From Riyadh to Boca Raton, Ahmed Bekhit is on a mission to develop world-changing tech
Robots, mobile games, and now AI – we catch up with Bekhit to learn about his journey as a budding software engineer
By Riley Kaminer
We all have crazy ideas when we’re kids. Travel to the moon! Found a startup unicorn! (OK, maybe it’s not only kids who have that one.)
Very few of us actually act upon these dreams. Ahmed Bekhit is one who does.
As a kid living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Bekhit dreamed of building a robot that could do everything for him. Of course, top of mind for the then 11-year-old was, well, exactly what you might expect: “I wanted the robot to go to my kitchen, pick up some candy, and bring it into my room,” he told Refresh Miami.
Not only was accomplishing this project out of reach for Bekhit 12 years ago. He acknowledges that even today we still do not have the technology necessary to create a robot like that. But this idea was just the first of many, kickstarting Bekhit’s entrepreneurial journey.
Catching the Apple bug
One of Bekhit’s first projects was developing an Android puzzle game, Eat the Chocolate, when he was around twelve-years-old. It received a modest few hundred downloads. More importantly though, it provided Bekhit with a training ground for becoming a software developer.
By age 14, Bekhit had become somewhat of a celebrity in his local school after having built a social network targeted at people in his area. After gaining a bit of traction, Bekhit wanted to build an iOS version of this web app. The main problem: at the time, he could not afford to buy a Mac.
Never one to let a technical impediment hold him back, the resourceful Bekhit did exactly what you would expect him to do. “I set up a ‘Hackintosh’ on my mom’s Windows computer,” he explained.
Soon thereafter, Bekhit realized how much he enjoyed building for iOS and started working on his next project: an app that allowed people to listen to Tweets rather than read them as they drive.
That app would eventually pique the attention of some Apple employees, snagging Bekhit a scholarship to attend WWDC. “I got to present my work to Tim Cook and Jony Ive and other cool executives,” recalled Bekhit. “It was so fun!”
This stint in Cupertino also landed Bekhit on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. “That was a game changer,” he said. “It kicked off my career,” he explained, noting that it pushed Bekhit to recalibrate from focusing on college preparations to building a career.
By age 18, Bekhit had built an augmented reality software library for engineers that was later integrated into an Emmy-winning software platform. From there, he was off to the races.
Landing in South Florida
That’s when Boca Raton-based David Parshenkov got in touch. The entrepreneur was building Magic Studio, Inc., an AI-powered social app. In 2016, Bekhit landed in Boca to work with Parshenkov on Magic Studio – and hasn’t looked back since.
“Everything here is amazing,” with the exception of the summer humidity, Bekhit said. “South Florida is such a great hub for technology.”
Recruiting tech talent is always a concern for technologists landing in South Florida. But for Bekhit, this has not been an issue at all. “You would be surprised to learn how much talent there is here,” he said. “We’ve uncovered a lot of hidden gems.” Bekhit explained that the talent he sees coming out of local universities such as FAU, FIU, and UM is on par with that of top Californian and northeastern universities.
Bekhit is also optimistic about the funding landscape regionally. “The angel investment space here is pretty solid,” he said. “It’s just a matter of building relationships and trust with these investors.” Bekhit added that local investors are rapidly getting smart to the opportunity in the tech space, despite their traditional focus on legacy investment sectors such as real estate.
Looking forward, without giving up on his robot dream
Currently, Bekhit is working at Apprentice.io, a tech company that is building pharmaceutical manufacturing software. How did he find the startup? The most Bekhit way possible: “They got in touch to tell me that they had used one of my open source tools to manufacture half a billion Covid vaccines. I was like, holy cow!” He secured an O-1 Visa, sometimes referred to as the Einstein Visa, which enables exceptional STEM and business talent to move to the US.
Bekhit also recently published his first book, Computer Vision and Augmented Reality in iOS. Why computer vision? He’s still on a mission to develop that robot that he had envisioned when he was a young kid.
“Computer vision and AR are the core foundations to make a robot,” he said, noting that there are of course many other important aspects – data analysis and machine learning, just to name a few.
“I have explored this field since 2017, and now I’m exploring different fields around it, such as machine learning and deep learning,” explained Bekhit. “That will eventually give me the understanding needed to build this project I have dreamed about since I was eleven.”
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