What was once a shiny new tool, is now a dire necessity. Edtech's taken the world by storm during the pandemic, and entrepreneurs all across the MENA region have been mobilising their platforms to adapt to this unprecedented time in history.
In the global effort towards digital transformation, one of the industries that has become a rapid accelerant in that stride during the Coronavirus crisis was edtech. Platforms, solutions and softwares that have spearheaded online learning during the pandemic have risen sharply in usage, with schools and learning centres facing closures and shutdowns during H1 2020.
Before the pandemic, ushering in tech into education was this added luxury; a shiny tool that was lauded for its innovation, but never truly realised until it became an absolute necessity. Investors and VCs worldwide would operate on the stereotype that edtech’s potential is great, but perhaps not the most scalable of ventures. Then a pandemic hit, and the slew of flippant changes the global crisis caused had investors no longer turn a blind eye to edtech.
Here’s a list of 9 edtech startups from across the MENA region that have went full throttle with online learning during the COVID-19 crisis.
Noon Academy is one of the fastest growing Edu-Tech startups in the Middle East, with over 2 million registered students. Noon Academy specialises in making an educational, engaging and affordable social learning platform that allows students to learn from peers, compete with them and initiate live on-demand study groups. Based in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the platform operates with a subscription or membership programme and offers tutoring for a variety of aptitude and placement tests. The startup raised one of Saudi Arabia's third biggest funding rounds in H1 2020, with a total of $13 million.
The new educational platform sought out to address industry changes before Arab professionals fall behind. Ushering in a new wave of Arabic learning, holistic education platform Zedny launched in June 2020. The new development platform houses over 5,000 hours of learning content, including over 200 online courses and 4000 animated video summaries of global business bestsellers. Available across the entire Arab world to both employers and individuals, the online platform aims to develop business skills, soft skills, office tools, and increase employability of professionals across the region.
After launching at the end of March 2020, with an extensive library of content prepared to become a viable digital alternative to school, Ashtar arrived just in time for the great turning point for e-learning. The app contains three main modes that are adopted as a teaching philosophy: Learn, Practice and Play. Through a bank of 40,000 educational videos led by expert teachers, the ‘Learn’ mode contains summary notes, exercises, personalised progress reports and a test at the end of the lesson to track performance. The ‘Practice’ mode gives access to an extensive library of 150,000 question banks on all of the topics. Finally, the ‘Play’ mode adds a gamified element to the experience that awards points throughout the process for various accomplishments, with an app-wide leaderboard ranking students within the same grade.
The Jordanian online learning platform producing original content by expert tutors in math, physics, chemistry, and biology started out with a bang in 2019 by raising a record $2.4 million - which was touted as one of the largest pre-seed raised by a startup in the region. The startup has been championing online learning for secondary students well before school closures, providing quality education that’s available to all Arab students across the region. The lessons are made up of five minute visually-engaging videos, delving into one specific topic in a subject. For a limited time during the pandemic's early months, Abwab had made their subscription, which gives you access to all their lessons, available for free.
Almentor is an online video marketplace and the go-to content provider for Arab self-learners throughout the Middle East and Africa. Founded and based in the UAE, the cutting-edge platform offers video courses and informative talks, as well as personal learning and development courses, in both Arabic and English. Additionally, the platform curates top-rated training programmes and content created by industry experts. As for the learning process, the platform makes it easier for learners to indulge themselves in all-necessary knowledge with its guided curriculum and interactive delivery features. The startup is backed and funded by Sheraa Sharjah, which serves as the lead investor.
PraxiLabs is an online STEM-education provider that offers 3D interactive virtual simulations of science laboratories. The Egyptian startup was established in 2016 by Khadija ElBedweihy and aims to provide an equal opportunity for students and educational institutions that could benefit from technological enhancements in their traditional education system. PraxiLabs not only provides an immersive virtual experience but adds enriching content that offers more understanding and hands-on knowledge. The startup raised a seed round funding in September 2018 by Katapult Accelerator, and has since received the prestigious Next Billion Ed-Tech Prize in March 2019.
Short for 'Big Aims', the Kuwaiti edtech startup offers a vast library of 30,000 lectures on 1,000 courses in both English and Arabic language. All the courses are available on-demand to allow students to study at their own convenience. Baims has also made all of the high school courses available for free so students can still get on with their studies during school closures. Students can access all of Baims’ library via their app or web version. The startup closed.a seed round earlier this year, ed by Kuwait-based Al-Wazzan Education, a company specialising in K-12 American, British and Arabic education in the Middle East. The investment, also joined by Kuwaiti investment firm Seeds Partners, will allow Baims to launch an e-learning service offering online courses to high school and university students - mainly in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
While a large portion of Arabic-language e-learning platforms are popping up, most of them are geared towards children and students, with not a plethora of options for adult learning. The new platform aims to be a hub for Arabic-language professional development, an underrepresented field in online learning. The platform launched with seed capital of EGP 6 million from professional e-learning content studio Entlaqa, training and consultancy firm Goldmines, and a group of individual investors. The platform seeks to aggregate content from training and development companies across the Middle East, offering on-demand training programs in various fields of professional development, as well as specialised training programs in production, photography, and directing.
Lamsa, also known as Lamsa Kids’ World, is a top-notch digital service tailored for children. The Saudi Arabian platform delivers a wide array of content varying in type and context such as interactive stories and games, as well as an entertaining and interactive learning experience for toddlers aged 1-3, preschoolers aged 4-6 and school-aged children aged 6-8. The platform offers a subscription-based model that is void of any advertisement or third-party content to provide a harmless and safe learning environment for children, which is available via a web and mobile-based application. The startup has raised a total of $500,000 in funding over 3 rounds, led by Dubai’s GINCO Investment firm.
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