Launching a startup can be tough and many aspiring entrepreneurs have questions about where to start. To shed some light on the startup journey, we’re sharing stories and insights from some of our TAQADAM Startup Accelerator founders and program mentors. If you’re interested in applying, click here to learn more about the program. Applications are now open for Cohort 3.
As the TAQADAM Startup Accelerator prepares to recruit for its next cohort, Arwa Shafi and Abdulrahman AlJiffry, Lead Mentors at the King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) Entrepreneurship Center, share what the program is looking for in founders. Think this sounds like you? Apply now.
What are the key qualities TAQADAM is looking for in startups?
A New Idea
Abdulrahman: We are looking for founders that are attacking the market with something that’s new. We are not looking for copycats, so people who have a new point of view is really important. In terms of core technical skills, because we are a university-based accelerator, we tend to attract more technical founders, so having the ability to execute your idea and build prototypes is key. In our last cohort, we had high tech startups from the BioTech, FinTech, AgTech, energy, e-commerce, robotics, IoT, and legal tech industries.
With that said, there is no specific industry or technology that we focus on. In terms of “high tech,” we mean that projects have to be technical, novel and new. There is a misconception about the term “technology.” A lot of people assume that it means a website or an app. What we’re looking for are projects using novel and innovative technology. If an app is powered by a really powerful AI engine, then it is considered innovative. If it is a simple interface to access something, then it’s not really innovative, and that’s the distinction.
Financial Technology Track
Arwa: A subset of technologies we look for is in FinTech because our partner is the Saudi British Bank (SABB), so there is a particular interest towards anything related to finance. The financial factor is pretty broad, so FinTech can include insurance, AI-powered advisory and investment support, payments, invoicing, currency, blockchain, and other financial services. FinTech startups in the program have a key advantage with the SABB partnership through access to the bank’s network and piloting opportunities.
A strong team
Arwa: Scientific solutions, innovation and inspiration are some of the key qualities we look for in startup founders. The whole idea of TAQADAM is to support the youth of Saudi Arabia. We believe in young people and the power they have to create change and are here to help entrepreneurs execute their ideas.
A vital factor is having a team who each can each execute core parts of the startup vision. Three member teams, with each founder bringing a different core skill set, have tended to be the most successful, so this is what we are ideally looking for.
As a university-based accelerator we look for founders from which one team member is linked to a Saudi university, this can include students, faculty, staff and recent graduates. This requirement is waived for FinTech applicants. Universities tend to attract a lot of great talent, new ideas and creative thinking. The university environment also allows people to venture out of their comfort zone and experiment with startups.
Abdulrahman: We are also looking for teams that work well under pressure. TAQADAM is a part-time accelerator, so you need to have a team that can balance work/life/startup commitments. In your application, we want to see your drive and an impulse to take action and initiative.
Why should I apply to TAQADAM?
Abdulrahman: Launching a startup can be really tough! Joining an accelerator like TAQADAM reduces the risk by providing additional funding and support. I think the most valuable element is that during the TAQADAM journey you are surrounded by a network of entrepreneurs experiencing the same challenges. If you’re having trouble hiring or securing contracts, chances are, so is everyone else in your cohort.
Through our networks we try and provide our startups with the right connections, and, with mentorship support from KAUST and SABB there is an added layer of credibility that you wouldn’t get on your own.