Companies to Watch 


The startup scene is hot right now, especially in the Middle East. News of Kitopi’s $415 million funding by SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2 catapulting it to achieve unicorn status is still fresh. Venture capitalists aren’t wasting any time. They seem to be backing innovative companies who show potential to drive the next tech transformation. But sifting through the hordes of startups to spot the next big thing can be a challenge.

Datatechvibe has an ear to the ground to look out for fresh talent that will soon be a gamechanger. Here is our watchlist of a new breed of tech companies that are solving real-world problems. 

Synthesis AI

Founded: 2019

Founder:  Yashar Behzadi

Segment: Data generation platform for computer vision

San Francisco-based Synthesis AI has developed technology that generates vast quantities of photorealistic images and pixel-perfect labels to optimise computer vision training. Companies looking at leveraging computer vision for emotion-sensing, autonomous vehicles, AR/VR, gaming, camera prototyping and identity verification need vast amounts of data to train their models. Synthesis AI’s synthetic data-as-a-service FaceAPI solution lets users programmatically create perfectly labelled image training data spanning 40,000 unique identities. Since the images are generated, companies can rest easy without worrying about compliance laws around data collection. 

There is more one can do with the data too. Each identity can be modified by near-infinite variability through the combination of emotion, head pose, hair, facial hair, accessories, environments and camera attributes. Each image comes with associated pixel-perfect labels such as segmentation, facial landmarks, depth maps and surface normals. 

In April this year, the company emerged from stealth, announcing that it closed a $4.5 million funding round. 

With more industries moving towards automation and the pandemic-induced acceleration of digitalisation, computer vision promises to find more real-time applications in the enterprise. For example, the ability to create large, diverse datasets has recently enabled leading handset manufacturers to develop improved facial verification systems that work with users wearing masks across camera angles. However, acquiring authentic and trustworthy training data has long posed a challenge. Synthesis AI’s solution solves the challenge. It also claims that its data fights bias, to facilitate inclusive models. 

Also Read: Companies Cracking the Data Code

eMushrif Inc

Founded: 2016

Founder: Adnan Alshuaili, Awadh Al Shukaili  

Segment: IoT and Artificial Intelligence product provider

How can IoT be used to solve real-world problems? eMushrif’s company vision aims to answer exactly this question. In 2016, founders  Adnan Al-Shuaili (CEO), Awadh Al Shukaili (CTO) and Issa Al-Shuaili (COO) began their journey by applying IoT to develop solutions to identify and monitor the safety of students on school buses. Currently, the technology is used by over 800 school buses in 90 schools across Oman and Kuwait.

When the pandemic hit, eMushrif played a vital role in Oman’s response to COVID-19. Using an IoT wearable that the government provided travellers, the company leveraged technology to facilitate contact tracing at scale. This became a significant part of the government’s quarantine management plan. With 500,000 IoT wristbands distributed and a digital pre-travel registration platform, the company was able to help more than two million users from 150 countries enter the Sultanate safely.

In June, eMushrif acquired Tareeqi, a Cairo-based startup that developed applications to track transportation. Previous acquisitions include MyRoute, a Kuwaiti startup that specialised in bus tracking applications. The Muscat-based company has product lines that cover transport, corporate and health enterprises. 


Founded: 2019

Founder: Honghao Deng, Jiani Zeng

Segment: AIoT Platform for spatial intelligence

The idea for Butlr took shape at MIT Media Labs in 2019 when co-founders Honghao Deng and Jiani Zeng used wireless sensors to capture thermal body heat data, including posture, quality of sleep and temperature. They were then able to turn that into insights that companies could use to make decisions about constructing a building or planning how people would coexist in physical spaces. 

Think of it as smart buildings with communicative interiors. 

The team at Butlr is trying to fuel what they call responsive architecture or customised microclimates that are suited to individuals or small groups based on the heat signature of their bodies. Each person has a biometric heat signature as unique as a fingerprint. The sensors recognise an individual’s heat signature and can modify room temperature and lighting for ideal comfort. Butlr sells basic kits, which start at $880 and include sensors and space-designing software that tells you where to place the sensors for maximum coverage. Early clients belonged to the commercial real estate industry. 

The company also provides custom solutions for specific use cases. For example, the same technology is now being used to provide a better quality of care and early diagnosis for seniors in assisted-living facilities. The company aims to offer a balance of accuracy and anonymity. Unlike security cameras, heat maps inform without identifying the individual. To assist the elderly, Butlr has introduced added functionality like sensors to track not just movement but posture, helping it better understand intentions and behaviours. For now, the technology will warn against falls.

Also Read: Is AI Disrupting BI?

Firnas Aero 

Founded: 2015 

Founder: Tariq Nasraldeen  

Segment: Drones-as-a-Service

Founder Tariq Nasraldeen is a former commercial pilot who witnessed the hours that airport staff must spend locating and clearing debris from the runway. While working as part of the airside operations department at the King Abdulaziz International Airport, Jeddah, Nasraldeen hit upon the idea of using drones to perform labour-intensive work. That is how Firnas Aero was born; a Drone-as-a-Service (DaaS) inspection service for industrial complexes. It was a part of the TAQADAM Accelerator in 2019.

By combining the agility of the drone itself with the cameras, the sensors, and the software, Firnas Aero offers clients a turn-key solution. 

Previous customers include the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, KAUST, and Medina Municipality. The company is working closely with The Red Sea Development Company to provide environmental assessment for the project. To study the impact that construction will cause on the ecosystem, the startup scanned the islands and generated high-resolution maps using AI to analyse numerous images and pixels. They were able to highlight the trash, categorise it, and provide its geo-location coordinates so a team could clean it up. 


Founded: 2018 

Founder: Karim Davis Dib, Walid Daniel Dib

Segment: Insurtech 

Abu Dhabi-based InsurTech hala wants to incentivise good drivers by shaving off the cost of their auto insurance premiums. Built by Addenda Holdings and underwritten by Al Wathba National Insurance Company (AWNIC), hala launched a smart insurance WebApp that allows policyholders to win rewards for every day they drive accident-free.

Dynamic premiums are not unheard of, but hala CEO Walid Daniel Dib is keen to add disruption to UAE’s innovation agenda. There are short term gains like discounted meals and movie tickets and long term gains like a significant discount if a policyholder goes a year without an accident.  

Hala is funded by venture capitalists and investors such as the Oman Tech Fund, the Arab Bank and 500 Startups.