DUBAI: A Syrian-Lebanese entrepreneur wants to democratize artificial intelligence (AI) and the applications of technology in everything from industry to public health. For Noor Alnahhas, who hails from Khobar in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia, the air is the limit.
Nybl is a visual data mining and machine learning platform used in several different sectors, including oil and gas, healthcare and security, in a number of GCC countries.
Alnahhas, Saudi national Mohammed Shono, and three others created nybl in 2019 to help public and private institutions in the region become more flexible and streamlined.
A serial entrepreneur, with nearly 15 years of experience in the oil and gas industry, Alnahhas has a proven track record of building businesses and relationships in the GCC, and has served as an advisor to other startups in the Middle East and the FS.
After earning his bachelor’s degree in marketing and entrepreneurship from the University of Houston, he completed further leadership training at Wharton School of Business and at INSEAD, a graduate business school with campuses in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
The idea for nybl came about when Alnahhas decided he wanted to develop a tech company that would make AI more accessible and serve the common good.
“We wanted to centralize that vision around AI and machine learning,” said the 37-year-old Alnahhas. “We wanted to develop something, not just profit-related, but that added value and left the world in a better place. That it is conscious capitalism. ”
The goal of the team was to enable everyone to turn an idea into an AI solution without having to understand the barrier of coding and data science.
By democratizing technology, nybl has become a kind of “Shopify of AI”, says Alnahhas, referring to the Canadian e-commerce site, which offers merchants a uniform platform to meet all of their complex online marketing, payment and shipping needs. to cut out.
Nybl’s first year was dedicated to testing whether their business model actually worked.
“We wanted to prove that other companies would be willing to come to a third party on a platform that is not theirs,” Alnahhas said.
Success soon came in the form of contracts with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, the Dubai Health Authority, which uses nybl’s expertise to manage its inventory, and a Sharjah-based company, which uses the AI technology of nybl used to build one of the most advanced security systems in the world.
“By the end of the year, we will be releasing ‘anything.ai’ and ‘cnshield at Gitex’, which is AI for anyone to run data science without knowing a single line of code,” Alnahhas said.
Nybl aims to optimize processes by moving systems then simply reporting failures to the fact to actually predict them before they happen.
“Earlier, one of my companies sold technology to the oil and gas sector, and I found it reasonable to sell million-dollar software solutions, sometimes up to $ 20 million, to report a failure,” Alnahhas said.
“With the technology and data we have today, you should at least do everything possible to prevent it from failing, not just reporting it.”
He cited the example of the large gas leak at an underwater pipeline west of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula earlier this month, causing flames to erupt from the sea.
“If they had the technology that could have predicted this would happen and take countermeasures, what could have been prevented? What environmental impact could have been prevented?
“It is capitalist, but there is a great deal of underlying social responsibility that we feel. We can appreciate the world if we can prevent two million barrels of oil from leaking into the ocean. That, I saw a need. ”
With a team of 32, headquartered in Khobar with offices in Kuwait, the UAE, North America and India, the company is now focused on building its team in Saudi Arabia, where Alnahhas has launched a pilot project with Saudi Aramco.
“We work here with many industries, including paper, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), and in steel production to optimize their supply chain,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of technology support contracts and now we’re moving.”
Alnahhas says many large organizations are reluctant to work with small startups, so its team members had to work hard to prove their worth.
“We had support in the UAE, so now we are coming back because we have proven ourselves, and we want to do the same for Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Their timing is coincidental. Last year, Saudi Arabia signed an array of partnerships with international tech companies to explore the benefits of AI in line with the Kingdom’s National Strategy for Data and AI.
Saudi Arabia’s National Center for AI (NCAI) also announced a deal with Huawei of China to enable strategic cooperation on the UK’s National AI Capacity Development Program, including training Saudi AI engineers while building an AI capabilities platform to locate technology solutions.
As a result, tech startups like Nybl are now gaining much more acceptance, with strong support from public and private entities. “The main catalyst was the pandemic,” Alnahhas said.
“Companies need to do much more with far fewer people while being profitable. How do you achieve that? Advances in technology are also taking place, so we are seeing a tremendous uptake, even of old and large family conglomerates, changing to become more efficient and make money with AI. ”
The embrace of Saudi Arabia’s AI technologies comes as part of the Vision 2030 agenda to diversify the nation’s economy away from oil, grow its private sector, and create jobs for the future. Alnahhas says the goals of his business fit in well with the reform drive of the Kingdom.
“It is very exciting to be in Saudi Arabia where there is a vote and there is support,” he said. In particular, he is grateful for the opportunity to study abroad, and gives him the skill to start his own business and give something back to the Kingdom.
“This is the effect of sending Saudi Arabia hundreds of thousands of students 10 years ago to be educated abroad. “King Abdullah started sponsoring students in a very successful way, up to half a million students in a short period of time, so today we are reaping the benefits,” he said.
As a result, says Alnahhas, it’s easy to find talented researchers and developers in the Kingdom, both male and female. In fact, two of the top developers of nybl Saudi women are having master’s degree in robotics and software development.
“This is something you never heard of three years ago. That, you get a growing pool of talent, ‘Alnahhas said.
“We have women working full time and others not, so we have created an environment that is very respectful and gets everyone to work together.”
However, employers in the UK need to offer these young workers much more in terms of opportunities, otherwise they risk losing out on the brain drain, he warned.
“Someone has to break this cycle of talent from this part of the world that will work outside.”