Recent KAUST TAQADAM alumni startups Squadio and Kleen are building smart solutions to common problems in their respective industries — for Squadio, helping employers find and keep quality talent, and for Kleen, improving services in the laundry sector. With so many positive changes guiding their successes, the two companies took time to share reflections on how their time in TAQADAM influenced their journeys, and how other emerging companies could also benefit from the experience.
Squadio: building teams
Having the capacity to quickly scale talented, internal teams for projects has long been a pain-point for companies worldwide. With constantly changing technology and the ever-increasing demand for talent, it’s difficult and expensive to find and retain good employees. Squadio Founder Khaled Senawy wondered, “Why not lean into the growing trend of the gig economy, which utilizes on-demand work, services and goods, and build ‘squads,’ or teams, on an as-need basis?”
Senawy and team set out to do just that.
“We know that businesses can’t let go of the talent needed to build their solutions, but they can embrace a new way of hiring and scaling these teams,” said Senawy. “Squadio connects companies with talent to scale teams quickly, when needed, and for as long as they are needed.”
High interest in the concept confirmed to Senawy that the company was on the right track. Now the company is using its experiences at TAQADAM to help others achieve success. Squadio has linked several strategic partnerships as a result of its participation in the TAQADAM network and multiple other startup communities, including Inspire U, Mazaya Monshaat, Flat6labs and Impact46.
“The impact of being immersed in this world of rising startups — experiencing their challenges, successes and strategies — has been an invaluable learning opportunity,” Senawy said. “Being able to hone our fundraising and pitching skills under TAQADAM’s mentors and instructors has been incredibly beneficial to our success.”
To date, Squadio has worked with 50+ entities in over 125 countries to deliver 300+ squads comprised of more than 10,000 workers. These companies range from government institutions to large corporations to burgeoning startups.
Next on tap for the company: closing its funding round and going profitable.
“Without TAQADAM, these milestones would be much further down the road,” added Senawy. “But now they’re within sight.”
Kleen: laundering success
The laundry sector in Saudi Arabia is considered both vital and important, with an annual turnover of 18 billion Saudi riyals. Nonetheless, the sector faces several challenges, including low levels of quality, poor service and the problem of commercial concealment, all of which lead to huge financial losses.
Seeing an opportunity, Kleen developed an integrated technology and operational solution that enables service providers to raise the quality level, control and manage processes, reduce service costs and improve client experience. In May 2021, the company successfully closed a 2M SAR pre-seed round of funding and introduced its tech franchise model for the first time in Saudi Arabia. Soon after signing its first laundry mart in Al Khobar, it entered the TAQADAM program.
“Even though it’s a relatively long program, we knew we needed every minute of it,” commented Kleen Founder Turki Alsharman. “We spent six months with 47 other startups from all around the globe in workshops and master classes, networking and engaging with mentors, investors and each other. The program was so well structured, helping founders gradually build know-how and offering time for reflection.”
During its time at TAQADAM, Kleen closed its seed round of funding, enabling it to expand its operations across the Kingdom. In its first year of operations alone, the company delivered 100,000+ orders to more than 40,000 customers. It currently has 14 fully operational locations with six others in the soft opening phase. Alsharman attributes much of this quick rise to TAQADAM.
“Being accepted into the TAQADAM program supported us in closing our seed round, as investors saw our acceptance as a sign of maturity and trust in our business model,” Alsharman added. “We’ve also engaged with a few of the other TAQADAM startups to build strategic partnerships and are actively exploring collaboration with others.”
As Kleen looks toward expanding its offerings regionally and globally as well as moving the company down the path toward a potential initial public offering (IPO) on the Saudi Stock Exchange, Alsharman encourages other entrepreneurs to take advantage of the TAQADAM program.
“Being an alumni of the program is a privilege itself,” he said. “We encourage all entrepreneurs to experience and gain the same knowledge we did from the program.”