King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and the Saudi British Bank (SABB) launched the fourth TAQADAM accelerator cohort on June 28. Over 1,750 startups applied to the program earlier this year, with 59 accepted startups, including 168 entrepreneurs from 10 Saudi cities, Bahrain, Lebanon, Egypt and Algeria. The hopeful graduates range from 23 different industries including clusters in logistics, edtech, agtech, fintech and a large number of health care technology startups.
With the advent of COVID-19, for the first time, the bootcamp — which is the first milestone of the TAQADAM program — was held virtually, live and in real time. Founders have spent two weeks in intensive training, attending workshops, meeting mentors, and hearing from both local and international guest speakers from UC Berkeley and the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN). Workshops covered entrepreneurial leadership, design thinking, business models, strategy and pitching for startups, as well as explored the different tools that help founders deal with current and future market shifts.
“It is exciting to announce the fourth cohort of TAQADAM startup accelerator,” said Hattan Ahmed, head of the KAUST Entrepreneurship Center. “This has been a big milestone for KAUST and SABB as we have continued to graduate high-quality startups over the past four years. We are so excited to meet and work with this year’s startups during our virtual bootcamp.”
Majed Najm, deputy managing director, corporate and institutional banking, SABB, said: “We’re committed to our role in supporting the business sector in Saudi Arabia, so we’re especially proud to help TAQADAM further its legacy of helping new talents enter the market. The more we do to help young people turn their ideas into successful businesses, the more diverse and sustainable our economy becomes.”
The accelerator is open to entrepreneurs at all stages of the startup journey. This is the first time that international startups have been accepted into the program. Accepted teams each receive up to SR150,000 ($39,990) in zero-equity funding to grow their business. A selection of startups will also have the chance to pitch for additional zero-equity funding at the final demo day in early 2021.
The TAQADAM startup accelerator was launched in 2016 by KAUST in partnership with SABB. The program has successfully graduated 78 startups and awarded over SR12,000,000 in grant-based seed funding.