The growing team from KAUST startup Sadeem deploys their smart city sensors (pictured, center) for flood, traffic and environmental monitoring in locations around the globe. Photo by Khulud Muath.
By Caitlin Clark, KAUST News
In 2017, we covered the journey of KAUST startup Sadeem—a company that provides solar-powered smart city solutions for flood, traffic and environmental monitoring, saving money and lives in real-time—from its inception. Read about the company's achievements—and expansion—as the startup's story continues below.
An international spotlight focused on Sadeem and its four co-founders, KAUST Ph.D. graduates Mustafa Mousa, Ahmad Dehwah and Esteban Canepa and former KAUST Professor Christian Claudel, in late 2017. The company had just won the Best Global Startup award in Dubai, UAE, at the 37th Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX) Technology Week.
"This was bulletproof evidence that Sadeem held promise—and not just on a local basis," Dehwah said.
"After GITEX, we said to ourselves, 'Let's make Sadeem something real in every single sense of the word,'" added Canepa.
Sadeem co-founders Esteban Canepa (left) and Mustafa Mousa (right) represented the startup and won the Best Global Startup award at the 37th Gulf Information Technology Exhibition Technology Week in late 2017. Image courtesy of Sadeem.
"We started by focusing on getting the company into shape—having employees, a business model and finance and other systems needed for the operation of a company," Dehwah explained. "Regardless of the size of a company, there are certain basics it has to have. We worked to make sure Sadeem's 'backbone' was ready to accommodate potential expansion, attract talented new hires and create an international profile."
The Sadeem team works in their lab on the KAUST campus. Photo by Khulud Muath.
Madinah is Sadeem's most ambitious project to date. As the second holiest city in Islam after Makkah, it receives millions of pilgrims to its holy sites each year.
Startup Sadeem recently installed its smart city sensors in the Saudi city of Madinah (pictured here). Madinah receives millions of pilgrims to its holy sites every year. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
During the project, Madinah's Development Authority specifically requested Sadeem's air quality and environmental monitoring sensor, called the Aura. It was in the pipeline but not quite ready, but the team delivered the Aura on a time-constrained basis, receiving excellent feedback from the Development Authority for the entire project.
Sadeem's sensors—the Aura for air quality and environmental monitoring (left) and the Equa for flood and traffic monitoring (right)—are pictured here. Photo by Khulud Muath.
The success of the project has brought in other leads from Madinah and also from other cities' development authorities.
"We start a project in a city—like planting a seed—and expand it and customize it to what the city needs," Mousa said. "A highlight has been building on the success of our Equa sensor for floods and traffic and then adding the Aura sensor to this solution. We aim to improve and enhance both while expanding our network."
The Sadeem team employs a wide variety of tools to bring the company's sensors to fruition in the lab. Photo by Khulud Muath.
"These two projects were also planting seeds to start engaging with governments," explained Canepa. "In some areas, the technology is more easily adopted, depending on the city's culture and other factors. But, through each project we gain experience, allowing for more ambitious projects with expanded solutions in the future."
"We see ourselves as engaging in a continuous development process for state-of-the-art monitoring solutions, creating a 'global solution' for everybody," Dehwah said. "Our customers co-evolve with us and with our solutions."
The city of Taif—where Sadeem recently installed sensors—is located in southwestern Saudi Arabia. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
"Because our systems are plug-and-play, cutting-edge and convenient and we don't use any of the city's infrastructure with them, they can be installed quickly and easily," explained Dehwah. "And, they can engage with any other solution with no extra cost."
Sadeem's sensors are solar-powered to maximize their 'plug-and-play' convenience for cities. Pictured here is the company's Equa sensor and its solar panel. Photo by Khulud Muath.
In 2018, the startup hit another milestone, hiring its first employee, Ahmed Al-Hadi, who had just completed his bachelor's degree in computer engineering at King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals. The company soon expanded to 10 full-time employees from six different countries—including 40 percent female employees.
Sadeem is proud of its multicultural team members, and the company also includes 40 percent female employees. Photo by Khulud Muath.
"One of our greatest successes so far is our team," continued Dehwah. "They've been pushing our technologies hard to reach the highest levels."
Ahmed Al-Hadi (right), Sadeem's first hire, works in the company's lab with co-founder Ahmad Dehwah (left). Photo by Khulud Muath.
"We want a team that can be as good as—or even better—than we are," said Mousa. "We want people who can be creators and innovators and not just do what they're told. It's been challenging for us to find these people because they've had to begin the company from scratch—all our new departments have started with them."
Sadeem's female employees find the startup an excellent and engaging environment in which to work. (Pictured from left to right): former employee Njood Alzahrani and current employees Somayah Shafaamri, Lubna Al Hajsalem and Alyaa Al Jabri. Photo by Khulud Muath.
(Pictured from left to right): Sadeem's co-founders Ahmad Dehwah, Esteban Canepa and Mustafa Mousa also received their Ph.D.s from the University in 2016. Photo by Khulud Muath.
Alyaa Al Jabri (left), Sadeem's software developer, noted the startup's diverse team members 'have great respect for each other.' Photo by Khulud Muath.
Sadeem team members use their talents to 'make cities more resilient and help face the planet's challenges,' stated co-founder Esteban Canepa. Photo by Khulud Muath.
Marlon Diaz (center), Sadeem's hardware specialist, works in the company's lab on a sensor with co-founder Ahmad Dehwah (left) and original hire Ahmed Al-Hadi (right). Photo by Khulud Muath.
Sadeem team member Marlon Diaz uses his technical skills to modify a sensor in the startup's KAUST-based lab. Photo by Khulud Muath.
(Pictured from left to right): Sadeem co-founders and KAUST Ph.D. graduates Ahmad Dehwah, Mustafa Mousa and Esteban Canepa showcase the company's Equa and Aura sensor technology. Photo by Khulud Muath.