ZOOM IN: SILA, Digitizing The Educational System

Posted on November 2, 2021

Our solution was a response to the pandemic, and we are anticipating the new equilibrium in the post-covid educational system.”

What They Do:  

Sila is an online platform that gives shy students a comfortable means of participating by allowing them to send their comments to the application, which then posts it to the class’s projected presentation. Students can create anonymous discussions for the whole class to see, all while building their courage to speak up. The platform is combining the findings of online learning into the physical classroom for inclusivity for all students.

Startup Experience:

“Our solution was a response to the pandemic, and we are anticipating the new equilibrium in the post-covid educational system. Unfortunately, the pandemic had to occur for innovation to be accepted in the rigid educational industry. My vision is to digitize every core aspect of education, with the ultimate goal of an immersive experience for the students. We are a long way from such a breakthrough, and our current tool is a stepping stone into making this impact.

As a team, we developed a fully functional platform for online exams and had it tested at the American University of Beirut and the University of Vic in Spain. A year later, we had a major pivot and finalized the new solution in 2 weeks. We have not reached any external success indicators as we are still pivoting our solutions, but our success factor is the team’s ability to implement a solution based on the user’s needs. We are very agile, and we respond quickly to new information.

Our market is currently educational institutions such as schools and universities. For a healthy product development cycle, we need to build it in collaboration with teachers, for maximum user input. However, with the crisis affecting these institutions, such feedback was not readily accessible in Lebanon. Innovation is not a priority when basic needs such as electricity and internet are rationed to the teachers and students. Hence, we had to search outside to find our testers.

The financial crisis on the other hand caused many funding problems, which led to the loss of talent and the inability to hire new talent. The Beirut Blast did not affect our team members since we all work from home. Since our only problems were about funding, I had to work with university students instead of full-time developers. The low wages were compensated by few working hours and less professional development pipelines. It was enough to prototype and test, but we were always behind schedule from deadlines. Eventually, to overcome such problems, I learned development myself so I can put in the needed hours for every task. Also, I am deeply focused on reaching product-market fit and consequently finding investors, instead of wasting time on secondary tasks.

At the end of the e-softlanding, we are looking to reach product-market fit. We will most definitely pivot many times with every new piece of information. The educational market is a tricky business since the business model is not as profitable as other industries. However, we hope that this mission will help us to reach the right conclusions for our startup.”

The SILA startup is part of the Innovation Factory program allowing researchers and novel entrepreneurs in Lebanon to develop their innovation in any technology-based sector into commercially viable products and applications. The program, based on technology transfer, gives participants international exposure with access to local and global markets, B2B networks, and a pool of seasoned experts, mentors, and investors. 

It is funded by the European Union under THE NEXT SOCIETY project and is organized in Lebanon by Berytech and ANIMA, and in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia by THE NEXT SOCIETY national partners under the Tech Booster program.