Put three geniuses from Lebanon together, and you get Augmental, a tablet application that eases the life of both students and teachers. It sets the trend for adaptive learning by detecting each student’s learning style and adapting accordingly to provide the optimal learning experience.
It all started in March 2016 during Paul Barakat Diab and Elie Nahas’s fourth year of university; both were facing difficulty in studying for their exams. It was then that they decided to work on an application which catered to students’ different learning styles and pace.
Spurred by their silent leader and instructor Elie Matta, they started doing research into AI ( artificial intelligence) and augmented reality.
Once approved, they started testing Augmental in Sagesse Ein El Remmaneh school in August 2016.
They were also selected to showcase Augmental in the 2016 BDL Accelerate competition.
Baby Steps Forward
In April 2017, they tested Augmental in Sagesse Ein El Remmaneh for a class of grade eight biology students.
The feedback received was positive, and everyone encouraged them to move forward.
This propelled them to continue their journey despite the meager financial resources they had at the time.
“Every startup faces difficulties; Augmental’s specific difficulty lay in securing funding, finding new content, and attracting new clients.” Nahas
Armed with knowledge and stamina, they applied for a a Kafalat grant and won $15000.
They later presented their research findings in Geneve at the Auptic Education conference.
It was there that they got approached by Centich and were asked to ameliorate and adapt their application for people with physical disabilities.
They further went on to win the sixth edition of the “Grow my Business” competition in November 2017, winning a total of $33,000 dollars.
Additionally, they reached the semi-finalist level in the MIT Startup Competition which was held in Oman, in April 2018 this year.
Where They are Now
Currently Augmental is in full fledge in Antonine Sisters School Roumieh School where Maths, English, French and Biology are all implemented via the app at the eighth grade level. Saint Coeur Ein Najm school has implemented it too.
Below is the testimonial of Ms. Cosette Chamata, a Biology and Chemistry teacher:
What they Aim to Achieve
“The vision is to become the leading platform in adaptive learning with a market place for adaptive learning content.” Nahas
In light of the above vision, Nahas and Barakat have sought more exposure. That’s why they have taken part in the Edex education and orientation exhibition in March this year. The Edex exhibition is an annual exhibition where students, parents, teachers, schools, and universities from around the world come together to showcase the latest career trends and related education paths.
Advice for New Entrepreneurs
According to the young co-founders, the secret to making it work lies in:
- Finding experienced trustworthy advisers, and mentors.
- Joining a reliable accelerator
- Setting proper guidelines for the startup’s values and culture.
- Making sure the business goals and milestones are aligned with the development’s goals and milestones
In their case, they were lucky enough to find strong mentors on both the development front, and the business front.
On the development front, they had Elie Matta their university instructor and co-founder, while on the business front they had Denkine M’hir, co-founder of Selfstir, and Diana Seyouri, founder of Selfstir. Barakat further commented that Lebanon lacks real accelerators, accelerators who select the startup based on the idea and not on the revenue generated.
In their case, however, they were lucky to join Smart ESA , a very reliable accelerator.
Its five months program helped them learn everything from applying to funds, to scaling the business and much more. “The thing is Smart ESA has ongoing workshops on a variety of topics from sales to team building and beyond. They also had coaches for every field from law to HR to finance. Additionally we benefited greatly from the community of startups there,” Barakat noted.
Last but not least, he added:
” As a startup, you cannot risk employing untrustworthy people in your team especially if you have a limited amount of funds. That’s why we select people we know really well. We make sure to follow the values and commitment guidelines we set in the beginning, and we always refer to our trusted board of advisers for major decisions.”
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Also published on Medium.