From Structural Engineer to CEO: How Gryps is Modernizing the Construction Industry

Dareen Salama

The intersection of technology and the construction industry has always fascinated me. 

Sitting by the Pyramids. Cairo, Egypt.

As a young girl growing up in Egypt, I saw the glory of the historic past in the Pyramids. In contrast, I witnessed the built world today and its impact on economic prosperity. I remember realizing early on that improving people’s lives was closely tied to infrastructure and the built environment. 

Starting with my first job as a structural engineer, I wanted to find the best way to contribute while learning about the industry. I was fascinated by the works of Zaha Hadid, Santiago Calatrava, and Frank Gehry. I found that technology was a common element in making all their work possible.

As a Master’s candidate in 2010, my thesis was focused on applications for artificial intelligence in the construction industry. At the time, AI for construction was still in the academic research phase, but I was fascinated by its potential. 

This fascination led me to want to bring the magic of AI to the actual practice of construction, beyond academia. But of course, when I started working in the construction industry in NYC, I learned what I had suspected: the industry was far from ready for AI. We were still figuring out how to adopt cloud based systems, building information modeling, virtual reality and other technologies. Technology adoption was and still is slow even though it is much needed.

Visiting the Willis Tower Skydeck. Chicago

I started working in NYC on projects such as LaGuardia Airport Redevelopment, Javits Center Expansion, Coney Island Hospital, CUNY Queens College Renovations, and South Beach Psychiatric Center, and my job was to introduce new technologies to improve efficiency. Although the use cases were clear, such as a contractor accidentally hitting underground utilities at LGA causing a power outage and flight cancelations, executives were never surprised by project schedules being delayed and over budget, constant coordination issues in the field; resistance to adopting new technology. The reason for that is, 1) technology costs were too high for small projects, 2) technology implementation takes up to 6 months, which is too long for some projects, and 3) the technology available offered a less than optimal user experience, which impacted adoption and discouraged users. 

It’s widely believed that people, process, and technology are the three pillars needed to drive digitization. Construction companies often focus on people and process being the challenging tasks, while assuming the tech is available. I spent years implementing and educating on existing tech, I learned that the industry deserves better. 

Recording Coursera Construction Technology Sessions at Columbia University. New York City

We need software and platforms that are easy to adopt, can be implemented in a short time, and solve real problems. That’s when I decided to shift from a people and process focus, to a tech driven one. The industry is on the verge of a paradigm shift and I want to be a part of it.

Construction software is so complex that by the time you adopt a system, figure out how to use it, and get your team up to speed,the platform is outdated. The current state of artificial intelligence and robotic process automation allow us to develop systems that solve chronic problems such as interoperability and lag in efficiency improvements. 

Our Gryps software platform uses robotic process automation (RPA), computer vision, and machine learning to connect to the various siloed systems in construction, ingest and understand the documents, and open up access to the data and insights produced by every single construction project. 

We are excited to be modernizing the construction industry that we’ve devoted our careers to by using state-of-the-art machine learning and deep learning techniques. 

I believe in 10 years that Gryps will be able to deliver the fastest way to access project and enterprise information to construction industry stakeholders, including owners, contractors, construction managers, architects, and engineers. Companies using Gryps will be able to efficiently utilize enterprise data and institutional knowledge to improve their supply chain. Project managers will be better equipped to make faster and more informed decisions that impact project’s budget and schedule, such as invoice and change order approvals, contractor and supplier selections, material and equipment purchases.  

Gryps (Dareen & Virtual Amir) at the Harvard Innovation Lab. Boston

We look forward to growing our team with more phenomenal people. Reach out if you are passionate about the world we live in, building technology that solves huge problems and creating an extremely valuable business together. 

Gryps will play an influential role in raising industry productivity through technology and we want to work with YOU!

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