• Andreessen Horowitz's Ben Horowitz recently called Saudi a "startup country"
  • Many U.S. VC firms and funds have been silent about Saudi ties since Jamal Khashoggi's killing
  • MBS denied that he ordered Khashoggi's killing after U.S. intelligence concluded that he did

The venture arm of Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, Sanabil Investments, has bared the list of its venture capital (VC) partners, which includes dozens of venture and investment firms in the United States. American venture firms have largely maintained silence over potential ties with Saudi Arabia since the brutal killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a known critic of the Saudi government.

Nearly 40 U.S. venture capital firms and companies and several international funds have been listed by Sanabil Investments as partners, The Information first reported Monday. The list includes New York City-based Coatue Management and Insight Partners, Craft Ventures in San Francisco and Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital firm based in Silicon Valley.

Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz recently appeared onstage with Adam Neumann to talk about the latter's new residential real estate company, Flow. According to Bloomberg, the conference where their appearance took place was organized by a non-profit supported by Saudi Arabia's sovereign fund. The move has raised the notion that Flow may be launched in the kingdom in the future.

"Saudi has a founder; you don't call him a founder, you call him his royal highness," Horowitz said at the conference, as per the outlet. Horowitz reportedly went on to praise the Kingdom as a "startup country."

With Horowitz's latest comments regarding Saudi Arabia, Andreessen Horowitz has been deemed to seemingly be "aligning itself with other global investment firms that are unapologetic about their relationship with the oil-rich region," TechCrunch noted.

In 2017, Andreessen joined the advisory board of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's (MBS) mega-city project, Neom. Following the release of a declassified intelligence report from Washington in 2018 about MBS allegedly personally approving the killing of Khashoggi, Andreessen was among those linked to Neom who retained silence as more details emerged about the dissident journalist's death at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. It is unclear whether Andreessen stepped down from the project's advisory board amid increasing scrutiny against the Saudi crown prince.

MBS denied having a hand in Khashoggi's killing but said he was taking full responsibility for the journalist's death "especially since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government."

Other notable U.S.-based companies and VC firms listed on Sanabil Investments' VC Partners page are software company Alation, software and digital security company Callsign, 500 Global, Dragoneer Investment Group, Treasury Fund, Griffin Gaming Partners and B Capital.

Observers suggested that Sanabil Investments' latest move could once again raise discussions about how the kingdom is faring in its business ties with western companies. After details of Khashoggi's murder came to light, U.S. companies and venture capital firms have largely been silent about whether they had received funding from Saudi Arabia and what they planned to do moving forward, Axios reported.

Days after the death of Khashoggi in October 2018, several influential participants of the Saudi government's Future Investment Conference backed out of the event, including then-World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, investor and philanthropist Steve Case and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. Billionaire Richard Branson also suspended talks about a possible investment of $1 billion from the Saudis in Virgin's space companies.

At the time, two businessmen described by Axios as "U.S. business bigs" argued that it was becoming unclear where businesspeople should "draw the line" regarding the Saudi government's alleged involvement in Khashoggi's killing.

"Almost all governments, including America's, do awful things. Saudi has done awful things for years. Where do you draw the line? What we're seeing now is little more than virtue signaling for approval from journalists who are particularly upset because one of their own was the target this time," the businessmen who preferred anonymity said, as paraphrased by the outlet.

Entities and individuals who reportedly cut ties with the Saudi government in relation to Khashoggi's death were former U.S. energy secretary Ernest Moniz, former European Commission vice president Neelie Kroes, lobbying firm BGR group and Hollywood agency Endeavor Content.

Meanwhile, Sanabil Investments said on its website that it invests about $2 billion annually, but it is unclear which firms on its list of partners get the biggest chunk from Saudi funding. The company, which is the venture arm of Saudi's Public Investment Fund, also said its venture strategy was approved in 2019 but it has operated for a decade.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during the Future Investment Initiative Forum in Riyadh
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman denied involvement in the grisly killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Reuters