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Breaking Boundaries: How D14.AI Founder Melda Akin Turned A Dream Into Reality "I believe understanding your passion and ikigai, investing in continuous learning, and building a supportive network are extremely important for the path to success."

By Tamara Pupic

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Melda Akin

When she was a student of computer engineering, D14.AI founder Melda Akin remembers working on solving extremely difficult optimization, prediction, and scheduling problems that could be solved by heuristics and combinatorial optimization approaches, all of which -she explains for us ordinary humans- are the types of problems that cannot be solved by software development techniques. "And I realized that there was a gap in existing solutions," Akin says. "I wanted to provide more efficient and effective ways to the market. So, as a computer scientist, setting up D14.AI was my dream, where I could combine my passion for technology, innovation, and problem-solving skills to set up a successful business, and also help society have better working conditions."

Having started D14.AI with US$5,000 of personal funds in 2017, Akin has since grown it to a business that she claims generates "millions in revenue" today, with plans underway to expand its operations to the US this year. The company has also allocated US$500,000 to invest in startups and new tech ideas, such as BeeInvites, a startup that was selected for the Techstars Riyadh Summer 2023 program, as well as Sirius Labs, a tech entrepreneurship and leadership academy aimed at upskilling future female tech leaders and entrepreneurs.

However, back in 2017, when Akin had just moved to Dubai "with two pieces of luggage, and rented a super small place," achieving the level of success that her startup enjoys today would have seemed like a long shot- but not for Akin. "When I came to Dubai, I did not know anybody. I was unfamiliar with the market and the business culture," she recalls. "I attended many different conferences and events during the day, worked at nights and on weekends. Many of my friends strongly suggested that I stop doing what I was doing. I tried to explain my mission to them, but they found it too risky. It was one of the most challenging times in my life. However, I was aware of my skills, strengths, and weaknesses, which helped me shape my strategy for growth. I convinced highly successful and experienced individuals to be my mentors, ranging from CEOs of massive international corporations, to regional, extremely successful entrepreneurs who became role models for many, and transformed the MENA ecosystem forever. So, I worked hard, really hard."

As someone who has thus reinvented herself several times through the course of her life, Akin believes the process to be dependent upon two key personal traits: continuous learning, and adaptability. About her commitment to learning, Akin says, "My career started as a software developer where I excelled in coding, problem solving and system design. One significant transformation happened when I transitioned from a purely technical role to a leadership role. Being a social, extroverted person absolutely helped me move to the product management and leadership roles. I was acting as a connector between the development team and our clients. However, it was never enough. I had to keep developing not only technical expertise, but also strong communication, conflict resolution, financial management, negotiation skills to progress further."

Having said that adaptability is another feature that is crucial for success, Akin believes that it can be best learned while working with people from different cultures. "I believe diversity is a wonderful source for social development," she says. "Understanding discussion styles, power distances across different cultures, and how to navigate to create a win-win situation for every party are extremely important."

Source: Melda Akin

TIME FOR A CHANGE: THE HOW-TO (ACCORDING TO MELDA AKIN)

Plan, learn, and remain positive "I believe that changing one's professional path is an exciting journey that requires careful planning, continuous positivity, and perseverance. I believe understanding your passion and ikigai, investing in continuous learning, and building a supportive network are extremely important for the path to success."

Related: From Corporate To Creative: Amrita Sethi's Path To Success In Dubai's Digital Art Scene

Tamara Pupic

Entrepreneur Staff

Managing Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East

Tamara Pupic is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Middle East.

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