You Think Tech Couldn’t Save The World? Yes, It Can. And Now It Will.

Therese Lundquist
Jul 4, 2018 · 8 min read

Maybe you thought lucrative decisions can’t be taken with your heart. Think again. AIAR’s founder Rufus Lidman travelled the world helping refugees in need. Meeting the “victims”, but finding that they weren’t victims at all. They were just people who had an immense wish to once again be in charge of their lives. And the youngest of them had one single wish: education. Follow us on this amazing journey, where we share with you how we plan to offer education to the 2,5 billion people in dire need. Or, simply, how we plan to use the most modern technology to make the world a better place.

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Photo credit: RHEB and Eveline Grassman

When the founder of AIAR, Rufus Lidman, one of Europe’s most respected digital strategists with five books, PhD studies and half a dozen pioneering digital ventures in his back, went on volunteer missions supporting refugees outside Mosul in Iraq, his world totally changed in more than one way.

From commerce to compassion

First, he understood that all the commercial success in digital ventures he had been known for in his life was total BS. There was definitely a call in life that was severely more important than helping Samsung sell more phones or Mercedes sell more cars.

Nothing is wrong with Samsung, Mercedes or any other of the more than 100 companies Rufus had as clients over the years. But, still, there was something else nagging. After having initiated a refugee foundation during the refugee crisis in Syria in 2015, parallel with running his digital business, he made 17 excursions to all the Balkan routes, from Lesbos and Idomeni to Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia.

Seeing the hopeless situations for refugees and children running from war, without food nor warm clothes, in the bitter winter of Europe, he made it his mission to think more with his heart than with his wallet, and try to help victims running from the most evil war in the Middle East.

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Photo credit: RHEB and Eveline Grassman

From victims to heroes

But when Merkel and Erdogan closed their borders in 2017, and Rufus and his volunteers moved their actions to Iraq and Syria, the second big change in life took place. In encounters with fantastic Yazidi women, escaping sex slavery from the evilest powers in the world, the ISIS in Mosul, he didn’t find victims, he found nothing but heroines. He found women whose husbands were killed, children murdered and now they were building their houses with their bare hands. They were doing everything possible to get food to feed their children.

That was when Lidman realized that “helping victims” was actually quite crazy. The way to go was instead to “enable heroes”, which would also be so much more constructive. After this mind-blowing pivot, he took actions to support these women with things like sewing machines or baking utensils — things that could actually help them take charge over their lives.

After that, his focus became even more clear. While interviews with parents usually showed wishes for clothes or food, for children there was always only one single thing that came up first on their wish list: education.

Here you have all these wonderful boys and girls that had never done anything wrong, but just being born in the wrong place. Surrounded by bombs, having their fathers and brothers murdered, their sisters and mothers raped. Now, when Rufus talked to them, they showed belief in the future, and were dreaming of education to be able to exploit that future. Statistically though, the odds are against them. Without support they all instead have high probability of starving to death or becoming the next recruitment for ISIS. In other words, a ticking bomb.

But here and now these wonderful kids thought they did have a future. So then it’s our damn duty to give it to them!

At least that was what Rufus thought. And at least that’s what he, since then, has been aiming to do.

From helping a few to enabling the world

Because of his experiences in the war zones of Iraqi Kurdistan, he understood the third game changer — that he can still be making use of his digital experiences. But this time to change the world. How, you may ask. By using it as a tool for helping, not only 25 or 250 or even 2500 children in the refugee camps, but actually all 2.5 billion people in the world in need of learning.

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Photo credit: RHEB and Eveline Grassman

The birth of AIAR

It just so happened, that parallel to Rufus’ excursions to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, based on an old idea generated on assignment some year earlier for the biggest tech company in the world, his company got an offer to build a microlearning app for the world’s first WFA-endorsed certification in digital strategy.

This was done with a massive local success. The online courses rendered +25% higher learning performance compared to the offline courses. So with the Iraq experiences fresh in his mind, it was time to make something more “for real”. He sold off his old company for a couple of millions, founded the new firm AIAR, brought in a professional board and contributed with the first seeding from his own pocket.

As the first proof of concept, the initial app for digital strategy was upgraded in UX and native English. It instantly rocked the market by becoming the biggest independent app within the category in the world, acquiring the highest reviews from 200.000 people in 165 countries.

Going from local innovation to global scaling

After that, the interest from investors to fund a broader application was firmly established. Now the real work started. Lidman knew that however poor a refugee was, they usually had one thing that many ignorant people didn’t understand, but Rufus had seen with his own eyes. The one and most important device to keep track of families left behind and finding their way into the future. The mobile phone.

So, after seeing that of the 260 million kids in the world being left without education, a lot of them were living in areas with at least an “ok” mobile penetration, the mission became crystal clear. He was going to use all his and his tribe’s experience to innovate what was going to become the world’s first 360-degree microlearning app.

But for Rufus that was not enough. In order to really get scattered all over the globe and become the first choice for everyone, he knew he needed to solve some crucial issues to reach out widely. All by using a classic Robin Hood strategy. Free users of freemium content funded by “whales” paying for premium content.

And neither solving the crucial problems nor reaching out widely didn’t seem to pose a major issue, but more of a rewarding challenge. A thorough assessment namely revealed a market populated by actors lagging in adapting new technology, while the ones trying were keen on using new technology to repair old processes, instead of innovating new ones. More specifically three crucial market issues were detected.

  1. Not fun: online courses are not always relevant for the students, while the way of learning was standardized and not customized to individual needs.
  2. Not credible: due to the ease of cheating, online certifications from Ivy League universities still weren’t as credible as offline education from the suburb.
  3. Not economical: for people living in the third world, even an online course of $30–40 was a tough decision when you earn $100–200/month at the most — especially in the world of lifelong learning where you need to upgrade skills, if not every quarter, so at least once a year.

This overall mission was clustered to “democratize learning”, and after scrambling the best tribe from all over the world, one year later the deep tech (AI, Blockchain, Gamfication) solution was there, using AI to personalize learning, using a Blockchain secured certification for 100% credibility, and an internal token for gamification and budgeting of a true lifelong learning.

The finishing line is the starting line

During the last half year the team situated in Sweden, but with members from China, Korea, Persia, US and Slovenia etc., completed the AI. Together with global blockchain experts from IBM, they have completed the blockchain on the Hyperledger fabric, and have the UX and high-fidelity prototype ready.

That means AIAR has now arrived at the destination so hard fought for, with everything set for the magic ahead. All in order to fulfill the vision of changing the world, by funding the final MVP to be developed with an aggressive communication reaching 0,5 million 2019, 30 million before 2020 and 1 billion 2023.

The art of earning good and doing good

Reaching back to where Rufus comes from, he is not an idealistic volunteer, shouting on the streets asking for money. As a serial entrepreneur and internationally respected digital strategist, he knows where there is a strong possibility to earn fortunes. And that is for the one succeeding in disrupting an unexploited market, like this one, using the most advanced deep tech to solve the crucial issues of motivation, credibility and economy in the market.

The smell of unicorn is there. Very much there.

So on the one hand, Rufus and his co-founders are a hundred percent sure. It is not necessary to choose between doing compassionate good or doing commercially great. The biggest donation in the world ($4 billion/year) comes from Bill Gates, and he would never have been able to do that if he wasn’t a smart business man. AIAR will therefore earn money, and it will be among the smartest investments ever for the investors.

Still not forgetting from where it all started, AIAR is not only aiming to launch the courses for free (with only the certification costing), but also making it possible for the hardworking members to “earn” tokens through gamifications. And to top it all off, they intend to do what the United Nations and all its countries haven’t succeeded with during all the past decades. Together with a foundation, AIAR will donate certificate vouchers to a considerable amount to all kids and refugees in need all over the world. So, people in true need of education, will finally get it.

Nelson Mandela knew it from the start: “Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world”. But that was 30 years ago. At that time 4 million people had access to internet. Today that number is 4 billion.

At that time there was no AIAR. Now there is.

Taking over the world. Then making it a better one.

Come join Rufus and his team in that mission.


AIAR EdTech PTE Ltd — Reinventing Global Learning

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