Startup

Saudi-Kuwaiti Baims Acquires Orcas To Create Regional Edtech

In an exclusive interview with Inc. Arabia, the CEOs of Baims and Orcas talk about the potential for edtech in MENA and what the acquisition means for Baims.

By Inc.Arabia Staff
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Saudi-Kuwaiti educational technology (edtech) company Baims, has acquired Egypt-based one-to-one tutoring edtech Orcas in a 100% acquisition deal, the two companies announced in an emailed press release. 

Baims, which caters to high school and university students in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Jordan, offers online recorded courses. Orcas, which has traditionally focused on one-to-one tutoring services for elementary and middle school students, operates primarily in Egypt and the UAE. The consolidation will see Baims operate across six countries (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, and the UAE), offering pre-recorded and live content as well as one-to-one tutoring services for K12 and higher education.

“We want to be a one-stop shop solution for K12 and university students in MENA. We believe that the future of learning is personalized and that we should be able to offer most services to students,” Yousef AlHusaini, CEO of Baims, tells Inc. Arabia. “Our vision is to create a 360° overview for the student journey--to be a study companion offering academic content tailored to schools and universities.”

2024 will see the newly consolidated Baims solidify its foothold in Saudi Arabia, launch an AI-driven test prep product, integrate one-to-one tutoring services in its offerings, and expand to more universities in Saudi.

As part of the acquisition, Orcas co-founders Hossam Taher and Amia El Gharib will join Baims as Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Operations Officer, respectively. Orcas Chief Marketing Officer, Shams Adly, and Mohammed Khalaf, Orcas Technology Officer, will also join the team.

“We’ve always wanted to create a one-to-one tutoring service, and Orcas has the best product and the best team. There is great synergy between Baims and Orcas. We are building an international company that serves multiple countries,” says Alhusaini.

“Orcas and Baims share the same vision. We both believe that students have different learning styles and there’s a broad spectrum of learners. So if you want to make an impact and dominate edtech, you have to intelligently integrate different learning techniques so they can complete each other,” Hossam Taher, co-founder and CEO of Orcas, tells Inc. Arabia. He adds that the product and segment synergy between the two companies will allow the newly consolidated Baims to target every segment of learners, from kindergarteners and high school students to university students and lifelong learners.

“I quote Yousef when I say that it’s time to create a big edtech in MENA and from MENA,” says Taher.

Banking on Edtech

MENA’s education sector is worth an estimated $100 billion. And despite the potential, edtechs have raised less than $150 million across the region over the past 15 years. Baims is eyeing a position as the region’s edtech leader with its newly-consolidated company, which will expand its reach both across the region and through a diversified product portfolio.

“There is a huge opportunity in edtech in MENA in the next 10-20 years,” says Alhusaini, comparing the region’s budding startups with Chinese edtech giants like Yuanfudao and India’s Physics Wallah.

Orcas and Baims have raised a total of $11 million between them from Algebra Ventures, Access Bridge Ventures, NFX Ventures, AlWazzan Educational Group, Rasameel Investment Company, Seedstars International Ventures, and AK Holding.

“There is a lot of innovation happening in this sector today, but compared to all other regions, MENA is way behind,” says Alhusaini. Additionally, the nature of the industry, which requires hyper-local, tailored content, gives local players an advantage over international ones, he tells us, making it ideal for insiders to create strategic partnerships that can allow them to benefit from each other’s learnings and gain access to new markets.

Taher adds that the size of the opportunity in MENA is largely owing to its fast-growing, young population, its high rate of internet and mobile penetration, and its rate of adoption of online and hybrid education.

But it is not just students that are benefiting from the growth of edtech. Instructors are building digital assets that they are selling to edtechs, allowing underpaid teachers across the Arab world to supplement their incomes. “Online tutoring gives teachers the highest return on investment per hour and allows them to diversify their income sources. This is life-changing for many instructors,” Alhusaini says.

The Future of Education is Personal

Both Orcas and Baims have been experimenting with AI tools to assist students and teachers, as well as to create more effective learning plans. Orcas’ AI teaching assistant helps tutors create lesson plans and tests, while Baims currently has an AI tutor that helps students solve questions. This year, Baims will launch a test prep project in Saudi that creates a tailored learning experience based on students’ test experience.

Alhusaini tells us that technologies like knowledge tracing--an intelligent tutoring system that models learners' acquisition of knowledge to provide personalized learning experiences--will completely revolutionize education. The future, he tells us, is personalized learning experiences for students. This will allow companies like Baims to create AI tutors--though he’s clear that we are far from there yet.

Taher tells us that the future of education will not be focused exclusively on academics, stressing that upskilling will be one of Baims' main focuses moving forward. Just as adaptive AI and personalized learning will benefit students at school and university, it will give lifelong learners an integrated and personalized learning experience that will allow them to reach their professional goals more effectively.

“One of the biggest challenges in the region is employment. You have strong economies that are growing, and you have employers looking for employees and vice versa, but there is a gap between the two,” he says, noting that edtech is in a position to bridge the gap between employers and talent. “Enabling professionals to acquire the necessary skills for the job market, and allowing the job market to shape edtech curricula is highly needed across MENA,” he says.

“The innovation that is happening now is just digitization and personalization--the next phase will be much more exciting,” says Alhusaini.

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