On Wednesday afternoon, Uber said that it had received a $3.5 billion investment from the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund. That makes it the biggest investment ever raised in a single round by a venture-backed company. In exchange, a managing director at the Saudi fund, Yasir Al Rumayyan, will take a seat on Uber’s board, according to the New York Times.
Uber has been a presence in Saudi Arabia since 2014, and it’s grown rapidly from there. In the country, women aren’t allowed to drive and their travel is often restricted without the permission of a male guardian. To get around, women either hire private drivers or go through licensed taxi or limo companies to travel throughout the country’s major cities. Speaking to male strangers is also verboten, and according to Fast Company, Uber only works through those licensed limo companies that had been operating with the monarchy's permission for years before Uber’s arrival. The company has said that approximately 80 percent of riders in Saudi Arabia are women.
Uber’s value proposition is that it consolidates taxi and limo information, making it easier to order a car and reducing wait times for rides. The company also helps with residency and work permit paperwork for foreign drivers in the country.