Generation start-up: Nestrom harnesses the power of big data to drive expansion and profits

The Amman start-up, which helps clients grow their businesses, is looking to set up offices in Dubai and Saudi Arabia this year

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 22 APRIL 2019. Yousef Jamal Wadi for the Gen-S article. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Alkesh Sharma. Section: Business.
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Company profile

Company name: Nestrom

Started: 2017

Co-founders: Yousef Wadi, Kanaan Manasrah and Shadi Shalabi

Based: Jordan

Sector: Technology

Initial investment: Close to $100,000

Investors: Propeller, 500 Startups, Wamda Capital, Agrimatico, Techstars and some angel investors

Initial failures and disastrous decisions cannot deter the spirit of true entrepreneurs. It only makes them more resilient. This holds true in the case of Yousef Wadi, the man behind Nestrom, an Amman technology start-up.

Founded in 2017, Nestrom is a cloud-based platform that enables big data capturing, processing it in real-time and turning it into a more  actionable resource for enterprises, seeking some binary help to grow their business.

Failures teach you some of the most formidable business lessons that can't be learned in the four-walls of a business school.

“I initiated my first startup in 2011 but it was an absolute crash. But I did not lose focus and gathered more confidence and courage from that failure,” says Mr Wadi, chief executive and co-founder of Nestrom.

The growing venture has also been listed among the top 100 Arab startups shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution as part of the 2019 World Economic Forum. Last month, the company completed its three-month Techstars Dubai Accelerator programme and is currently in the process of setting up offices in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

“At Techstars, they teach us 20 ways [to fail a company] but I already know 80. So I clearly know ‘what to do’ and ‘what not to do’. Failures teach you some of the most formidable business lessons that can’t be learned in the four-walls of a business school.”

Nestrom collects data through various means, including internet of things (IoT) sensors, and helps enterprises boost performance and efficiency. Information gathered from the data aims to minimise human error and enhance output with negligible resources and time.

Nestrom initially focused on the agricultural sector but it soon moved on to other industries.

“We realised our solutions could also fit well in other industries as well. We were approached by a resort management company that implemented our technology in property facilitation management, [and] it was an instant success and opened new doors of opportunity for us,” he says.

The big break came with Alshaya Group, which holds the franchise of Starbucks in Jordan.

“We managed to close that deal very fast. Their efficiency was enhanced by up to 60 per cent and their paper consumption dropped to almost zero.”

Nestrom, which falls under the service execution management industry, is helping enterprises eradicate unexpected downtime, communicate internally more effectively, access big data more efficiently and enhance productivity, quality and safety.

There is a huge scope in the service execution management market that is worth $34 billion globally, says Mr wadi. Within the broader Middle East, the size of the market is around $8bn, with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, two of the biggest regional economies, accounting for about $3bn alone.

Nestrom has about a dozen clients - with over 1,000 direct users - spread across the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. The company's software and technology development team is based in Jordan while it aims to use the UAE and Saudi Arabia as hubs to drive regional sales.

“Jordan is more like a kitchen where most of the technology development is going to happen. This is because talent and technology are very powerful and prices are quite fair and reasonable in Jordan,” Mr Wadi says.

Other co-founders of the company include Kanaan Manasrah - an expert in machine learning - and Shadi Shalabi – a veteran in the field of smartphone software development.

“I spent most of 2017 in conceptualising the idea and planning the future roadmap. Once idea was on the shelf and ready to go, Kanaan and Shadi joined me and together we co-founded Nestrom. They brought the skills sets that you will need the most in the beginning of any technology start-up,” says Mr Wadi, who graduated in computer engineering from German-Jordanian University in Madaba and Finland’s University of Tampere.

Doing a regular predictable job is not his calling, says Mr Wadi, who has worked with top tech giants like Microsoft and Yahoo, before jumping into entrepreneurship. He has previously co-founded ArabiaWeather in 2012 and is still associated with the company as a partner.

“ArabiaWeather grew very fast but there is a point when technology becomes very strong and sustainable and it is only about sales. I preferred to move on to build another start-up: Nestrom. And thankfully the investors who invested in ArabiaWeather also invested in Nestrom.”

Mr Wadi’s friend Zaid Farekh made the first investment of $100,000 in Nestrom.

“It was a spin-off moment for both of us, as after investing in Nestrom, Zaid funded another set of start-ups and turned into a venture capitalist and we turned into a full-fledged start-up company,” he adds.

So far, Nestrom has raised seed funding from Propeller, 500 Startups, Wamda Capital, Agrimatico, Techstars and some angel investors.

“Most of this happened in 2018 and we are confident that it is enough to ensure our smooth operations and product development till the end of this year.”

Mr Wadi prefers exits over initial public offerings encouraged by tech deals such as Yahoo's acquisition of Jordan’s Maktoob, Naspers' purchase of dubizzle, Amazon buying, and, most recently, Uber snapping up Careem in a $3.1bn deal.

Nestrom is currently a team of eight people with some part-time employees. The company plans to scale up but not much, says Mr Wadi.

“The idea is if you can automate other people’s jobs, we better automate our own first,” he adds.

Q&A: Nestrom’s co-founder and chief executive Yousef Wadi

How do you define yourself?

I am a hard-core tech-geek with a background in science and engineering. There is no limit to my imagination and I believe nothing is impossible if you feel strongly about it. In my free time, I read astrophysics and quantum mechanics that provide food for thought and innovative imagination.

Who is your role model?

Elon Musk is an exceptional person. You will not come across such icons very frequently. It is nice to see how such icons work and function. However, I do not think I can replicate the identity of Mr Musk … everyone has to build his own but it is always interesting to see how he acts.

What did you learn from your first start-up that failed?

We were six founders and that was the biggest mistake. We were too young to understand many things. I learned some practical lessons from that crash in 2011 that are still relevant and help me to cruise through some catch-situations even now.

What meeting will you always remember?

It was with Microsoft founder Bill Gates. I started my first start-up in Jordan that was competing with Microsoft. With that start-up, we entered a global competition organised by Microsoft and came third, losing the second place to MIT. But that got us a meeting with Bill Gates and he also gave us the initial funding for our venture.

What motivated you to apply for the Techstars Dubai Accelerator programme?

There were two things in mind: first, we wanted to enter the UAE market and second, the idea was to surround ourselves with an entity that could accelerate our growth in the right direction. We have a diversified portfolio now, [we are] starting to get new inquiries and also got a five-year UAE visa.

Are you a risk-taker?

I am a risk-taker but I always take calculated risks that will not harm my future plans.

Which country could be a hub for new start-ups?

Estonia is a very interesting country for tech start-ups. In fact, most solid start-ups that come out of European region are from Estonia. Even entering Estonia is very easy - login online, get your company registered and get the bank account remotely. If we ever plan to expand into Europe, we will definitely start there.

Company profile

Company name: Nestrom

Started: 2017

Co-founders: Yousef Wadi, Kanaan Manasrah and Shadi Shalabi

Based: Jordan

Sector: Technology

Initial investment: Close to $100,000

Investors: Propeller, 500 Startups, Wamda Capital, Agrimatico, Techstars and some angel investors