The winner of the second season of QF’s innovation TV show on the lessons he learned that continue to resonate on his tech journey
There’s a quote on Sadeq Qasem’s website that, in many ways, sums up the life of the inventor: “The most beautiful engineering in life is to build a bridge of hope over a sea of despair.” And hope is an emotion common to many entrepreneurs; hope that the next project, the next invention, will be the one to take off; hope that those long hours spent in the lab or the workshop will pay off.
Sadeq, a Kuwaiti national, who won season two of Qatar Foundation’s Stars of Science in 2010, combines a sense of optimism with a willingness for some old-fashioned hard work. Following his victory on the TV show, he was appointed the head of the invention development department at the Sabah Al-Ahmad Center which was established by the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Science. After a number of years there, he resigned to focus on his company, Prototec, a bespoke research and development firm.
Sadeq has a long history of innovation, having been a member of Kuwait’s Science Club since 1995. Indeed, it was the Science Club that nominated him to take part in Stars of Science, an experience that has left a lasting mark. “I applied in 2009 and the experience was great. It taught me how to develop ideas and products in the correct way, and I have used the methodology I learnt on the show ever since.”
The most important thing is how you assign people to help you make the projects work as easily as possible
That methodology is simple, but effective. “First, I need a proof of concept, and then I work on both the interior and exterior design,” he says. “Then I engineer it and make a feasibility study from a commercial basis. So, the show helped me a lot – it helped me understand the correct way to take any invention from idea to reality.”
He still enjoys inventing new products, with Dukhoon, an electronic incense burner he created, having sold hundreds of thousands of units worldwide. Currently he has eight products on the market, and is working on five new products, all at different stages of development.
Sadeq’s day-to-day work combines both the creative and administrative aspects of business. “My main job is as a business administrator and so I focus a lot on managing projects,” he says.
When you choose someone to work with, you should first address what you are missing, and only then can you find the right person to work with
“So, from an academic point of view, I learned how to segregate projects and tasks, how to follow up, how to manage, how to communicate. I have people who work with me and help me
make these projects happen. The most important thing is how you assign people to help you make the projects work as easily as possible.”
In terms of coming up with new ideas, Sadeq has two very different techniques. “The creative process happens for me in two ways,” he says. “The first way is from a ‘flash of genius’ – suddenly an idea comes into my mind without any notice. I then make the product and then show it to my colleagues, who will let me know if it could be a success in the market. The second way is more scientific and comes from me trying to solve a problem. I will work on problems in my workshop and finally figure out a solution in the form of a new product.”
The most important thing I tell young people is to follow their passion and to try and dare to make it
Another valuable lesson he picked up on Stars of Science was the importance of having the right people around him. “I remember we had an option on the show to pick a collaborator for one of the projects. I chose someone who could help me in the workshop. I worked on the structural frame and he worked on the mechanics of the machine. When you choose someone to work with, you should first address what you are missing, and only then can you find the right person to work with.”
Despite his relatively young age, Sadeq is hugely respected by a new generation of entrepreneurs across the Gulf, and he’s clear on what advice he gives young innovators. “The most important thing I tell young people is to follow their passion and to try and dare to make it. The second thing is to work on your resourcefulness; be visionary, be dedicated, and you will get the benefit of feeding into those two things.”
And for those thinking of entering Stars of Science, Sadeq is equally emphatic. “Stars of Science is not only a reality TV show or a competition; it is a college in which you will learn how to develop products, and it will change how you will think about your products. It’s really important that everyone who takes part on the show treats it as an education. Don’t just focus on the prizes, as they are gone once the show is over, but focus on the learning opportunities which will last for the rest of your life.”