A Middle East online tutoring startup eyes Saudi Arabia’s market

Synkers, which is about to enter the Saudi Arabia market, is an app that helps parents and college students find experts for the extra coaching the latter require. (Supplied)
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Updated 26 May 2020

A Middle East online tutoring startup eyes Saudi Arabia’s market

  • Platform allows parents and students to find qualified tutors after filtering for price, location or ratings
  • GCC countries tipped to account for 15 million students this year, with increase in demand for tutoring

DUBAI: Hunting for a tutor online? The web is a great place to explore for its dizzying number of options, but as you click and consider each option, their very abundance can at times be confounding.
What should you choose and what should you ignore, especially when the outcome can affect your future?
To take the stress out of this task, Audrey Nakad came up with the idea of Synkers, an app that helps parents and college students find experts for the extra coaching the latter require.
The educational enterprise co-founded by Nakad, a Lebanese-Canadian national, provides information on qualified tutors after filtering for price, location or ratings.




Synkers, an app that helps parents and college students find experts for the extra coaching the latter require. (Supplied)

The tutors are screened and their qualifications verified — they can be professionals or senior students who have scored 95/100 on the courses or subjects they offer.
A separate B2B business model gives educational institutions the option to adopt the entire platform for their own students and access detailed insights and reports.
“Synkers was founded to ease a major pain point for parents: The ability to find qualified and experienced private teachers for their kids,” said Nakad, 28.
The idea was born from personal experience. As an undergraduate in Montreal, she worked as a private tutor and teaching assistant but had a hard time finding students.
At the same time, her sister Sibylle was struggling to find a qualified tutor to help her with her study material.


That led the siblings and their friend Zeina Sultani to found Synkers in Lebanon in September 2017. They began with 40 tutoring hours and 80 tutors.
Initial funding came from the Lebanese government, with Beirut-based technology accelerator [email protected] providing $30,000.
“With $30,000, we were able to build our first prototype, go to market and acquire our first paying customers within three months,” said Nakad.
“Soon after, we closed a seed round of $700,000 from Phoenician Fund I (a venture capital firm). This round allowed us to build a stronger product and team, reach product-market fit and, most importantly, expand to a new market, the UAE.”
By the end of 2019, the educational technology startup had partnered with Lebanon’s Ministry of Education.

FASTFACT

$177.6bn

Revenues generated by private tutoring by 2026. (Source: India-based Zion Market Research)

Over the last four years, Synkers has gained more than 60,000 students, over 1,000
vetted tutors, given 90,000 tutoring sessions, and achieved a 21 percent student improvement rate, according to Nakad.
Worldwide, demand for private tutoring has been growing rapidly. Zion Market Research, an India-based firm, projects that global revenues in the sector will reach $177.6 billion by 2026, up from $96.2 billion in 2017.
The Middle East currently accounts for $3.1 billion of total revenue, Synkers research shows. “With innovation and technology, our world is evolving so fast that our jobs and the skills needed to do them are constantly changing,” said Nakad.
“This makes it very difficult for schools to continually adapt their curriculum and way of teaching to prepare their students for the future.”
As the Gulf alone is expected to account for 15 million school students this year, Synkers hopes to scale up quickly to capitalize on the region’s market growth.




Audrey Nakad came up with the idea of Synkers. (Supplied)

In 2017, the company joined a Dubai Future Accelerators international program that paired innovators with government organizations to solve contemporary challenges.
The resulting collaboration with Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) led to Synkers partnering with the American University in Dubai and Lebanese and French private schools in the UAE.
The next steps for Synkers include expansion into Saudi Arabia, ideally by 2021. Egypt, the region’s largest market by population, will follow in 2022, with Jordan and Bahrain after that.
“We are very excited to announce that we are closing a pre-series A round with strong VCs from the region and Europe in order to grow in the region and enter Saudi Arabia,” said Nakad.

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“In the next five years, we are looking to grow our user base from 60,000 learners to 2 million across the region.
“Our vision is to develop the largest community of knowledge exchange, and empower any knowledge holder to influence and teach the world.”
What sets Synkers apart from other online tutoring companies? Beyond the personalized adaptive learning plans and a significant investment in its tutors, Nakad pointed to the academic and socioeconomic benefits of Synkers’ peer-to-peer system, inspired by Harvard University.
“Students connect with people who are just like them,” she said. “They have the same background and experiences, which allows them to connect on an individual level and work together to mutually succeed.”

  • This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.


Saudi Arabia’s 6-point plan to jumpstart global economy

Updated 07 July 2020

Saudi Arabia’s 6-point plan to jumpstart global economy

  • Policy recommendations to G20 aim to counter effects of pandemic

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia, in its capacity as president of the G20 group of nations, has unveiled a six-point business plan to jump start the global economy out of the recession brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yousef Al-Benyan, the chairman of the B20 business group within the G20, told a webinar from Riyadh that the response to the pandemic -— including the injection of $5 trillion into the global economy — had been “reassuring.”

But he warned that the leading economies of the world had to continue to work together to mitigate the effects of global lockdowns and to address the possibility of a “second wave” of the disease.

“Cooperation and collaboration between governments, global governance institutions and businesses is vital for an effective and timely resolution of this multi-dimensional contagion transcending borders,” Al-Benyan said.

“The B20 is strongly of the view there is no alternative to global cooperation, collaboration and consensus to tide over a multi-dimensional and systemic crisis,” he added.

The six-point plan, contained in a special report to the G20 leadership with input from 750 global business leaders, sets out a series of policy recommendations to counter the effects of the disease which threaten to spark the deepest economic recession in nearly a century.

The document advocates policies to build health resilience, safeguard human capital, and prevent financial instability.

It also promotes measures to free up global supply chains, revive productive economic sectors, and digitize the world economy “responsibly and inclusively.”

In a media question-and-answer session to launch the report, Al-Benyan said that among the top priorities for business leaders were the search for a vaccine against the virus that has killed more than half-a-million people around the world, and the need to reopen global trade routes slammed shut by economic lockdowns.

He said that the G20 response had been speedy and proactive, especially in comparison with the global financial crisis of 2009, but he said that more needed to be done, especially to face the possibility that the disease might surge again. “Now is not the time to celebrate,” he warned.

“Multilateral institutions and mechanisms must be positively leveraged by governments to serve their societies and must be enhanced wherever necessary during and after the pandemic,” he said, highlighting the role of the World Health Organization, the UN and the International Monetary Fund, which have come under attack from some world leaders during the pandemic.

Al-Benyan said that policy responses to the pandemic had been “designed according to each country’s requirements.”

Separately, the governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority said that it was “too early” to say if the Kingdom’s economy would experience a sharp “V-shape” recovery from pandemic recession.