As a new cohort of TAQADAM founders and startups is about to begin, we spoke with some startup graduates to find out the impact TAQADAM had on the growth and trajectory of their companies. Here’s what they had to say:
What prompted you to apply to the TAQADAM program?
Over the last couple of years, we transferred our core research in AI and computer vision to several laboratories and groups at KAUST that included plant scientists, neural biologists, marine scientists, archaeologists and others. These collaborations led to several success stories, numerous publications in top-tier journals and broad impact in the applied fields. They also created momentum across the campus and attracted many more talents to collaborate, but at that moment, we couldn’t cope with all the potential collaborations. It was at that time we decided it was time for us to scale up. We decided to build a product that would deliver the outcome of our research, a platform that would enable AI for everyone. TAQADAM was the perfect stage to accelerate the development of our platform, building the necessary business model to make it thrive! — Silvio Giancola, CEO/CTO & Justine Braguy, CMO/CSO, Thya Technology
We heard good things about the program as a way to support the growth of our company. With the program being based in Saudi Arabia, we also believed it would be a good way to get to know one of our key target markets a little better. — Mohammad Absi Halabi, CEO, Swftbox
TAQADAM provides funding, mentorship, and networks. How did those resources support your growth?
Our founding team, composed of us two KAUST researchers and Prof. Bernard Ghanem, is entirely academic. The beginning of our entrepreneurial journey felt like being thrown in the middle of the Red Sea! The mentorship that the TAQADAM team provides was comparable to magical life preservers appearing at the right time, helping us keep our heads above water and guiding us back to the shore where other adventures await us. The mentors were also the reassuring voices that we needed to hear in moments of doubt and our business cheerleaders, who, since the showcase, helped us gain visibility through their networks. Through them, we have been able to make valuable connections with other entrepreneurs and VCs. Finally, the funding we received was enough to operate our company for one year, letting us focus on business rather than raising capital. — Silvio Giancola, CEO/CTO & Justine Braguy, CMO/CSO, Thya Technology
As a startup, you’re always short on resources, so the help TAQADAM provided was invaluable. The support and advice we received about marketing, finance, and fundraising preparation allowed us to focus our energy on growth and the next steps for our company. The mentors were incredible sounding boards that allowed us to think through ideas and challenges and brought a new perspective. — Mohammad Absi Halabi, CEO, Swftbox
Thanks to TAQADAM, we were able to evolve our product to be highly scalable and develop a financial plan for the next three years. For us, the highlight of the program was the mentors. Because of their varied backgrounds and high accessibility, we were able to achieve our goal of expanding into Saudi Arabia in a very short period of time. — Hanan Merza and Khaled Alalwani, Co-founders, Maximize
TAQADAM serves to be your sidekick so you can be the hero. Can you share an experience when TAQADAM stepped in and supported you or your company through a difficult experience?
The TAQADAM team was a great sidekick and coach that we needed during our first entrepreneurship experience. Because even when we were full of hope and energy, convinced we would be that one company that’s going to make it, we realized we needed more training. Climbing to the top was way more challenging than expected! In challenging moments, TAQADAM supported us in so many ways — sharpening our entrepreneurship skills with training, supporting our ideas, boosting our confidence and pushing us to the limits. The TAQADAM team was always there to bring the best out of our team and us. — Silvio Giancola, CEO/CTO & Justine Braguy, CMO/CSO, Thya Technology
As first-time founders, many things were new experiences for us, especially fundraising. Naturally, we made some rookie mistakes that resulted in some frustrations. The TAQADAM team and mentors helped us revamp our narrative and opened new doors to inject new life into our round. Thanks to their mentorship, we are a far different company in these investors’ pitches than we were before entering the program. — Mohammad Absi Halabi, CEO, Swftbox
What is your experience working with TAQADAM versus your experience working with other VCs?
The TAQADAM team is truly passionate about what they do and each of the startups and founders that they work with. We saw this time and time again through the tireless support we received. The team went above and beyond to propel us to the next level. TAQADAM also created an incredible feeling of camaraderie among all their startups, and while the tone of the program is friendly and informal, the program content is world-class. TAQADAM is a truly unique experience. — Mohammad Absi Halabi, CEO, Swftbox
TAQADAM was a very different experience from all other VCs and accelerators that we’ve experienced. It gives comprehensive support in all areas of the business through mentorship, networking, investors, and every aspect your business could possibly need to grow and thrive. We will forever be grateful for this experience! — Hanan Merza and Khaled Alalwani, Co-founders, Maximize
What are the two most significant accomplishments your company has had to date?
Our first significant accomplishment happened in January 2022, when we received a Research Translation Grant from KAUST. With this grant, we were able to transfer years of theoretical research in AI and computer vision into a practical application. In other words, we were able to transform a great idea into our first product. Our second was in March 2022, when we won the TAQADAM showcase! It has been very exciting to see the beginning of the process and we are looking forward to seeing what will come next. — Silvio Giancola, CEO/CTO & Justine Braguy, CMO/CSO, Thya Technology
Winning at the TAQADAM Showcase is definitely at the top of our list. Since then, we’ve been experiencing 20% month-on-month growth and an excellent 95% customer retention rate. We couldn’t be happier. — Mohammad Absi Halabi, CEO, Swftbox
In just one month’s time, we are expanding into KSA and generating more revenue than in our original country of operations, Bahrain. Secondly, we’ve expanded our product lines to cater to new audiences, including individuals, corporations, ministries and malls. This afforded us multiple new revenue streams. — Hanan Merza and Khaled Alalwani, Co-founders, Maximize
What advice would you give to any entrepreneurs who are considering applying?
Have an idea that you believe in and surround yourself with people that will work with you to bring it to life. Study your competition, be bold and take chances! That will be the best way to differentiate your business from the existing ones. — Silvio Giancola, CEO/CTO & Justine Braguy, CMO/CSO, Thya Technology
Don’t think twice! If you are building something worthwhile, and you have a great founding team, participating in TAQADAM will be one of the best decisions you can make. — Mohammad Absi Halabi, CEO, Swftbox
Seize the opportunity! And no matter how great it is, don’t fall in love with your product. Always be ready to change and adapt. — Hanan Merza and Khaled Alalwani, Co-founders, Maximize
Are you an ambitious entrepreneur or creative founder? Apply to TAQADAM today. We’re the sidekick that helps heroes thrive.