Lebanon has proved over the years to be a great test bed for scalable tech startups, given its small market size and large pool of talent.
Such is true for Ostaz, a private tutoring matching platform that started in Lebanon in 2016 with plans to scale globally after its recent acquisition by Inspired Education Group, a global group of premium schools.
Founded by three inspiring women, Audrey Nakad, Zeina Sultani Nakad and Sibylle Nakad, Ostaz - previously known as Synkers - built a name for itself by solving the problem of finding qualified private tutors and supporting students throughout their academic journey, starting from school to official exams and college admission. Today, the platform features over 1,000 qualified tutors and has completed over 90,000 tutoring sessions by working with around 50 schools and universities.
Ostaz cofounders Zeina Sultani Nakad, Audrey Nakad and Sibylle Nakad
The startup’s original name Synkers was changed to Ostaz, which means ‘teacher’ in Arabic, because it resonates well internationally and it is easy to remember, as explained by co-founder and CEO Audrey.
To validate their idea early on, the team joined Speed accelerator to receive an initial funding and build a viable product to showcase traction. During its acceleration period, Audrey flew to California to participate in the third edition of LebNet Ignite, a residential program launched by LebNet and designed to immerse Lebanese startup founders in the Silicon Valley culture. The program’s edition was done in partnership with Speed and BlackBox Connect.
“LebNet Ignite was the best experience ever. We had access to people we can never have access to in Lebanon. The Lebanese market is in need of more role models and success stories they can look up to and seek advice from,” said Audrey in a previous statement given to LebNet.
Small Middle Eastern Startup Going Global
Shortly after joining Speed, the startup gained traction in universities via word of mouth and soon after became known in several top Lebanese universities. Following its graduation from Speed In 2017, it closed its first seed funding with Phoenician Funds. By September 2020, it raised a $1.8M Pre-Series A funding round, led by Dr. Lama and Dalia Al Sulaiman, 500 Startups, Phoenician Funds, iSME Kafalat, Mulcan International, Seeders, CE-Ventures, and Dubai Angel Investors.
Aside from Lebanon, the platform currently operates in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).
In April 2021, the founders announced the acquisition of Ostaz by Inspired Education Group for an undisclosed amount. “They [Inspired Education Group] recently launched their online school and focus on premium education and we were really honored when they approached us to work with us and then acquire us,” said co-founder and CMO Zeina during an interview with Ostaz.
The recent acquisition will allow the Lebanese startup to expand its operations in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and elsewhere. “We will still focus on MENA, mainly GCC and Egypt. We will start our global expansion in Europe this upcoming academic year. Our target markets are the UK, Spain, and Italy,” said Audrey.
Such great news coming out of a small country riddled with conflict and crises is truly a breath of fresh air and encouraging for many struggling Lebanese entrepreneurs. It is also proof that hard working Lebanese will always shine everywhere.