Manara, a Middle East and North Africa (MENA) focused EdTech startup, has raised $3 million in pre-seed funding round to grow the tech talent pool in the MENA region.
The round was led by payment giant Stripe, with participation from Reid Hoffman (Founder of LinkedIn), Paul Graham (Founder of Y Combinator), Eric Ries (Founder of Lean Startup), and Mudassir Sheikha (Founder & CEO of Careem).
Founded by Iliana Montauk and Laila Abudahi in 2021, Manara is on a mission to unlock the human potential of the Middle East and North Africa. It runs a cohort-based training program for computer science students and software engineers, via a digital platform, and connects them to big tech companies such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon. The platform brings together a community of world-class tech professionals who provide mentorship and networks to help MENA engineers land top tech jobs.
Manara projects itself as a social impact EdTech startup offering training to anyone that qualifies for the program. While its students do not pay any tuition fee for the program, they are required to commit 10% of their salary in their first two years of employment to the company.
Relating the need for a platform like Manara with her experience, Laila Abudahi, Co-founder & CTO of Manara, said,
"I grew up in Palestine and realized quickly that to become a world-class engineer I needed to work on highly scaled products with experienced teams. After I reached my dream through lots of trial and error, I wanted to make it easier for people back home to do the same. Ultimately, these engineers will become the CTOs and senior developers that the region needs in order to accelerate the growing success of its own tech ecosystem."
The startup claims 86% of its trained engineers receive job offers within five months of graduating, and those who already have a job get up to a 300% pay hike after the training.
Commenting on the investment it received and the high caliber of investors that it has attracted, Iliana Montauk, Co-founder & CEO of Manara, said,
"Communities can be extremely powerful if you are smart about how to curate and connect them - the trick is knowing when one hour of a Google engineer’s time has the highest leverage. We received more appetite from investors than we could accommodate, signaling an increasing interest from Silicon Valley in platforms that facilitate online and offline communities, and solutions to access highly-skilled talent from emerging markets."
With the new funding, Manara plans to scale its existing cohort-based solution to go from 60 engineers per year to 6,000 engineers per year. The company also plans to launch a self-service product for interview practice, networking, and mentorship, targeting software engineers from across the globe.
Carlos Espinal, the Managing Partner at Seedcamp, said,
"Europe's tech sector is growing quickly. There's a massive need for new solutions to access talent, whether remote or onsite. The Middle East and North Africa is an obvious fit because of proximity and time zones. We're very excited to back the first startup bridging these two markets – and are particularly excited about the founders' commitment to women engineers."