When you’re the only country in the world that prohibits women from driving, it becomes necessary to invest in things like public transportation in order to ensure that half the adult population isn’t forced to ask for rides in order to travel long distances. Obviously a more simple solution would be to just allow women to drive, but since the leaders in Saudi Arabia are unwilling to do that, they’ve decided to make a $3.5 billion investment into Uber through the nation’s Public Investment Fund. Uber isn’t exactly a form of public transportation, but it functions in much the same way by allowing people who can’t or don’t want to drive a car to still travel by car.
In its quest to build a global empire, Uber has turned to the Middle East for its biggest infusion of cash from a single investor. Uber said on Wednesday that it had raised $3.5 billion from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, the kingdom’s main investment fund, in one of the largest-ever investments into a privately held start-up. The money was part of the ride-hailing giant’s most recent financing round and continued to value Uber at $62.5 billion. The investment, which was months in the making, does not cash out any of Uber’s existing investors. Uber, which has viewed the Middle East as an important area in its expansion, said the investment further aligned the company with Saudi Arabia as the kingdom planned to transform its economy, reducing its dependence on oil and improving employment. Until now, Saudi Arabia has not been known for venture capital investing, though some members of its royal family have made some deals. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, for instance, has invested in Lyft, a competitor of Uber. “We appreciate the vote of confidence in our business as we continue to expand our global presence,” Travis Kalanick, one of Uber’s founders and its chief executive, said in a statement. “Our experience in Saudi Arabia is a great example of how Uber can benefit riders, drivers and cities and we look forward to partnering to support their economic and social reforms.”