An audience of 250 guests saw 13 Saudi university startup teams pitch at the first TAQADAM University Entrepreneur Accelerator program showcase held at KAUST on May 11. The six-month-long TAQADAM startup program, which is based at the University and is sponsored by the Saudi British Bank (SABB), aims to develop early stage entrepreneurs and their concepts into new high-potential startups from universities across Saudi Arabia. It is the only multi-university startup accelerator in the Middle East.
The overall winner of the first startup pitch competition was Telaa, which offers an intellectual property-based anti-corrosion protective coating that uses an innovative application of recycled crumb rubber. In second place was bioTags, which offers a novel proprietary technology to provide a platform for highly specific yet versatile in vivo protein modifications for research and industrial production.
In third place was Zayer, an online tour guide marketplace for private tours to historical and Islamic attractions in Madinah. The audience award went to Al Maha Systems from KAUST, which provides an "internet of things" livestock health tracking system for farmers.
"Thirteen startups were competitively chosen from the total of 26 in the TAQADAM cohort to present for the first time to a public audience during this showcase," said Amal Dokhan from the KAUST Entrepreneurship Center. "The winning teams on the day represented three different Saudi universities as well as a range of different technology and business model solutions."
The early stage startups that presented at the showcase included entrepreneurs from KAUST, King Abdulaziz University, Umm al-Qura University, Effat University, Taibah University and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM).
The TAQADAM cohort teams work in a wide range of technologies and industries, including healthcare, bioinformatics, new materials, the internet of things and software. The entrepreneurs were accepted into the TAQADAM cohort after participating in a highly competitive application process at the end of 2016.
"Right after the announcement of Vision 2030, we came up with an initiative that will help in driving the success of the vision—the TAQADAM program, which drives innovation and supports the SME sector of the Saudi economy. It is an investment in our country's youth," said Ahmed Bin Saeed, marketing manager at SABB.
Ongoing support for the graduates
Each year, the TAQADAM program chooses up to 30 startup teams from universities across Saudi Arabia. These successful teams receive up to $20,000 each in seed funding as part of the program. The accelerator offers a mentor-led development program that includes access to office space at the KAUST Entrepreneurship Center, support from members of the KAUST international mentor group and training to help launch and scale their new ventures.
The most promising startups from the overall cohort of 26 teams are eligible for additional seed funding up to an aggregate total of $600,000 from the KAUST Innovation Fund that will be matched by an equal amount from SABB.
The next application process will open in late September for the 2017/18 cohort. For more information, contact the Entrepreneurship Center.