Five years after its launch, PraxiLabs, an online platform that allows university students to conduct virtual laboratory experiments, the Egyptian startup is expanding internationally and making its services cheaper for students of partner universities.
The platform offers its online lab services through a subscription after a one-month free trial and is now offering a 70 percent reduction for students of universities with which the company has a partnership agreement.
Khadija El-Bedweihy, the company’s chief executive officer, and her sisters Safiya and Alaa El-Bedweihy co-founded PraxiLabs.
Safiya El-Bedweihy, the platform’s chief security officer, told Al-Fanar Media that PraxiLabs allows students to use 3D laboratories that simulate real-life experiments conducted in chemistry, physics, and biology labs.
This means it is not necessary for universities to buy expensive, hard-to-obtain lab equipment for large numbers of students, she said. It also makes STEM education more accessible and more affordable for more students.
Safiya El-Bedweihy graduated from Ain Shams University’s Faculty of Engineering before getting a master’s degree in marketing from the London Business School. She says she wanted to share her knowledge with as many university students as possible, a desire she shared with her sister Khadija, who holds a Ph.D. in computer science from Britain’s University of Sheffield. Hence, they devised a platform that allows students to conduct virtual lab experiments online.
Putting More Experiments Online
PraxiLabs’ platform provides students with a virtual microscope that simulates a real lab experience, saving them the cost of buying an actual microscope. It also gives educational institutions and students many virtual, constantly updated, experiments. The chemistry section includes experiments in general, analytical, and organic chemistry, El-Bedweihy said.
“The website enables students to conduct 125 experiments. In our expansion plans, we hope to increase that by one hundred annually.”
With headquarters in the Netherlands, PraxiLabs has one million subscribers around the world, most of whom are in Egypt. It also serves customers in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Norway, the United Kingdom, and other countries.
Khadija El-Bedweihy, who won the top prize in the 2021 Africa’s Business Heroes competition, told Al-Fanar Media that Ain Shams University is PraxiLabs’ largest partner in Egypt. The company has also recently signed partnership agreements with Galala University, in Suez, and the American University in Cairo, she added.
Khadija El-Bedweihy said the company also has an arrangement with the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Education to provide its services to all the country’s universities, as well as similar partnerships in Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom. It plans to continue expanding around the world, she added.
Khadija El-Bedweihy said she and her sisters, along with Essam El-Saadi, the company’s chief operating officer, originally funded PraxiLabs themselves. Later, they received start-up funding from a business accelerator in Norway.
“We are not currently looking for funding like startups,” she said. “We are working on expanding the platform, building a list of clients, so we can find the required investment, which will eventually come to us.”
The platform now has a branch in the United States and is trying to enter the American market, she said. It is also trying to increase its $1 million budget after expanding the website’s database.
The company’s virtual science labs “complete the educational system,” Khadija El-Bedweihy said. “Our goal is not to replace real laboratories but to help students benefit from virtual labs.” El-Bedweihy said
The El-Bedweihys are proud that their platform was one of three startups chosen as a winner of “Next Billion” EdTech Prize, given by the Varkey Foundation. The prize was announced at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai in 2019.
Khadija El-Bedweihy said PraxiLabs was in constant communication with educational institutions and science teaching experts to keep abreast of the latest developments in laboratory experiments.
The platform is not trying to make a big profit but needs to charge nominal subscription fees, she said. Those who want full access to all simulations provided pay $75 a year. A one-semester subscription is $45. There is also a free, 30-day plan with access to a limited number of exeriments. More information about subscription plans is available here.
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