EdTech start-up Manara raises $3m in new financing

Funding round was led by FinTech company Stripe with participation from Careem founder Mudassir Sheikha and other major investors

Iliana Montauk (left) and Laila Abudahi, founders of start-up Manara. Photo: Manara

The US-based educational technology start-up Manara, which helps engineers from the Middle East and North Africa region get jobs at top tech companies such as Google, Meta and Amazon, raised $3 million in a pre-seed funding round.

The latest round was led by FinTech company Stripe with participation from Mudassir Sheikha, founder and chief executive of ride-hailing firm Careem; LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman; Paul Graham, founder of start-up accelerator Y-Combinator; and Eric Ries, a California-based entrepreneur and the author of Lean Start-up.

“We received more appetite from investors than we could accommodate, signalling an increasing interest from Silicon Valley in platforms that facilitate online and offline communities, and solutions to access highly skilled talent from emerging markets,” said Iliana Montauk, co-founder and chief executive of Manara.

Founded last year, Manara aims to use the new funds to scale its existing cohort-based solution to go from 60 engineers per year to 6,000. It also plans to launch a self-service product for interview practice, networking and mentorship that can reach millions of software engineers, the company 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,” Ms Montauk said.

Manara is a remote company that employs people all over the world, including Dubai. Founders Ms Montauk and Laila Abudahi live in California but work remotely.

The start-up’s solution enables cohort-based learning for software engineers and computer scientists through a digital platform. On average, users’ salaries have increased 300 per cent, Manara said.

“I grew up in Palestine and realised quickly that to become a world-class engineer I needed to work on highly scaled products with experienced teams,” said Ms Abudahi, Manara's co-founder and chief technology officer.

“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.”

Nearly 86 per cent of the engineers from Manara’s last cohort received job offers within five months of graduating, with more than half of those offers coming from Faang (Facebook-parent Meta, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google) companies. It only charges its community members and hiring partners if a successful match is made.

“Europe's tech sector is growing quickly … there's a massive need for new solutions to access talent, whether remote or on-site. The Middle East and North Africa is an obvious fit because of proximity and time zones,” said Carlos Espinal, managing partner at London-based Seedcamp, one of the investors.

“We are very excited to back the first start-up bridging these two markets … and are particularly excited about the founders' commitment to women engineers.”

Updated: May 09, 2022, 4:07 PM