installations. Another plan is to expand the development of proprietary algorithms for customers across key sectors such as automotive, mobility, healthcare, finance and government.
For Wa'ed Ventures, PASQAL's vision is one that has seamlessly aligned with its own. "Investing in PASQAL is in line with our mission of backing cutting edge technologies that could have profound impacts on the world," said Fahad Alidi, Managing Director, Wa'ed Ventures. "Quantum computing has the potential to solve incredibly important problems across different sectors, and we believe that PASQAL is well positioned to be a leader in the industry, driving the localization of advanced technologies in the MENA region for decades to come."
Another startup that has found support from Wa'ed Ventures is the Japanese industrial drone solutions provider Terra Drone. Its $14 million bridge round comes as part of Wa'ed Ventures' decision in the third quarter of 2022 to start targeting global companies, as opposed to just ones in the MENA region. "Supported by the global track record of Terra Drone, our investment represents Wa'ed's commitment towards building the urban air mobility (UAM) ecosystem in the Kingdom, one that circles around sustainable economy" said Alidi. "We foresee rapid adoption for drone services in numerous industries, and Terra Drone is well-positioned to localize their proprietary technology across the region, starting with the kingdom."
Wa'ed Ventures' investment in Terra Drone follows its earlier Series A and Series B rounds that collectively raised $83 million for the Japanese firm. These earlier rounds included participation from Japan-based institutional investors such as Mitsui & Co. Ltd, SBI Investment Co. Ltd, Tokyu Land Corporation, and Seika Corporations. Having already been recognized as one of the world's largest providers of industrial drone solutions Terra Drone was ranked second in 2022's Drones Services Company Worldwide Ranking, conducted by the global drone market research organization, Drone Industry Insights. With its new round of funds, the Japanese startup is all set to localize its drone services in the region by opening a subsidiary in Saudi Arabia. It will also leverage the additional capital to expand globally, having provided its drone hardware and cloud-based software services to over 10 countries since launching in 2016.
Terra Drone founder and CEO Toru Tokushige says he launched the company with the goal to create a "drone and air mobility-based society," and today, that dream seems closer to reality than before. "Six years later, we are now approaching a future where drones and aerial vehicles will no longer be a novelty," Tokushige said. "We have built up a solid track record both domestically and internationally up to this point, and have grown to be recognized as the top drone service provider in the world. Saudi Aramco's investment in Terra Drone through its VC arm, Wa'ed Ventures, is another example of the global recognition for our achievements, which raises the expectations for our team as we continue to push forward, and lead Terra Drone to the forefront of the global innovation track."
(Entrepreneur.com/Aalia Mehreen Ahmed)