We recently announced our partnership with UM6P - Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, a leading Moroccan research institution.
How did this start? What's the story behind the collaboration?
Well, as with all good stories, it started with people. In this case, Amine Abboudi, our head of product.
To tell Amine's story, we need to go back to his home country, Morocco, and to Kenitra, a port city 40 kilometers from the capital Rabat.
Amine’s story is that of a boy who loved technology. When his friends wanted to go to the toy store, he asked his parents to take him to the electronics store. He managed to persuade them to buy an iPod Touch and amused himself by taking it apart and putting it back together and hacking into its firmware.
“The iPod was amazing: the beauty, the materials, the software, the entire experience was a blast. All my other gadgets were made of plastic. For the very first time, I had a beautiful object in my hands, one that was minimalistic, yet highly functional, made from glass and stainless steel. This triggered my passion for design, and for Apple.”
Amine decided to become a software engineer so he could work at Apple someday and design and build extraordinary products. “I ended up at UM6P by a stroke of luck. I thought I’d attend preparatory classes in Morocco, then go on to study in France. My dad found an article in the newspaper promoting UM6P and encouraged me to apply.” EMINES - School of Industrial Management - was the first school to be opened on the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University campus. “I chose UM6P because the school seemed like it had a lot of potential: renowned professors and links with American universities and grandes écoles in France. I sat the exam on June 24, 2014, the last day for the entrance exams. There was only one merit scholarship left to be awarded and the committee decided to split it so that two people could attend the school: Amine Majdoubi, and me.” That marked the start of a lasting friendship! And we now both work at ALPHA10X.
Their admission to the university coincided with the introduction of data science major at EMINES. ”We had no doubt that AI would be the future of software and technology in general.” EMINES and UM6P offered a “university of life” experience to students. The educational thesis is to teach students to learn how to learn. To problem solve. To think for themselves. And to have an entrepreneurial mindset. Amine created a startup during his studies. ”The goal was to be able to use GPS to locate a person inside a building to within a centimeter, particularly in big shopping malls. I covered dozens of kilometers to chart the whole university!”
During his final internship, Amine realized that the corporate world did not suit him: “I wanted to evolve within a creative workplace that would empower me, offer me responsibility and trust, and that wasn’t restrained by bureaucracy and politics. In a startup, you can make mistakes and learn from them, then start over.”
Amine ended up joining ALPHA10X. I spoke to him about his role within the startup and how, having started out as a data scientist, he is rapidly rose to become head of product: “I felt like that additional product definition was needed; the vision was brilliant but it was screaming for concretization. As a Data Scientist, I have an urge to understand. I was obsessed with design. I wanted to make the ALPHA10X user experience as approachable as possible, in the same way that Steve Jobs had done with personal computing. The ALPHA10X CEO, Robert Marcus, noticed these traits in me and offered me my dream role, leading product and innovating at the meeting of design and technology. Steve Jobs described Apple as being at the intersection of technology and the humanities. That was a guiding principle for me from the first time I heard it. And within ALPHA10X I do just that”
Today, at ALPHA10X, Amine has found what he’d been looking for since he was a kid. “I’m still deeply interested in the technology and a large part of my work revolves around making sure that the platform works at a technical level. But I look at the tool with a critical eye to make sure the platform is also functional, intuitive, and aesthetically pleasing. Thanks to ALPHA10X, I now have what the corporate world couldn't offer me: flexibility, velocity, the capacity to affect the end user, and leadership. I am passionate and very proud of my work!”
Amine’s early conversations with UM6P were the seeds that grew into the UM6P – ALPHA10X partnership, the goal of which is to positively impact the lives of more than a billion people. When Robert visited UM6P he was blown away by the audacity and ambition of the project. "The faculty members are visionary and inspiring, the UM6P project is all about shaping the future of Africa. Morocco aspires to emerge as a major AI innovation hub, and we hope to play an important role in making that dream a reality. I’m very proud to be involved in this project and to be showcasing the brilliant minds of Moroccans" says Amine.
On February 21, 2022, ALPHA10X and UM6P signed an agreement to create an advanced R&D lab on the university campus, to directly recruit top UM6P talent and innovate together with the university on the far edge of AI. “This is just the beginning! We want to create the leading laboratory in Africa dedicated to artificial intelligence in the Life Sciences. This is my journey!”