King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and its partner Saudi British Bank (SABB) will award SR10 million ($2.7 million) to entrepreneurs participating in the fourth Taqadam Startup Accelerator program. The zero-equity grants, which have doubled from previous years, is expected to kick-start the accelerated growth of some of the most exciting new businesses in the Kingdom today.
Fifty-nine startups have joined Taqadam’s fourth cohort hailing from different industries, including agriculture, logistics, health care, 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 SR150,000 each to invest in their growth and development.
“This year we doubled our grant funding for each startup to SR150,000 and doubled the number of startups accepted to the program,” said Kevin Cullen, vice president of innovation and economic development at KAUST. “This is in great part due 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.”
The accelerator, now in its fourth year, offers ongoing workshops in different topics for an average of three days each month throughout the accelerator period. Workshops are delivered by guest speakers in different areas such as digital marketing, growth hacking, software, hardware, human resources 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.
“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,” said Majed Najm, deputy managing director for corporate and institutional banking at SABB.
“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, a Taqadam startup. “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,” Shree added.
Taqadam cohort 4 kicked off virtually in June 2020 with a 2-week bootcamp and is continuing with monthly online workshops until the final showcase in early 2021.
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 startups to sacrifice control early on.