Manal Hakim

How Geek Express is Shaping the Future of Arab Youth?

An Entrepreneur Life Published on 14 Dec 2020

Meet Manal Hakim, the CEO of Geek Express, an Ed-tech platform enabling kids and teens with the skills needed in today's world. Geek Express offers coding and STEM academic lessons for kids and teenagers across the MENA region and is taking fast strides in moving steps closer to their dream vision. Other than spearheading the business, she is also a doting mum of two, who wants to make future change-makers more logical and creative.

The Brand Tribe team congratulates Geek Express on becoming Microsoft's global training partner in MENA and wishes the team all the luck to bring their vision into a reality.

Let's hear from Manal Hakim her story, all about her journey, challenges, and conflicts in creating Geek Express.

The birth of the Idea of Geek Express

Manal is a doting mother of two with a background in entrepreneurship and investment banking.

I always knew that my kids need to acquire 21st-century technology skills.

With this thought, she started searching for a platform with the right content that engages with children and also meets their learning preferences. Somehow, 3 years back, there was no such platform in terms of content & approach

According to studies, learning coding at an early age increases logical thinking and cognitive skills amongst kids by 40% and coming years will witness high job opportunities for coders.

This is how Geek Express was launched. A platform that teaches but doesn't feel like school.

The idea originated for Manal's kids and Arab youths in general so that they become expert problem solvers, logical and creative people.

 

Geek Express CEO

Foundation -

In 2017, Manal Hakim was the managing partner for a pop-art art gallery in Beirut i.e. Greek Express with a collection of limited-edition figurines, rare comics, and vintage electronics. That time, they got an opportunity to offer littleBits an electronic lego-like STEM toy.

The parents seemed to be interested but lacked the confidence to teach the usage to kids. Therefore, Geek Express was made into a full-fledged Ed-tech startup. She also met Rayan Najdi with similar passion and they together launched a platform that offers fun, engaging tech courses for children and teens

The idea was to democratize technology and introduce everyone to coding without prejudice.

What does Democratized technology mean to customers?

The first meeting between a new parent or student and Greek Express starts with the following question

  • Do parents/students use apps and how easily one can create them on their own
  • They usually say yes when it comes to the usage of apps and super hard when it comes to creating one on their own.
  • So, we assure them that "An app can be created in just 20 minutes"

This is democratized technology for customers.

It enables Arab youths to become active creators of technology instead of passive consumers through an accessible and engaging journey.

Stem Hub for Tomorrow Leaders 

Challenges, Learning & Inspiration

Many challenges come in life. Manal Hakim also has some moments of self-scrutiny. The startup growing phase is quite bustling, filled with lots of ups and downs, on a daily basis. In the beginning, the emotional roller coaster is tiring, and the idea of giving up is continuously on the mind.

But as she says - "Life itself has been my key inspiration"

She faced the challenges, accepted the difficult situations, conflicts, accomplishments, and kept growing.

Eventually, the excitement of the journey prevailed and it kept her going, riding smoothly the waves and moving forward and upward on the larger graph.

The realization afterward that things are always possible, not in that utopic scenario you have in mind when you are a child.

She feels that there are limitless possibilities to grow, be happy, succeed if one is willing to have an open mind, learn, and persevere.

For Manal, inspiration can come from any open sources like -

  • Stories of ordinary people
  • Documentary on Netflix
  • A book or inspiring masterclass
  • The team's energy and dedication
  • A cancer survivor who reinvented her life at 60
  • A friend banker turned artist

In her own words - "Geek is someone who is passionate about a specific thing! "

Over the years, she learned that today's world needs more and more geeks. People who have a specific passion, who take on big problems and create inventions to solve them and one who wants to stay ahead and change the world.

Women Entrepreneur

Secrets to Productivity & Team management

I'm a strong believer in the saying "less is more"

Manal likes to stick with basics like a calendar for the outside meetings, email for the regular communication, and Trello to follow-up with my team.

All she loves to follow is a specific project management framework like Kanban at Geek Express. She doesn't like investing much in productivity tools. She loves working with the team.

She makes sure of her availability, friendly communication, and providing utmost growth to the entire team. She is keen on assigning them projects they are passionate about when possible.

I appreciate each for the set of skills they have and the specificity of their characters.

She is a strong believer that her team is more knowledgeable than her and they can always advise and support the company efficiently. Therefore, Geek Express offers special courses and mentorship programs for the team at their will.

She feels that the success of an organization comes from the well-defined structure, defined roles, growth, and expectations from the team members.

Entrepreneurship program and Future plans

As part of their mission in enabling students with the skills needed for the future, Manal believes that the future job-market can no longer sustain an employee mentality; but has a growing need for entrepreneurs.

Therefore she and her team aimed to develop an "Entrepreneurship program for Teens" and create unique incubators and maybe accelerators for high-schoolers building the next generation of Arab entrepreneurs.

For the Future, the Geek Express platform is ready to scale up. Marketing efforts will be doubled up with high outreach across key markets in MENA.

Content up-gradation, strategic partnerships & collaboration is also on the to-do list.

Because, post covid, Ed-tech disruption of the traditional educational system in K-12 and universities will only accelerate.

AI-based platforms offering personalized education, computer science adoption, and VR/AR classroom usage will be amongst the popular trends in 2021

"2021 is an exciting year for us as we tap into new markets, and reach thousands of Arab youth with exciting new programs and technologies."

All this will get Geek Express a step-closer to the vision of building an interconnected community of skilled Arab youth.



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