Cairo-based edtech startup Orcas, an app-based service that connects parents and students with tutors and babysitters, has secured USD 500 K in pre-Series A funding in an investment round piloted by Algebra Ventures – Egypt’s leading VC firm.
According to an electronically mailed information sent to WeeTracker, the funding round also saw the participation of NFX Capital.
Orcas have created a marketplace that looks into a pressing problem in a “deeply fragmented market.” The 2014-founded startup has developed a platform that connects thousands of students spanning all educational stages and system with appropriate, verified, user-rated, and specialized tutors.
Fairing In Controversy
In the North African country, more than 50 percent of its 22 million students receive private tutoring every year. Private tutoring is actually a controversial topic in the country, as most of these students take external classes to make up for deficiencies in the public and private education system, in order to pass exams.
Tutoring itself is a massive informal sector, and according to a British Council report, Egyptian families spend up to USD 2 Bn every year on private tuition. Classes in the state school systems are large, making it almost impossible for every student to receive individual attention.
In October 2018, the Arab nation’s Ministry of Education launched a campaign tailored to shut down many private tutoring centers in Heliopolis and Nozha areas.
And, that is just one of the many efforts made by the ministry to ban private tutoring for school students, as private lessons were reported to have become a major burden to families’ household incomes.
In a law drafted to this effect, Egypt’s Ministry for Teachers’ Affairs criminalized private lessons and established that unlicensed tutoring centers would be given a fine starting from USD 558, as well as six-month jail time.
How Far So Far?
Orcas says it has more than 20,000 students registered on its mobile application. The service is currently active in Cairo, Alexandria, El Gouna, and the North Coast areas of Egypt. The edtech startup is managed by Hossam Taher, and Amira El Gharib. Taher, who is the CEO, is a medical doctor turned techpreneur that started the company while he was still a student.
“We saw that there were very few flexible work opportunities for university students, but that there was a huge need for qualified and trusted tutors,’ says Taher.
“We solved this problem by creating a platform for them to connect – creating jobs for young people as educators while simultaneously providing school-age students with the best tutors for them,” he added.
Amira El Gharib, Orcas’ Chief Growth Officer, said: ‘Our students, parents, and partners are our primary focus. We will use this investment to develop our product offering and scale our operational capacity with the end goal of optimizing user experience for all our stakeholders”.
Orcas will be launching a new feature soon. Calling the initiative Discovers, Taher said it is “Designed with school summer vacations in mind.” Orcas Discoveries are events that allow children to expand their horizons and explore a range of exciting activities.
Offering everything from cooking and coding workshops to art, culture, and music trips in a variety of languages – they’re designed to safely engage children while developing their skills and enriching their experiences.’
Complementing Strained Education Sector
This funding development marks the second learning platform investment by Algebra Ventures in the Middle East. December last year, the early-stage tech-driven firm investor led a USD 1.265 Mn Series A round with Amman-based edtech startup Little Thinking Minds.
“Orcas complements strained traditional educational institutions by connecting students with specialised tutors who enable individualised learning,‘ says an Algebra spokesperson. ‘The one-size-fits-all model is leaving many young people behind, and the market is ripe for technological disruption”.
“Orcas and other tech-enabled tutoring platforms are delivering today on what academic research promised more than 20 years ago,” adds Ahmed Elkalla, Managing Partner at NFX Capital.
“Students who are tutored one-to-one perform significantly better than students who learn via conventional instructional methods. This used to be a luxury very few people could afford but now through tech-enabled platforms like Orcas a much wider group of students can reap the personalized tutoring benefits.”
Commenting on the investment, Amira El Gharib, Orcas’ Chief Growth Officer notes, “Our students, parents, and partners are our primary focus. We will use this investment to develop our product offering and scale our operational capacity with the end goal of optimising user experience for all our stakeholders.