Hamdi Tabbaa is the Co-Founder & CEO of Abwaab, an e-learning provider aiming to help students access high-quality learning across the region.
The online platform offers short, engaging video lessons, and an assessments engine where students can learn at their own pace.
Hamdi is an inspirational and passionate leader. Under his leadership, Hamdi Tabbaa grew the business (Uber) in several multiples over 4+ years and worked with the government to pass ridesharing regulations in Jordan, the first of their kind across the region.
Learn more about Hamdi Tabba and Abwaab through our interview below. Let’s begin.
Explain the background of you and the company in detail.
Abwaab was founded in late 2019 to make high-quality learning accessible and affordable to students across the region. Our platform allows secondary school students to learn at their own pace, test themselves, compete with one another, request instant access to private tutoring, and get ahead with our expert tutors anytime and anywhere.
We are changing how students learn outside the classroom by offering concept-based video lessons, visualized learning journeys, continuous assessment, and performance-tracking features. Our platform can be accessed via desktop and mobile web. You can check us out at https://abwaab.me, Crunchbase, MAGNiTT, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & LinkedIn.
I am the Co-Founder and CEO of Abwaab, a fast-growing Edtech startup born out of the MENAP region. Abwaab substitutes after-school tutoring by providing an online ecosystem that allows students to learn, solve, play, interact and ask questions.
Previously, I was the GM at Uber for MENA in the Levant & GCC. Before that, I established Dukkan, pioneering organized retail at a neighborhood level. I sold the business 6 years in, after hitting USD 15+M in revenues. I have a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and a bachelor’s degree from King’s College London.
What are your goals?
As a person, I want to live a life that has contributed to humanity. I believe that nothing is more powerful than education to do that. Our vision statement at Abwaab is unleashing the human potential of our region. This is what the entire Abwaab team and I are here to do.
What do you feel is the biggest strength of yourself/company right now?
The team. Abwaab has been lucky to have a lineup of superstars working day and night passionately on this mission. From Graduates of Harvard, Stanford, Yale, UCL, and others, to over 10 ex-Uber teammates and a few ex-Careem folks, to a solid group of engineers and product people, and a superb team that spans across Egypt, Pakistan, Iraq, Saudi, and Jordan, working day and night tirelessly towards our mission.
What was the path you/your company took to get to where you are today?
We launched on Feb 2, 2020, 6 weeks before the pandemic hit, and the country went on full national lockdown. We collaborated with the Ministry of Education in Jordan to provide students across the country with a distance-learning platform, which supercharged our growth and operations in our first 3 months of launch.
Shortly after, we put our heads back together on building a strong product offering through a freemium direct-to-consumer model for school students to rely on a platform relieving them from the high dependence on after-school tutoring.
While working on developing our product, we capitalized on several opportunities to scale our service outside of Jordan. Starting off with Egypt, where Zizo, an ex-Uber colleague of mine who headed UberEATS operations, joined us to launch our first expansion market, building a stellar team and hyper-localizing the experience to students.
Shortly after, we acquired a Pakistan-based Edtech startup EdMatrix, founded by Raja and Onib, two other ex-colleagues of mine, where we realized we had shared values and mission, now building the fastest growing edtech in Pakistan. Following that, Ahmed, an ex-Careem colleague of my cofounder Sabri joined the team to take Abwaab to Iraq, assembling a superstar team building Abwaab in Iraq. Today, Karim, an ex-founder of a leading Egyptian media startup, is taking Abwaab to the region’s largest market, KSA.
Why did you start (or want to be the head of) this company?
After spending 6 years trying to build a “startup” in the F&B space in 2009 and failing, joining Uber in 2015 opened my eyes to what technology could achieve in terms of impact on the mobility space at the time. That day I told my wife, “I’m not going back to selling confectionery again. I want to spend my life building things that have an impact on humanity.”
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Challenges are part of the day-to-day work. I tell the team that we should be wearing the problem-solving hat every day we show up to work. If there are no challenges, you’re probably not pushing hard enough.
Throughout my career, I’ve faced different types of major challenges. When I transitioned to Uber, I started to find a buyer for my first “startup.” The buyer pulled back at the last minute. Being in the F&B space, having prepared a company to be sold, given the perishable nature of goods, was extremely difficult to recover from and find another buyer. It took me another year to find another buyer and exit, all while starting to build Uber from scratch in Jordan, being the only person on the ground over there.
Give us one word that describes you the best.
I have been continuously getting feedback from people working with me on the energy level I emit, whether it’s right now while building Abwaab, or during my time working with the team at Uber, or before.
I realized over time that having this positive energy means you are optimistic, forward-looking, hard-working, passionate, and persistent. This pushes everyone around you to deliver strong and achieve results.
What makes you excited about Mondays?
We have been consistently meeting every single Monday at 10 am with all hands on deck since the day we were founded. From the day we were a dozen people in our first office up till today, where team members dial into the call from 5 markets to share the updates of what was accomplished in the past week, the challenges we’ve faced, new innovations being made, and just bonding and aligning on our mission and vision.
What do you value most about your culture and vision?
Passion for our mission. Stop anyone in a corridor, or get on a call with any team member, and you will immediately sense the energy and enthusiasm towards what we’re all building together.
Tell us about a project that forced you to be innovative and creative.
We realized that students love solving questions. They also love to compete. Ahead of last Ramadan, our league product feature, led by my colleague Shirin, enabled students to compete live against each other, solve questions, collect points, and track their ranking on a global leaderboard. Later, students realized that they were subconsciously practicing very hard for their final exams, becoming very strong and confident with their topics at school.
What are your company’s strategies, and how do they stand unique from your competitors?
We believe in simplicity. We live in a world where choices are so wide that simplifying the offering immediately creates higher value for our students.
From the content we create in-house, to the assessment bank we’re building, to the product we’re designing, our strategy is to ensure students are handheld throughout their learning journey to receive the highest value for the time they’re investing in learning.
What are the key values which helped you to overcome the roadblocks/challenges in your career? Tell us something about your memorable incident in your leadership.
I have faced so much adversity in my career that I believe shaped the person I am today. My first “startup” was a complete challenge of its own, starting something at the age of 22 straight out of college, with limited funding, no prior experience but internships, and a very tough market to navigate. Moving to Uber, where I had to build an operation from scratch while also navigating a very tough regulatory environment involving taxi protests, threats, and government pressure, to finally build a large-scale, profitable business and work on passing ridesharing regulations.
How do you see the company changing in two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?
At Abwaab, we always say we don’t know what we don’t know. Given our fast-paced world and the continuous change, a lot can happen in 2 years. That’s basically double the life of our company right now. At the moment, we’re fully focused on delivering value to students, ensuring that we provide a reliable, high-quality learning experience that is affordable and accessible to students across the region.
Where is your leadership going? What benefits do your clients get from your company in this competitive world?
I have learned over time that the brain and the individual can significantly develop and improve with practice and experience. I’m continuously striving for personal growth to inspire and empower everyone around me. The same applies to our product offering. Our learners can expect us to be continuously developing and improving against ourselves to deliver the best experience possible.
What are your company’s services/solutions or products on par with the current industry standards? Tell us something about your upcoming products or services.
Abwaab today has four main learning value offerings; learn, solve, compete, and ask. Learning through concept-based lessons, solving assessments through a huge question bank, competing with other students on solving questions, and asking for support from tutors instantly, as in connecting live within seconds. What’s coming on Abwaab in the future is a personalized and adaptive learning experience through the power of AI & Machine learning that cater to every student’s own learning pace.
Connect with Hamdi Tabbaa on LinkedIn.
Source: Entrepreneur Desk, found here