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SAUDI ARABIA - Health & Education

Joel Huffman

Co-Founder & CEO, Arabius Technologies, Saudi Arabia


Joel Huffman is Co-Founder & CEO of Arabius Technologies, Saudi Arabia.

"It is a major challenge to keep up with the demand, given the dynamic nature of Saudi Arabia. Our expansion plans include establishing more physical locations throughout the Kingdom."
TBY talks to Joel Huffman, Co-Founder & CEO of Arabius Technologies, Saudi Arabia, about trends in learning, expansion plans, and strategic priorities.
What are the current opportunities and challenges for professionals in the field of education?

The way people are learning is evolving, moving away from traditional methods such as books toward digital, decentralized content distribution. In the past, TV channels and mass-distributed books were the norm, though in the digital age today, content consumption spans diverse information sources, including education. This shift extends from early learning all the way to skill acquisition, emphasizing not just memorization, but also fostering skills such as teamwork and soft skills development. These abilities hold immense value in the business realm. Even during my personal education journey, it was stressed that while 80% of the information acquired might prove irrelevant in our careers, the core learning lies in problem solving, critical thinking, and following an innovative framework. The pandemic accelerated the shift toward online education; however, it also highlighted the impracticality of having young children spend excessive hours on Zoom, and educators are accordingly refining their approach. The traditional classroom model has evolved, gaining immense appeal. With rapid advancements in AI, machine learning, and Web 3.0, continuous upskilling has become essential. Learning methods have transformed, with podcasts and online courses gaining greater traction. The globalized nature of the modern world, varied schedules, and international collaborations have changed the dynamics of learning, necessitating educators facilitate diverse access pathways. Both content and distribution channels are undergoing significant transformations.

How did your background in finance and start-ups contribute to the development of Arabius?

Arabius is an education and technology platform with a focus on language learning. Interestingly, my expertise does not lie in any of these areas. I owe much of our success to exceptional partners. Matthew Buice with over 20 years of international experience and expertise in applied linguistics, has dedicated two years to mastering Arabic and developing an immersive language learning methodology. Tim Wilson our tech expert, has over a decade of experience and is proficient in seven languages. My background in finance places me in the business role. The relationships I cultivated during my initial years in the Kingdom have proven to be immensely beneficial. Unfortunately, many professionals arrive, step directly into the workplace, and miss out on the most valuable learning and developmental resource: Saudi women and men. Saudi culture is deeply rooted in relationships, extending beyond personal connections to crucial business dynamics, and learning the Saudi way of doing things and integrating with business norms has been crucial to propelling us in our endeavors.

Can you provide an overview of the services offered by Arabius and its core mission?

Arabius is dedicated to enhancing the cross-cultural journey, enabling people to thrive in Saudi Arabia. We founded the company to assist expats, such as ourselves, who arrive in Saudi Arabia and want to thrive here. We offer language and culture training, focusing on the local conversational dialect of Arabic. Our approach fosters meaningful interactions, respectful living, and seamless integration into the local society. A major portion of our clientele are busy working professionals who seek efficient, effective language learning experiences. We offer in-person, online, and onsite sessions tailored to their needs. Around 45% of our clients are global, with some Riyadh-based clients preferring our online option to avoid traffic. As a tech company, we seamlessly integrate our streamlined methodology with technology, maintaining its effectiveness. A mobile app serves as a starting point for language learning, enabling users to participate in immersive live sessions.

Are you planning to implement new technologies in the coming year?

Absolutely, market conditions have never been better. Examining the global language learning landscape, it is evident that the market is poised to nearly double in value, expanding from USD $60 billion to USD $115 billion in the next 5 years. Among the 2 billion language learners, 60-70% focus on English; however, for native English speakers, learning additional languages remains a challenge. Linguistic research shows human interaction is essential for effective language learning, so we leverage technology in every way that doesn’t dilute the efficacy of the learning experience. Our innovation bridges the gap between traditional language learning methods and gamified education technology, providing a unique hybrid learning experience that maintains consistency in our methodology, solving the problem of inconsistency between tutors and methodologies.

How is your student client portfolio structured, and where do you anticipate growing demand?

Currently, 50% of our clients belong to the business community, both from individual and corporate domains. Many multinational companies have established headquarters here, and our program benefits professionals seeking to master both language and culture to effectively lead teams in diverse contexts. Learning the language and culture significantly boosts integration and longevity, diminishing cultural stress within teams and extending the duration of their stay. We also collaborate with 25% of embassies, engaging with diplomats and ambassadors. As expat numbers increase, those who show cultural agility and learn even a small part of the language gain a strategic edge, proving advantageous in negotiations and business interactions. This edge extends to geopolitics, policy, deals, and intercultural dynamics. Additionally, 25% of our clients are families, including integrated Saudi-international families and those who have grown up in international communities where learning Arabic has been challenging.

Are there specific audiences you are currently targeting to expand your business?

In light of Riyadh’s rapid population growth, we are focusing on establishing more physical locations and boosting our online presence. Since childhood education is crucial to a flourishing society, we’re seeking collaborations with international schools to further our mission. Our focus encompasses both Saudi and international children, and we remain open to expanding our reach to benefit a wider range of young learners.

What are your short-term plans and strategic priorities for the upcoming year?

It is a major challenge to keep up with the demand, given the dynamic nature of Saudi Arabia. Our expansion plans include establishing more physical locations throughout the Kingdom. We want to scale the app to become more streamlined, allowing for further development and feature integration, including community aspects. Our vision extends to connecting cultural experiences and tourism within the app. As users navigate the app, they can access cultural insights and even book their travel, events, and tours, enriching their journeys. Our goal mirrors the Saudi Tourism Authority’s approach: creating a comprehensive, seamless experience. Imagine arriving for business, obtaining your e-visa, downloading the Arabius app, and gaining language skills along with cultural insights, enhancing your readiness and enthusiasm for their Saudi experience.



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