An education sector startup under incubation at Plan9 has raised product acceleration investment including technical and operational support from Shopistan, a company that provides products and managed services to e-commerce retailers.
The announcement was made through a press release last week.
Nearpeer, incubated under the umbrella of Ilm Ideas 2 project, offers online teaching assistance customized for courses taught at two leading private sector universities and those needed for chartered accountancy certificates.
Co-founders Ammar Ali Ayub and Shahrukh Swati said that the investment would help them expand operations to cover courses taught at other private universities as well as those offered in intermediate, O- and A-levels and material tested in entrance exams for medical and engineering colleges. Another area they would explore further with Shopistan’s assistance was use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the education sector. They said the startup was already using AI to understand students’ habits including their study hours and learning abilities. “We intend to share the findings of our research with upcoming education institutes. This will enable them in improving teaching quality and learning outcomes,” they said.
Very soon, the startup plans to provide all the university-level courses available through its portal free of charge.
Nearpeer co-founders said SKANS Institute for Chartered Accountancy was their first customer. A crash course they launched for it as a test case was bought by 200 customers, some of whom were based in Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Afghanistan.
The startup had managed to get around 3,000 users, of whom 1,200 were paying, soon after it became operational in November 2015. Now they have a user base of 6,200, of whom 2,500 pay to use their services.
The startup is offering 55 courses taught at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) and the Lahore School of Economics (LSE). They plan to add another 100 courses offered at other universities including the Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering, the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), the National University of Emerging Sciences and Technology (FAST) and the Information Technology University (ITU).
The co-founders said that during their studies at LUMS they realized that most students were not satisfied just with lectures delivered in classes and sought additional resources including assistance from seniors for exams. They said that resources available online were scattered all over the place, requiring a lot of time to sift through them before one could get to what they wanted. Nearpeer’s solution was a web-based platform for college seniors to offer teaching assistance for courses they had passed with good grades.
Expressing his support for the country’s startup ecosystem, Shopistan CEO Ali Aziz said he was part of efforts underway to build an investor’s syndicate. “This is our first investment in a startup. We aim to promote education and health through our investments,” he said. Aziz said his company’s vision was to take care of information technology-related needs of startups so they could focus their attention on the business side.
Nearpeer is among the startups shortlisted for an ATX+PAK Exchange Program under which they will attend a training program in Austin, Texas.