Lessons learned from the first competition for education startups in the Arab world

Nafez Dakkak and Mark Griffiths
Lessons learned from the first competition for education startups in the Arab world

This blog post was originally posted in EdSurge

Inspired by conversations with actors in other parts of the world where small sums of capital have played a significant role in helping shape ecosystem building efforts, the Queen Rania Foundation launched an award for education entrepreneurs. We ran the competition to validate a few assumptions that came up in our research efforts, specifically whether there existed a strong pipeline of investable startups that are based in our part for the world.  The competition evaluated startups on the quality of their innovation, their impact to date, and their potential to scale. Over 400 applicants later, we are optimistic about the existence of a pipeline of worthy and investable startups working on everything from the creation of VR experiences for schools, to the application of AI to improve Arabic literacy learning. The startups were primarily located in Egypt (31%), Jordan (18%), and the UAE (8%) with average quarterly revenue among our semi-finalists (n=16) at $500,000.

The competition afforded us the opportunity to dig deeper into the nascent ecosystem and come back with three key lessons:

Lesson One: Help startups design for impact

Lesson Two: There are abundant opportunities (and technologies) for innovation

Lesson Three: The presence of highly centralized school systems might lead to further inequity

 

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