With a mobile phone and internet connection, you can get a nanny and child tutor for your child from Orcas, Cairo-based online hub for babysitters and tutors. The six-year-old startup has just raised $500,000 in an effort led by Egypt’s largest venture capitalist, Algebra Ventures and educational tech fund NFX ventures.
Hossam Taher, Amira El Gharib, Omar Fayez and Ahmed Ismail co-founded Orcas in 2013. It went by a different name, CairoSitters, and they operated less effectively, distributing booklets among a few customer-base. It then opened a Facebook page, which became its sole and main source of attracting clients before it launched its mobile apps in 2017.
Orcas’ Chief Growth Officer, Amira El Gharib said, “Our students, parents, and partners are our primary focus. We will use this investment to develop our product offering and scale our operational capacity with the end goal of optimizing user experience for all our stakeholders.”
To that end, Orcas will launch Discoveries, a new category that will allow children to learn an array of non-academic lessons. Amira said the feature was designed with summer holidays in mind, where kids can explore cooking, coding, art, culture and languages. This almost perfectly mirrors the Tokkastu system currently in wide deployment across Egypt. In this way, Orcas users will be ready-made for the Tokkastu system, and vice versa.
This is a viewpoint echoed in a statement by NFX Capital, one of Orcas’ new backers. “Orcas and other tech-enabled tutoring platforms are delivering today on what academic research promised more than 20 years ago. Students who are tutored one-to-one perform significantly better than students who learn via conventional methods. This used to be a luxury very few people could afford but now through tech-enabled platforms like Orcas a much wider group of students can reap the personalized tutoring benefits.”
Hassan Toher, a co-founder, told egyptianstreets.com that they banded together to start the company after identifying a need in the childcare ecosystem. “We identified a gap in quality in the industry of childcare and education. Parents who needed babysitters or tutors could not find high-quality help they can trust. So we wanted to fill this gap by offering students who are educated, background-checked and trained to work part-time as tutors and/or babysitters.”
As of 2016, Orcas tutors and babysitters earn on average 2000 EGP per month, making it attractive to young undergraduates and people between jobs, with many of them between the ages of 17 and 28. According to Toher, Orcas’s clientele usually have kids between 0-14 years and earn above 180k EGP. That was in 2016.
On Orcas, users and have their own application. The app helps users find the “help” they need, tutor or nanny. Then they make a job offer and wait for it to be accepted. Then home interviews are scheduled as well as the selection of session days. Users (parents) can monitor the progress of sessions by using the Job Diary feature. Partners (babysitters/tutors) manage their own offers and sessions. They also control their money, which they can redeem through cash delivery or have it banked.
According to Toher, Orcas derives from the whale so named, and the idea has a tripod of meanings; motherhood, mentorship, and reach. Here’s how it is explained: “Motherhood describes the family setting the orcas live in and the protective and loving relationship between a mother and her calf. Mentorship depicts the transfer of skill. Lastly, reach represents Orcas’s ability “to search and find the best matches for users and the best jobs for partners.”
Although the government has tried to shut down private study centres, citing burden on families’ incomes, Orcas says it has up to 20,000 students registered. According to weetracker, eleven million students receive private lessons annually in Egypt, with families spending a reported $2 billion. With this funding secured, Orcas might be fishing in very deep and blue water.
By Caleb Ajinomoh