King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) will host the Taqadam startup accelerator showcase, where graduates from the program’s 2020 cohort will demonstrate their ventures at a virtual event on March 10. Through three-minute pitches, the graduates will be presenting virtually to a network of top-tier local and international investors and judges.
The six-month-long startup accelerator program, which is based at KAUST and sponsored by Saudi British Bank (SABB), aims to develop early-stage entrepreneurs and their concepts into new, high-potential startups. The theme of this year’s showcase, “Creativity Crystallized,” reflects the intense pressure entrepreneurs are facing amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic made this a very challenging year for our 2020 Taqadam cohort,” said Dr. Kevin Cullen, vice president of innovation and economic development at KAUST. “However, these entrepreneurs rose to that challenge and did an amazing job and thrived under pressure. Their resilience and perseverance reflect the amazing talent we have in our Saudi entrepreneurship ecosystem and we are extremely proud to be a part of and contributing to it as KAUST establishes itself as the deep tech heart of the Saudi economy.”
The 2020 Taqadam startup accelerator cohort includes 76 founders, representing 37 startup finalists, from diverse industries, including e-commerce, medtech, edtech and fintech. The accepted teams received SR150,000 ($40,000) in zero-equity grant-funding. The competition was fierce for this cohort as more than 561 startups applied with only 59 shortlisted. Of those, 37 top startups graduated from the program.
Teams usually have access to co-working and lab facilities but had to go virtual in 2020 due to COVID-19. Empowered by mentorship and online collaborative tools, the aspiring entrepreneurs worked to bring their ideas to market through training in topics, such as growth hacking, fundraising, sales, pricing, marketing and more. Taqadam utilizes KAUST and SABB’s powerful networks to connect founders with expert mentors and industry leaders in the startup ecosystem, helping guide them throughout their startup journey.
Majed Najm, SABB’s deputy managing director of corporate and institutional banking, said: “We’re excited to work with KAUST to offer such a unique opportunity for young entrepreneurs to secure zero-equity funding. Taqadam is all about equipping young entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into successful businesses. Not only are they getting the chance to get feedback on their pitching skills — they could also secure a transformational investment. We wish everyone involved the best of luck.”
At the annual showcase event, startup graduates will be competing for a prize pool of over SR4 million in zero-equity funding. Judges will select 10 winners to receive a prize valued at SR375,000 each. In addition, the audience will vote on a People’s Choice Award for one startup to receive a prize of SR375,000. These awards will support the startups to accelerate operations, grow their business and expand their teams.