Our first entrepreneur of the week in our "Meet the Founder" series is Muataz Aziz, a member of our first incubator cohort who has launched an ed-tech platform in Iraq called Almadrasa!
Can you give a brief introduction about yourself?
I am Muataz Aziz, CEO, and Founder of Almadrasa (which means "school" in Arabic). I have always been interested in education, and because of conflicts I was displaced multiple times and I had to study in four different universities in four different cities and countries until I obtained my bachelor's degree.
I am an architectural engineer, software developer, and graphic designer. I started my journey with entrepreneurship in Startup Weekend Erbil 2016 when my idea won a jury prize.
What is your business idea?
Almadrasa is an educational technology company that enables students to access education remotely through an online platform. This platform provides high-quality and affordable educational courses based on the Iraqi curriculum from the Iraqi Ministry of Education that are interactive, practical and fun!
What problems are you solving?
The formal education system in Iraq is getting worse after every war and after every conflict. Until it is now one of the worst education systems in the world quantitatively and qualitatively according to international reports and indicators. Iraq needs to build about 9,000 schools to fill current needs. Overcrowded schools, inadequate infrastructure, low attendance and so many other problems lead to the inability of teachers to complete the curriculum and the inability of the students to understand the subjects relying just on the schools.
Because of these challenges, students have to pay exorbitant fees to afford private courses. From my perspective, I find a great business opportunity because of high demand. According to students, about 70% of students enroll in high-cost private courses to succeed and complete their education and get seats in universities.
On the other hand, most of the displaced have no chance of education and the poor can't pay for these courses, which deprives them of the opportunity to learn. This leads higher illiteracy and dropout rates, which casts a shadow over the entire society through the increase of drug abusers, drinkers and smokers among adolescents, which thus increases the rates of murder, crime and participation in armed groups. Education is important, but at a certain point in life, education is everything, at least as an important means of development and prosperity.
Why did you join the Five One Labs startup incubator?
I had the opportunity to meet the Five One Labs team a year ago when I was studying programming with Re:Coded. From then on, Five One Labs made every effort to provide all kinds of help and support. Even though I had a winning idea in startup weekend Erbil and I had the skills of innovation, creativity, and methodical thinking, I needed experienced professionals who could provide me with the knowledge and strategies that enable me to move between all stages of the project, (from start to market entry) and then achieve profits according to a solid methodology.
Five One Labs did this by providing me the proper training; connecting me with successful people all over the world in different fields related to my business; providing financial support to test the project; and providing follow-up support. For me, Five One Labs is one of the best business incubators, if not the best, at least that I know.
What progress have you made since you started the incubator two months ago?
I was able to make progress on the programming of the platform. I also created a marketing strategy and established the marketing streams to reach the targeted people. I got the electronic payment methods and the recorded lessons of the first subject. I also went to schools to conduct research about the problems that students suffered, and later I went to test the prototype with the targeted students and got the feedback. I developed my presentations and I was able to achieve a quantum leap in my pitch performance.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to start business or project?
Whoever wants to start a business is brave and has a certain gene that makes him/her one of the few in the world. The rapid and unstudied start ends with rapid failure, so you should do research on all aspects of your project, ask specialists, develop a plan and strategy for your business, join a business incubator if possible, or enroll in online courses to gain the knowledge that able you to build your decisions based on concrete facts.
You need to work a lot, be patient, think efficiently, be flexible in change and firm in making decisions. You should know that the probability of failure is greater than success but the right steps will certainly lead to success. START TODAY and do not hesitate.