Entrepreneur Adnan Alshuaili is the co-founder and CEO of eMushrif, a company using Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to turn regular school buses into smart buses. Today, his company serves more than 150 schools in Oman and Kuwait, ensuring children are safe on their way to school.
La Trobe engineering alumnus Adnan Alshuaili (Bachelor of Electronic Engineering/Master of Microengineering, 2015) was sharing a meal with his brother when the idea for his second start-up sparked.
“One night over dinner, my brother mentioned that he worried about his children travelling to school. There had been an accident, where a child died after he was left behind on a school bus. About 70 per cent of Oman’s population relies on school transport and I saw an opportunity to tackle the problem using an Internet of Things approach,” Adnan says.
So, aged 24, Adnan co-founded eMushrif, a company specialising in school bus safety. With his brother Issa in charge of business operations, Adnan then leveraged his La Trobe alumni network to secure fellow alumnus Awadh Alshukaili (Bachelor of Computer Network Engineering, 2010) as Chief Technology Officer.
Awadh is a friend of mine, I met him at La Trobe. He’s super smart and his specialisation is in software. I needed a software person on the project, because I’m a hardware engineer and my brother manages business operations. At the time, Awadh was working for a gas company in Oman. I convinced him to join us and he helped develop the software applications for parents.
Together, Adnan, Awadh and Issa created a solution that provides multiple levels of safety for students travelling to and from school.
“Firstly, we identify who is entering the bus by providing students with wireless tags. A student can place the tag in their schoolbag, forget about it, and the system will capture their arrival and departure on the bus. This also allows the school to mark attendance automatically,” Adnan explains.
“Then, when all the children have left the bus, the driver must press a check button at the back of the vehicle to ensure no-one has been left inside. It activates sensors that monitor the vehicle for two hours. Any movement sets off an alarm, notifying the school. More recently, we’ve developed a remote camera that allows schools and parents to monitor the behaviour of the bus driver through an app. We keep improving the solution as we go along.”
This appetite for continuous improvement, with rapid results, seems to underpin Adnan’s entrepreneurial career. He was just 24 years old when he launched eMushrif – and the learning curve has been steep.
“What I’ve learnt in the past four years would have been very difficult to acquire in a traditional corporate job. Every day there are new things to discover, new challenges to overcome. There’s a lot of risk, but I’m very lucky and delighted to have taken this path.”
From Oman to Australia: moving countries for microelectronics
Born and raised in Oman, Adnan had always wanted to specialise in microelectronics, a subfield of engineering that focuses on manufacturing tiny electronic components. Microelectronic devices underpin every aspect of modern life: from consumer products like iPads and smart phones, to cutting-edge medical, aerospace and military technology.
But while Adnan knew he wanted a career in next-generation technology, to realise his dream he’d first have to disrupt his life in Oman.
“Microelectronics is not a common major, but it was available at La Trobe. I heard Australia was peaceful, quiet and a great place to study. It’s a remote country, and very far from Oman, but I’m an explorer by nature,” he says.
“I spent six years in Australia and I really enjoyed my time there. I really liked the country and the culture. It was unique and very different to Oman.”
On graduating, Adnan interned as a cadet engineer with Arbor Australia. Returning to Oman, he then launched his first start-up, a counter drone technology company called Tayyar Systems, before creating eMushrif in 2016.
Looking back, Adnan says his time at La Trobe was pivotal to becoming a successful tech entrepreneur. Since graduating, he’s implemented everything he learnt during his degree.
Without the skills I obtained at La Trobe, I wouldn’t have been able to produce the first device and test it with schools. Our business basically consists of hardware and software – without the hardware components I create, there’d be no business.
“Also, when it comes to the project management side of things, there were a lot of practical classes at La Trobe. The group projects I did at university, for example, taught me how to build a good team, so in my company I’ve formed a team who specialise in different skills.”
While at La Trobe, Adnan also worked as a casual tutor to students across physics, maths and programming. His full participation in campus life saw him develop strong people skills that benefit him as a CEO today.
“During my degree I wasn’t only focused on doing electronics, I was also tutoring students and participating in activities at the university, which helped developed my soft skills. Now, as a CEO, I connect all the stakeholders together – the team, the shareholders, investors, clients and buyers. I’m the people guy.”
Becoming top of IoT tech in the Middle East
Today, Adnan is a tech leader who’s showing the Middle East how Omani companies can scale and compete in the region. He’s led eMushrif to raise $3 million in a Pre-Series-A funding round, reported as the largest investment round ever raised by an Omani start-up. He’s completed his first TEDx talk. And he’s been named on the Forbes Middle East list of '30 Under 30' young innovators working to change the region – and is the youngest Omani on the list.
Naturally, Adnan has many ideas for eMushrif’s future. Under his leadership, the company has already developed a new facial recognition service to register attendance and has partnered with Google to develop Edge AI applications. At the same time, he’s building commuting management solutions for other markets, like oil and gas, and finding new ways to use intelligent sensors to manage building access. Adnan also hopes to expand the company into the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, bringing safer student transport to neighbouring countries.
But, best of all, he’s still making use of his La Trobe alumni connections.
“We now have two other La Trobe graduates working at eMushrif,” he says.
For Adnan, what began as an idea over dinner has grown into a successful IoT technology company with meaningful social impact. His advice for budding entrepreneurs is to develop a keen eye for issues that need solving.
“Many engineers will design solutions for technology and try to enforce them on the market. The best approach – not only in technology, but in any sector – is to find problems in the current market and try to solve these problems with the minimum effort, cost and time,” he says.
“So, start with a problem. Any problem in the market is an opportunity. And if you can find a way to solve this problem with the least amount of effort, time and cost, then you can have a successful business.”
Last updated: 27th October 2020