Startup Spotlight: Abu Dhabi-Based Startup Trainsquare Aims To Encourage Social Interactions Through Learning Nadeen Awwad is the co-founder and CEO of Trainsquare, a web platform listing in-person workshops in Abu Dhabi.

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Nadeen Awwad, co-founder and CEO, Trainsquare

Nadeen Awwad, a Palestinian-American chemical engineer working as an energy management engineer at ADNOC Refining, hasn't been able to accept that the price of technology bringing great developments to society is being increasingly connected to social isolation. "In-person, social interactions have been drastically reducing," she says. "Research shows this is directly linked to loneliness, anxiety, and depression among other health issues. And as if we needed additional wake-up calls, the COVID-19 crisis was a reminder that we are social beings meant to be around people- not isolated."

One solution to this problem might be in her startup, Trainsquare, which is a web platform that lists in-person workshops in Abu Dhabi which she co-founded in November 2023. "Workshops are a great way for people to socialize and connect; specifically, in-person, hands-on, group workshops," Awwad explains. "Research shows that workshops can not only help promote social connection in communities, but it is also medically proven to reduce stress and anxiety. Studies also report that engaging in group workshops fosters a sense of belonging." The vision of Trainsquare is therefore is to bring likeminded people together, one workshop at a time. "The truth is there are many freelancers and centers who offer a great variety of workshops all over Abu Dhabi, but the community can have a really hard time finding them," Awwad says. "I'm confident that a one-stop shop platform like Trainsquare will simplify the search process and aggregate the workshop activity in the city."

Fabrianne D'Costa, COO, TrainSquare. Source: TrainSquare

Aided by Trainsquare's three other co-founders, i.e. Chief Operating Officer Fabrianne D'Costa, Chief Product Development Officer Tolu Kolawole, and Chief Marketing Officer Fatima Elhossary, Awwad, who is serving as the startup's CEO, has already organized over 25 workshops since launching in November 2023. "Creating a healthy dynamic within management started before Trainsquare, because all three of my co-founders were close, trusted friends before becoming co-founders," Awwad says. "We also defined our values as honor, collaborative, vulnerable, and responsible. By honor, we mean we are respectful and appreciative of one another, irrespective of culture, age, and experience. By collaborative, we believe teamwork is the essence. By vulnerable, we are very intentional about making Trainsquare a safe place to say, 'I don't know,' or 'I need help.' By responsible, we are each on top of our games- we get things done right, and on time."

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Tolu Kolawole, Chief Product Development Officer, TrainSquare. Source: TrainSquare

The co-founders of Trainsquare have adopted a business model that would allow the workshop host set the price per person, following which a flat 10% commission would be charged on bookings made through its platform. Also, Awwad says that she and her team have managed to bootstrap the startup without giving away any equity or getting themselves in debt. "We had several family and friends fund us with monetary grants, and I've also received a US$6,000 grant from earning first place at the Watson Institute's second cohort of the Western Union Foundation Fellowship earlier in 2023," she says. "We've also received support from Microsoft for Startups since 2022, with a wide range of benefits to support our development and growth."

Fatima Elhossary, Chief Marketing Officer, TrainSquare. Source: TrainSquare

While she explains that some bureaucracy, like getting a business license and business bank account in Abu Dhabi, was challenging, her biggest issue was persevering in spite of often gloomy predictions for startup survival in first years. "My biggest challenge was mentally persevering through startup statistics," she says. "I knew all along that I have the confidence to be able to lead a startup, but I couldn't ignore or pretend that I don't see the statistics of startup failures, or the male dominancy in the startup ecosystem." However, Awwad hasn't allowed such factors to stop her from launching her own entrepreneurial journey- and now, it's all about persisting and persevering. Onward and upward!

'TREP TALK: Trainsquare co-founder and CEO Nadeen Awwad's advice for entrepreneurs

1. Maintain a can-do attitude "A positive, teachable can-do attitude is what truly qualifies you to lead a startup."

2. Don't be intimidated by finances "Getting funding is not the first step. Funding can feel like is the main obstacle, and while it can be, there is so much one can and should do before worrying about funding. I didn't make the very first payment until after several months."

3. Embrace failure "Entrepreneurship is the willingness to accept failure, and celebrating the courage it took to try. This includes making financially wise decisions, and avoiding debt."

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