RIYADH: Technology is at the heart of any business these days, and managing tech teams can be a terrible headache for managers who want to focus on building market share and generating revenue.
Squadio, a Riyadh-based startup founded in July 2018, solved this problem with its cloud offering called Team as a Service, or TaaS offering. This means managers can attract technical talent wherever they are.
“It’s much better for any founder or entrepreneur to have a pluggable team to take the hassle out of hiring, payroll and retention,” Squadio CEO Khaled Senawy told Arab News.
“Pluggable means you can scale your team up or down at any time, depending on your plans and business needs,” he added.
“We allow our clients to choose from a large pool of talent spread across eight countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
“We have over 800 vetted engineers, designers, testers, quality controllers, product managers and data scientists.
They speak different languages and are middle managers, senior executives, leaders, or even chief technology officers, who can help founders and entrepreneurs create their products, no matter what field they are in.
The aim is to increase this figure to 10,000 by the end of 2022.
Reverse the brain drain
Senawy, a Yemeni national who has lived most of his life in Saudi Arabia, understands the challenge of managing technology, having been a serial tech entrepreneur.
While still a telecommunications engineering student at Alexandria University in Egypt, Senawy co-founded Etika Technology Services, which pioneered mobile application development in the Kingdom. He then created iBaloot, an online card game platform which had over four million users, followed by Ole.zone, a social media app for football fans.
Senawy designed Squadio when, as CEO of Etika, he noticed that “many startups were struggling to improve their product features, manage their backlog, and launch sub-products. They needed a long-term partnership to focus more on growing their business and offloading the headache of hiring and managing technology to another entity. »
Three years after the creation of Squadio, the concept has borne fruit with more than 145 customers, mainly based in the Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, benefiting from the company’s services.
Squadio now has 45 full-time employees across the Middle East and North Africa who manage operations, marketing and talent recruitment.
Senawy points out that “TaaS is distinct from traditional recruiting services.”
“We prefer to call it talent cloud,” he said. “It’s really about creating dynamic and flexible online teams to help companies build their digital products.”
He added: “These are all project-based contracts. And when a contract ends, we either transfer the talent to another team or send it back to our talent pool.
But the outsourcing of online talent is not new. Additionally, many jobs can be done remotely and often more cheaply in India and the Philippines. So what gives Squadio an edge over the direct competition?
“Three factors differentiate us,” Senawy said. “The first is our portal, which makes the team building experience as easy and smart as possible for talent and customers.
“Number two is the continuous improvement of our vetting process, where potential talent goes through various technical and psychometric assessments.
“And the third thing is our flexibility and competitive pricing.”
Squadio’s business model has attracted $800,000 in seed funding from Riyadh-based Seedra Ventures, announced in January 2022.
Haitham Al-Foraih, founding partner and CEO of Seedra, said in a press release: “We are seeing a growing demand for remote engineering teams, and we believe that Squadio is well positioned to provide startups with the access to the best software engineers working to build great platforms”.
Squadio will soon raise a second round of funding.
Senawy intends to deploy these funds to expand its customer base inside and outside the Gulf Cooperation Council. He wants to enter the US and European markets on the premise that companies looking for talent can be found anywhere, just like tech talent.
Senawy is coy about Squadio’s earnings to date at this early stage.
“We were six figures in US dollars, and now we will be seven figures,” he said. “We are currently seeing four times the year-over-year revenue growth. And based on our projections and market research, we aim to be a TaaS unicorn in four years.
Senawy attributes this opportunity for expansion in part to the ongoing economic and social reforms the Kingdom has witnessed in recent years.
He said: “I see Saudi Arabia as the next Silicon Valley. The government has nurtured the founders’ ambition in building the next unicorn through its accelerator programs, venture capital movement, and breadth of talent here.
“And by talent, I mean entrepreneurs, product specialists, marketers who have gone abroad, come back and mirrored what they learned to take advantage of their country’s ecosystem. “
Squadio itself is the result of this almost limitless ambition.
“What we’ve built today ties into our vision, which is to be any company’s first choice for building a tech team,” Senawy said.