60 seconds with ... Melda Akin, founder of D14 and Sirius Labs March 31, 2023 Supplied Melda Akin Based in Dubai, Melda Akin is founder of AI company D14.AI and recently launched Sirius Labs, a mentorship and training app aimed at women. What does your company do? D14.AI is an AI company that aims to solve optimisation challenges for businesses. I also recently launched Sirius Labs, an AI-driven training and mentorship application. It aims to improve women’s tech skills and set them up for promising career paths. The platform evaluates each student when enrolled and uses AI to create a personalised learning pathway. The students are mentored in technology and taught skills to land tech-based jobs through workshops, bootcamps and women empowerment events with top technology companies. Women can join the programme for free and repay the cost once they find a job. We want to break the financial barrier to access education and mentors. What do you look for when hiring talent? The right skill set and motivation are important, as are transparency and honesty. I’m proud of the talented D14 team we have built – when I look back at where we started and where we are now, we’re not just a team, we’re a family. What counts for more – luck or hard work? I personally believe that hard work brings luck. 60 seconds with… Perihan Abouzeid, founder of PeriCare nursing pods60 seconds with… Katie Wachsberger, co-founder, Dana Global60 seconds with… Mona Jaber, founder of Maison Tini and Jayleen Finds What was your biggest ‘lucky’ moment? When I first arrived in Dubai I attended an AI company event. There were lots of well known local representatives and I introduced myself. One of them was the CEO of Boeing, who has been my mentor ever since. Many of the other UAE leaders I met have since connected me to amazing people and helped me sign some of my most significant contracts to date. What one thing do you wish you’d done differently? Hire slow, fire fast. I instead hired fast and fired slow with my first company. Ensuring you’re hiring the right people is critical, especially in startups and SMEs. If you could rule the world for a day, what would you change? Stop war and conflicts.Set mandatory education for everyone and give every child the opportunity to learn.Save the forests and continue to emphasise the importance of looking after our environment. What factors do entrepreneurs misjudge about the Gulf market? The culture is not the same as the US or Europe, meaning business is also often done differently.The market moves faster than you think.Seasonality has more effect on your business than you would imagine and therefore timing is important to take into consideration. Dream mentor? Stephen Hawking and Malcolm Gladwell.