Over 2 million SAR granted to startups at TAQADAM Startup Accelerator Program finals

The winners of the 2019 TAQADAM Accelerator Program (pictured here) each received 375,000 SAR. File photo.

On September 26 on the University's campus, 28 startups pitched their ideas to a panel of judges and investors to compete for over 2 million SAR in prize money at the finals of the TAQADAM Startup Accelerator Program.

The program—which is now in its third year—was developed in partnership with KAUST and the Saudi British Bank (SABB) to equip new entrepreneurs with the skills and know-how to launch a technology startup. Since beginning in 2016, the TAQADAM Accelerator has successfully graduated 78 startups and awarded over 9 million SAR in funding.

In line with Saudi Arabia's objectives of supporting new ventures, the TAQADAM Accelerator Program focuses on preparing new entrepreneurs for the challenges ahead, offering over six months of business training and mentorship in various industries, including e-commerce, healthcare and technology, in addition to FinTech, gaming and engineering and science.

Over 1,100 participants, investors and mentors gathered to watch the announcement of the winners at the third annual showcase, one of KAUST's flagship entrepreneurship events.

The 28 startups that participated in the KAUST-Saudi British Bank TAQADAM Startup Accelerator Program finals also took part in an on campus exhibition of their innovative work. File photo.

The theme of this year's event was "The Future Reimagined," which encouraged the program's entrepreneurs to create technologies of the future that could benefit Saudi Arabia. Working with mentors from the University's Entrepreneurship Center, they were able to design, develop and take their startup ideas to market.

Kevin Cullen, KAUST vice president of Innovation and Economic Development, stated: "At KAUST, we are proud to support entrepreneurs and offer them the best environment and tools to create innovations that can change the world. Today we have watched some incredible ideas and technologies that are solving issues across different industries in healthcare, agriculture, water, food, gaming, education and more. Congratulations, winners, well done."

Entrepreneur Moudi Alghashyan pitches on the KAUST stage during the recent TAQADAM Startup Accelerator Program finals. File photo.

Among the competing startups were 100 founders from 13 Saudi universities, and these represented a wide range of industries. During the event, each startup was given three minutes to pitch its ideas, followed by three minutes of Q&A and another three minutes of feedback from the judges.

"We're witnessing huge transformation in the Kingdom, so it's vital the next generation of businesses are helped to seize these opportunities," noted Soren Nikolajsen, SABB deputy managing director, Transformation. "We're determined to play our part in building a more diverse and sustainable economy, and one of the best ways we can do that is [by] supporting the grassroots of the business ecosystem—young entrepreneurs. Today's winners show just what a great job TAQADAM has done developing new entrepreneurial talent."

Hattan Ahmed, head of the KAUST Entrepreneurship Center, added, "[The] KAUST Entrepreneurship Center's main goal is to create high-quality, high-impact new ventures from across Saudi Arabia by providing the professional training and mentorship needed to help take their ideas to the market. We are so proud of the startups graduating from our accelerator program and we look forward to supporting more startups in the future."

2019 TAQADAM Accelerator Program winner Firnas Aero provides drones-as-a-service for airport infrastructure inspection. File photo.

The following 2019 TAQADAM Accelerator Program winners each received 375,000 SAR ($100,000):
  • Firnas Aero: Drones-as-a-service for airport infrastructure inspection.
  • Faseeh: Learning app to teach Arabic language skills to help raise Qiyas scores.
  • Genos Tech: Turning microalgae into high-value products such as vitamin A and dietary supplements.
  • Peregrine Genomics: Providing accurate premarital genetic diagnoses in half the time and cost.
  • GlucoJet: Non-invasive and pain free glucose testing for diabetes patients.
  • Talon Dust Control: Low-cost liquid spray-on solution for environmental dust control. 

Carbon CPU was the event's People's Choice award winner, receiving 187,500 SAR from a live vote from the audience.

Team members from startup Peregrine Genomics display their winning check at the finale of the 2019 TAQADAM finals. File photo.

"Walking away with a $100,000 check by the end of the pitch day is what we have worked on from the beginning of [the] TAQADAM Accelerator," said Abdulelah Saleh, GlucoJet co-founder. "This marks the beginning of our journey, and we hope to achieve more in the future."

"It was an unbelievable moment and an overwhelming feeling," stated Yara Aldrees, Carbon CPU co-founder. "Winning the People's Choice award has really encouraged us. Carbon CPU will thrive and we will continue doing more of what we do."

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