KAUST and SABB double funding for entrepreneurs

KAUST and its partner Saudi British Bank (SABB), will award 10 million SAR to entrepreneurs participating in the fourth TAQADAM Startup Accelerator program. The zero-equity grants, which have doubled from previous years, will kickstart the accelerated growth of some of the most exciting new businesses in the Kingdom today.

59 startups from different industries have joined TAQADAM's fourth cohort, including agriculture, logistics, healthcare, real estate, education and more. Selected startups will receive expert mentorship and training to bring their ideas to life. They will also benefit from industry exposure, in addition to funding of 150,000 SAR each to invest in their growth and development.

Typically, startups receive funding from investors in exchange for an equity stake in their business. In this way TAQADAM is unique, as KAUST and SABB are committed to ensuring high-potential startups grow without requiring that startups sacrifice control early on.

"This year we doubled our grant funding for each startup to 150,000 SAR and doubled the number of startups accepted to the program," said Kevin Cullen, vice president of Innovation & Economic Development at KAUST. "This is due, in great part, to the support of our partner SABB. We anticipate that this will enable our startups to grow faster and stronger. Funding is the seed, but we also go much further and the heart of this program is in the incredible networks and mentorship offered to our startups."

Supporting deep-tech startups

KAUST is committed to being an innovation hub that supports deep-tech startup projects and companies as it continues to advance and nurture the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Saudi Arabia and the region. Together with SABB, their significant expertise allows TAQADAM startups and aspiring entrepreneurs to take advantage of mentoring and training, access co-working and lab facilities, and build networks over the course of the six-month program.

The accelerator, now in its fourth year, offers on-going workshops for an average of three days each month throughout the accelerator period. Workshops are delivered by eminent guest speakers in different areas such as digital marketing, growth hacking, software, hardware, human resources (HR) and hiring, e-commerce, finance, fundraising and a wide range of industrial specialty expertise.

Startups will use the grant funds to help with marketing and advertising, digital development, such as websites or apps, product development or prototyping, and staffing.

Startup success stories

UnitX is a previous TAQADAM startup that was able to use their infusion of funding for business development and the creation of a minimum viable product to test their business out in the market.

"The funding we received at the beginning from TAQADAM has helped our startup in many aspects, especially with business development," said Ankita Shree, co-founder of UnitX. "In 2018, we came up with a software business idea and used TAQADAM funding to develop our business and get software licenses, then we were able to participate in several trade shows and meet potential clients. The funding helped us cover the costs of the events we participated in, we hired people to help us deliver the project to clients and we actually had our first client when we were still in TAQADAM."

KAUST and SABB partnered in 2016 to launch the first TAQADAM Startup Accelerator program. This on-going partnership has supported over 300 entrepreneurs, with a strong focus on those homegrown in Saudi Arabia. Like KAUST, SABB believes in supporting a new generation specializing in future-centric solutions in the fields of trade, technology, food and water sustainability, industrial and digital solutions and more.

"TAQADAM gives us a unique opportunity to finance and support the ambitions of some of the most exciting entrepreneurial talent. Thanks to the support of KAUST, the program has built a proud legacy in making sure the businesses our Kingdom needs most are getting the best possible start. This year will be no exception and we wish those involved in the program every success," said Majed Najm, deputy managing director for Corporate & Institutional Banking at SABB.

The fourth TAQADAM cohort kicked off virtually in June 2020 with a two-week bootcamp and is continuing with monthly, online workshops until the final showcase in early 2021. Over the past four years, TAQADAM has graduated over 78 startups and provided zero-equity funding of over 14 million SAR.

Startup success stories include: Sadeem, UnitX, Faheem, Dhad, Saee, and Ajeer. And KAUST and SABB have confidence that this year's crop of startups will go on to succeed in their industries as well.

KAUST continues to play a pivotal role in growing the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Saudi Arabia, having graduated over 250 startups from its collaborations, helping them raise over $60 million USD of investment funding, and providing training programs. KAUST also invests in TAQADAM and other startups through its venture capital arm: the KAUST Innovation Fund.

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