Almentor, a video-based online learning platform for the Middle East and North Africa, has raised $6.5m in a Series B round led by Partech from its Africa Fund.
The startup was founded in 2016 when Ihad Fikry and Ibrahim Kamel decided there was a need to cater to the learning needs in the MENA region that were not provided by other platforms.
“We live in a region with a population of 400 million-plus people but 90% of them cannot learn properly in any other language but Arabic,” Ihab Fikry, Almentor’s co-founder and CEO, says to TechCabal.
The courses are designed to provide knowledge “in a proper manner without promoting any ideology or religious thoughts,” Fikry says.
How Almentor works
From gamified mobile apps to websites that enable streaming, online learning comes in different varieties across the world.
Hundreds of educational channels like TED-Ed, Khan Academy and Crash Course have carved a niche on YouTube, without having to build their own technologies. Where does Almentor fit in this universe?
Fikry describes Almentor as sharing the attributes of renowned platforms like Masterclass, Udemy and LinkedIn Learning.
It charges users a subscription to access its library of 12,000 videos.
The platform has a video-on-demand component that enables learners to stream content, while a learning management system engages users in classroom-like activities like asking and answering questions, and taking exams.
Almentor can be accessed anywhere, even in Nigeria, but the focus is to serve the Arabic region.
Their library includes math, history, natural sciences and training material for corporations. For social sciences where context may vary between countries, creators are selected from various countries to ensure the material is relevant. However, many users can find similarities because virtually every course is available in Arabic.
Almentor works with subject-matter teachers and professional content creators around the MENA region to create the courses. The company and the creators share revenue from subscriptions based on an agreement on exclusivity and whole ownership of the content by Almentor.
Fikry says they have received over 3,000 applications from people who want to create course material on Almentor, but the acceptance rate is currently at 12%. Besides welcoming applications, the startup proactively headhunts already successful lecturers and also engages agencies to recruit mentors for them.
So far, Almentor has provided 2 million successful learning experiences to users. Fikry explains this metric means the learner has consumed at least 25% of the learning material.
Learning categories vary from basic (30% of their library) to intermediate and advanced levels.
A typical Almentor learner is between ages 18 and 40 years old. 51% of learners are male while 49% are female. 60% are from Egypt, 25% are from Gulf nations like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bahrain. The rest come from Algeria, Morocco, Niger and Arabs living in the US and UK.
In terms of socioeconomic status, Fikry says Almentor learners are between the middle and upper class.
“For those in Class A+, they prefer to learn in English though some learn in French. For others, almost 40% can only learn in Arabic,” Fikry, a PhD holder who used to be a management professor and PWC consultant, explains.
Seed to Series B, driven by partnerships
As much as it is a service targeted as directly serving consumers, a key element of Almentor’s progress has been over 80 partnerships it has entered with organisations and governments.
One such partnership is with the Ministry of Education in Egypt for a white-label curriculum targeted at 4.5 million students in grades 7 to 9. They have another with the government in the UAE to upskill entrepreneurs in the region.
Regardless of the country or the partnership, Almentor’s promise is that users will “learn from a subject matter expert without being driven to any ideology,” Fikry insists.
It is a sophisticated commitment that requires a range of management skills, beyond merely setting up technology for streaming and learning. It also needs capital to achieve its potential, Fikry says, which explains why they have sought out investors to continue to build.
As with having governments on board, working with VCs “gives credibility to the platform as we are serving an area with lots of dynamics,” Fikry says.
He says they particularly sought out Partech for this round owing to the VC’s global spread of portfolio companies spanning fintech, edtech and other sectors.
With this Series B, Almentor has now raised $14.5 million.
It opened the funding gates with a $3.5 million seed fund in 2016. In 2019, Almentor’s $4.5 million Series A was led by Sawari Ventures, an Egyptian firm that closed a $71 million fund in April. Sawari also invested in this Series B round as Sango Capital, a firm based in South Africa.
Cyril Collon, general partner at Partech, described Fikry and his co-founder as “two fantastic mission-driven entrepreneurs.”
He believes Almentor is the leading platform for self-learning in the Middle East and Africa, and is looking forward to helping the company expand access to “on-demand cutting-edge personal learning & developments options.”