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Wed 23 Oct 2019 02:44 PM

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'We are a start-up company that started big' - meet the team behind almentor.net

The leadership team behind almentor.net, the premier online video e-learning platform in the MENA region, reflects on their recent $4.5m funding success, what lies ahead and what motivates them on a daily basis

'We are a start-up company that started big' - meet the team behind almentor.net

(From left to right) Ibrahim Kamel, founder and COO, Ihab Fikry, founder and CEO, Hatem Sallam, partner and chief growth officer.

Ihab Fikri, founder and CEO

What inspires you?

Fikri: Looking at the many young, smart people living with limited resources when it comes to knowledge and education is what inspired me. I have come across many people with the passion to learn and expand their skill sets, yet they face a wide array of barriers. To me, education is a pathway to secure appropriate employment and gain financial independence. From here we set our goals and cleared our vision to open many doors of opportunities for our youth in education and self-development, to enrich their theoretical and practical knowledge and enhance their life skilfully and practically. Developing the capabilities and skills of young Arabs is a responsibility, and education is a right that cannot be negotiated.

What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

Fikri: We are a start-up company that started big. With great resources and support from an investor who believed in our vision, with the thirst of young people for knowledge and desire to learn from experts speaking their language, we managed to hit the ground and fly.

Quote to live your life by?

Fikri: “If you can change people’s lives, you have a business” from Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group. I also like “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest” by Benjamin Franklin and the Anthony D’Angelo quote: “Develop a passion for Learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow”.

What’s the story behind your business?

Fikri: It all started with mismanagement. I have seen it at work, at daily events and at all levels – problems occur when management is not there. I wanted to teach people the basic management principles on personal and professional levels. I decided to put together the top principles in one course called “100 Essential Management Concepts,” and I managed to share it on all social media channels, public lectures and on many Egyptian television networks, but that was still not enough.

I wanted my voice to reach 10 million Arabs and I spoke about it out loud. Many heard and little believed. We were not intending to re-invent the wheel; instead we wanted a channel to deliver knowledge and education. Four young men with great academic and professional backgrounds, each of whom had a dream of creating hope and developing the capabilities of the young Arabs.

Ibrahim Kamel, founder and COO

How did your business start the year?

Kamel: We had a great start, with many projects and partnership deals closed at the beginning of the year, opening a new chapter for the almentor.net business. We have signed a number of agreements with companies based in the UAE, Egypt and Jordan to train their employees, and we have also partnered with mega-scale initiatives, including government organisations and large multinationals who are targeting Arab learners.

If all goes well, where do you see business going in the next five years? The next decade?

Kamel: The online education and e-learning market has been valued at $558m in the Middle East and North Africa region. The growth expected is around 9.8 percent by 2023, which makes it a highly valuable market in which many have barely scratched the surface of. Globally, Research and Markets forecasts show that e-learning will grow to $325bn by 2025. E-learning is keeping up with the fast-paced world that we are living in and I believe that is the main reason behind that kind of meteoric growth we are seeing in the e-learning sector. We recently announced the closing of $4.5m in Series A funding.

This latest funding round was led by Sawari Ventures, with the participation of Egypt Ventures, Endure Capital and angel investor Mohamed El Amin, which brings the total funding raised by the company to $8m to date. We have learnt a lot over the years and have worked hard building a strong base in order to keep growing for decades to come.

With our plans and targets set, our short-term objective is to gain the trust of more than 25 million Arab learners from all around the world.

What has almentor.net accomplished since its launch?

Kamel: Launched officially in 2018, the platform currently has 10,000+ educational videos, 270+ mentors, 400,000 successful learning experience, and the highest course completion rate in the industry.

Why and how is almentor.net changing the notion of online learning?

Kamel: Content is the key… We provide good content delivered by qualified mentors. Almentor.net is in a unique position of playing a vital role in the e-learning and people development sector by making experts whom are fully aware of our culture, from different sectors accessible to any individual in the region that wants to improve their skillset. The video content has grown very fast in the last few years and it is an essential method to reach time restricted people, with specialized online universities and online platforms sprouting up across the world.

In addition to that, one of our really unique initiatives has been developed for deaf and mute users. The first and largest initiative of its kind in the world, it aims to develop the skills and abilities of over one million Arabs who suffer from hearing and speaking difficulties and help them achieve their goals.

Hatem Sallam, partner and chief growth officer

What do you enjoy the most about working at your company?

Sallam: It is a job that is focused on a mission and having a social impact. With the work experience I have, working with almentor.net is distinctive. Working with a diversified team, providing a unique experience for learners, hearing their success stories, and knowing how a course or a talk can make a difference in their lives is priceless.

We are always looking for the best opportunities to engage and activate the role of young people in the community and guide them towards self-learning and developing their abilities at all levels to reach their goals and achieve their ambitions.

What is your next step towards growth?

Sallam: We intend to strategically expand in the Middle East and the rest of the world to develop the skills and proficiencies of 25 million Arabs. We are currently targeting Saudi Arabia, North Africa, Levant Countries and Kuwait. Our success is built on three main pillars: Relevance of content (culturally sensitive), affordability for masses, and nationwide awareness programs / campaigns.

What advice would you give to someone going into a leadership position for the first time?

Sallam: The first thing that comes to my mind is “Show Don’t Tell”. A leader leads by example and listens. One of the fatal mistakes new leaders make is being taken by the new position. They get too excited and they forget about the things that would make him a good leader.

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