Focusing On The Problem You Are Solving Will Help Attract Your First Customers, Says 2018 Dubai Smartpreneur Competition Winner WakeCap WakeCap, an enterprise technology solution, was the first place winner of the 3rd cycle of the Dubai Smartpreneur Competition.

By Megha Merani

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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How easy is it for a startup to reach new customers? That's not the challenge to focus on for your startup to succeed, according to Dubai Smartpreneur Competition alumnus Ishita Sood.

"Reaching out to customers depends on what kind of product you have," Sood, co-founder and COO of WakeCap, explained during a Dubai Startup Hub webinar.

"[For example] Construction productivity is a global challenge that everyone faces in this industry. We are catering to an industry where the problem that we're solving is a global problem. So I would say rather than ease of reaching out to customers it's about the problem that you're solving."

WakeCap, an enterprise technology solution that employs wearables to provide real-time and cloud-based visibility on construction sites to improve productivity, was the first place winner of the 3rd cycle of the Dubai Smartpreneur Competition.

The annual competition, organised under Dubai Startup Hub in cooperation with Smart Dubai, aims to assist technology entrepreneurs to be part of Dubai's strategic initiatives, in addition to enhancing the role of these entrepreneurs in the evolving business ecosystem of the emirate and its position as the global hub for innovation.

"We really benefited from the bootcamps and the session on how to prepare for the pitch," Sood recalled, advising founders to stick to the allotted time limit.

"Follow the timing and make sure you leave time for questions," she stressed. "[You] need to make sure that you address their [judges'] questions more than just focusing on your pitch… because that's when you're clearing what they have in mind about your solution."

"More corporates are looking to work with startups'

WakeCap has since grown to work with contracting giants like Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC) and Besix as well as expanded its presence from the UAE to Saudi Arabia and the U.S.

WakeCap co-founders Ishita Sood and Hassan Albalawi

"I feel now more and more corporates are looking to work with startups," Sood said, reiterating the need to stay focused on problem solving. "CCC worked with us because we were here in the UAE and we were ready to make any iterations to the product unlike big companies that may be rigid and unwilling."

Sood added that WakeCap continues to offer below cost pricing on a first project as a strategy to get a foot in the door with big firms.

"If they're happy with the product [the companies] will take us to their other projects or their other units," she said.

In addition to construction, WakeCap has also expanded to other industries including oil and gas, and manufacturing, as well as evolved a specific solution for COVID-19.

As part of the community and as a construction solutions provider, the startup is now helping its clients with an additional contact tracing dashboard that visualizes, tracks and records workforce activity in real time using patented-wearable is integrated into existing personal safety equipment including workers' hard hats.

Supportive ecosystem

Sood added that setting up in the UAE has helped the company build a strong platform.

"In Dubai, the ecosystem for startups is very supportive," she said, adding that Dubai Chamber has also assisted the company by facilitating meaningful introductions.

"We started [WakeCap] in the UAE because of the ease of setup and global exposure you get from the UAE. For us, reaching out to customers here was much easier than it would have been elsewhere. One of the main reasons we setup here was also because we could attract fresh talent and people are more willing to move to Dubai than else where in the GCC."

More than 1,600 participants have gone through the Dubai Smartpreneur Competition over the last four years, reflecting its effectiveness and influence in attracting an increasing number of international startups.

Amid the ongoing pandemic, Dubai Startup Hub launched the Smartpreneur 5.0 Online Pitch Bootcamp, a first-of-its-kind 10-week training program for the 50 finalists who qualified for the second phase of the fifth Dubai Smartpreneur competition.

The specialized online training program runs from April 19 to June 30, 2020, replacing the traditional two-day training to ensure that the promising ventures are strongly supported over virtual channels. The program includes a mix of activities, including working on pitches by using Dubai Chamber's guide, participating in a series of online training workshops and webinars with winners and previous participants of the competition.

Entrepreneurs will benefit from more than 100 individual and group online training workshops throughout the two-and-a-half-month-long program. The training program also includes four weeks of one-to-one work with startup business coaches to improve the business and financial models of the startups and run a simulation of the contest with the finalists as judges.

The top three winners of the competition receive a combined total of AED150,000 in cash prizes.

This article was originally published on Dubai Startup Hub and has been reposted on Entrepreneur Middle East based on a mutual agreement between the websites.

Related: Innovating In The Middle Of A Pandemic: How Working With Startups Can Help Larger Corporations Pivot Faster

Megha Merani

Independent Journalist

Megha Merani is an independent journalist based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Her stories have made headlines across a number of publications including Reuters, Associated Press, Entrepreneur Middle EastBloomberg Middle East, Arabian Gulf Business Insight, Arabian Business, and former local daily 7DAYS.

Megha also produces editorial for government platforms including the World Government Summit and World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils. She has been a grant winner of the Thomson Reuters Foundation and The Global Initiative Against Organized Crime funded by the government of Norway to report on the online trade in illegal wildlife.

Megha is also an Associate Fellow (AFHEA) at Murdoch University in Dubai and leads its Digital Newsroom course unit. In addition, Megha serves as a United Nations Women mentor to support equal opportunities for women entrepreneurs, and supports various other programs including TIE Women, 60 Day Startups, and the Watt Inc. Business Incubator.

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