“At Agora, what we really focus on is the social impact and this is why we started all of this,” says Dima Sorri, CEO and co-founder of Explore Agora. “Along the way comes growing the company and achieving our financial goals but it is the social impact from the beginning to the end.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic quickly redefined the way that we learn, schools and parents have been forced to assess what education looks like for children outside four walls.
Explore Agora, one of the startups in Cycle 3 of Womentum by Womena and Standard Chartered’s Women in Tech, is well ahead with their educational mobile app that provides children with interactive learning experiences. They do this by making education relevant through everyday objects and experiences.
While working in a school as a teacher, Dima and a couple of her colleagues discussed how education stops outside of the classroom – once children leave that environment, there is an untapped opportunity to create learning experiences..
In December 2017, unintentionally embarking on an entrepreneurial journey, they entered the ideation phase with an aim to empower children in underserved communities. In early 2018, they realized that in order to democratize education, they would have to go digital.
“Giving an app that technically doesn’t cost $1 to a child that is in a remote village or a refugee school will actually help change that child’s life,” says Dima.
According to DataReportal, there were 92.71 million mobile connections in Egypt in January 2020, reaffirming the potential created by high mobile penetration rates in developing economies.
Currently, many Ed-tech companies and programs cater to schools or parents, but there aren’t many that directly serve the children’s needs. “Initially, we said we want to make children happy while they’re learning. We realized that this is not something that you can use in order to build a business. Investors would not buy into that. Schools would not buy into that. Even parents would not buy into that.”
Within communities in the region, the notion that education is a gateway into a good career is more prevalent than the idea of children enjoying education and learning in ways that are more experiential. Due to this, Explore Agora had to rephrase the language they were using to sell and shape their product.
They were also hitting a wall when selling to investors, as most investors were not too keen on Ed-Tech companies, believing that education was a responsibility of the governments and schools.
Despite these challenges, the world has recently seen the need for innovative Ed-Tech, putting Explore Agora in a place of opportunity. “We don’t know when schools will become digital or virtual and this is why we need to invest in creating tools that can help children learn anywhere, anytime without compromising the quality,” she says.
The Explore Agora app uses machine learning to feed the application the information needed to identify objects in a child’s environment. The dynamic layer of the app is supported by augmented reality “For example, if you have a table in front of you, we want to put a dancer on that table and you can see the dancer and the table as well.”
They plan on using artificial intelligence to personalize the app to each child as they acquire more user data to better train the algorithm.
In the coming year, they are shaping their B2B product to fit the needs of schools, while still building something that children enjoy using. Explore Agora hopes to become one of the essential apps that are pre-installed on new devices across the region.
“I believe that having Agora installed on every device is a success metric for us,” says Dima. “Having it installed on devices being sent and distributed to refugee schools, to underserved, underprivileged schools will give children a chance to learn in a better way so that later on it helps them create a better future, helps them learn better, helps them generally do better in society.”