A young Arab innovator in Qatar is breaking new ground in the infrastructure sector with software that is set to increase safety on construction sites and revolutionize the efficient delivery of mega projects.
Hassan Albalawi is the founder and CEO of WakeCap, a startup accelerated through the Qatar Science & Technology (QSTP) XLR8 program. WakeCap develops wearable technologies to improve the safety of construction workers and increase productivity on sites. The startup was borne out of a true entrepreneurial spirit – to recognize potential gaps in the market and seek a new way of doing things. Hassan knew his product had great potential in the region, and specifically in Qatar, where construction and infrastructure developments are ubiquitous as the country prepares for 2022 FIFA World Cup.
With infrastructure developments booming, so is the construction workforce, and their safety is at the heart of WakeCap. “WakeCap’s mission has always centered on empowering construction workers through technology. The mental alertness helmet is fitted with technology that is able to detect drowsiness and heat stress, which will reduce preventable injuries and deaths,” Hassan explains. “The software also enables companies to digitize their workforce and gather greater insights about safety, efficiency and future projects – features we believe the industry requires from technology in this day and age”
In 2015, while a contestant on Stars of Science Season 7, a pan-Arab television program showcasing young Arab innovators, Hassan was given a platform to inspire budding entrepreneurs in the region and pitch WakeCap to QSTP. At the time, Hassan knew that in order to turn WakeCap into a full-fledged startup, he required crucial mentorship in the early stages of product development.
WakeCap went on to be one of the startups selected to undergo rigorous training and mentorship under QSTP’s XLR8 program. Being chosen to participate in QSTP XLR8 was an eye-opening experience for Hassan and his team. The intensive three-month accelerator program provided the appropriate training, guidance and mentorship to fine-tune WakeCap into a marketable product and bridge the gap between research and commercialization.
“Joining XLR8 right after Stars of Science was the first real-life test of the initial idea. We were given an opportunity to validate our initial market research and learn more about the business side of tech development. We worked under the guidance of great mentors who helped us to explore various options and guided us through what I describe as the unknown path to a successful product.”
Currently, WakeCap comprises a team of seven, and has a presence in China, with the first pilot prototype set to be introduced to the Qatar market later this year.
“Qatar is still our go-to market. In recent years, the country has witnessed exponential industrial growth and continues to maintain the highest standards of safety alongside its rapid expansion. WakeCap is designed to streamline Qatar’s safety standards. Our goal is to work with Qatar’s Supreme Committee in to ensure the sustainable delivery of the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup infrastructure projects,” Hassan says.
WakeCap has its sights set on making tangible transformations to the sector, and if the accolades it has received thus far are anything to go by, the Arab startup is well on its way to achieving tremendous success. It has won several awards in recent years, including winner of UberPitch in Qatar; WakeCap was then sponsored by Uber to represent Qatar startups at ArabNet 2016. And in September 2017, the startup won the 1776 Challenge Cup in Dubai, and will go on to compete in the competition final in New York next year. Most recently, the WakeCap was selected to take part in HAX 2017, the world’s first and largest hardware accelerator. WakeCap has received $175,000 in funding and has been valued at $3,750,000 by theaccelerator currently underway in China.
Although these achievements offer a stepping stone to entrepreneurial success, Hassan is acutely aware that challenges and doubts are part of the process when pursuing your goals. The WakeCap founder subscribes to the old adage of “never give up.” “Uncertainty is inevitable when you are first starting out, but don’t ever stop seeking out ways to realise your ambitions,” he says. “Persistence is key when you are an entrepreneur trying to forge your path.”