Temari Bet - Spark And Nurture Curiosity


Loline had an insightful discussion with Habtamu Assefa, founder of Temari Bet. He shared with us his entrepreneurial journey of unpuzzling the dysfunctional education system.

If you spend an hour or so with a pre-school kid, most of the conversation will be them asking endless questions. It might get to a point you feel nagged. That is just a typical three-year-old’s curious mind giving you a hard time. The urge of kids at this age to explore their environment seems uncontrollable.

Remember how we all were the same but went adrift growing up. One young man noticed as children get to school, their inquisitive nature becomes gradually suppressed. He was perplexed by the issue and started looking for ways around it. The way around it became Temari Bet.

Loline had an insightful discussion with Habtamu Assefa, founder of Temari Bet. He shared with us his entrepreneurial journey of unpuzzling the dysfunctional education system.

Facing the problem firsthand

Habtamu Assefa was born and raised in Methara, a city 187.7 km east of Addis Ababa. He joined Addis Ababa University to do his degree in Biomedical Engineering. In his freshman year, Habtamu volunteered for tutoring services. The students he tutored were so consumed by thoughts of scoring high grades. Everyone cared about exams and not comprehension. He started wondering why they didn’t show the slightest interest in what they were learning. 

Habtamu got himself up for the challenge of intriguing students with the subject thought. His effort began to flourish in about four to five months. The students he tutored began asking questions and were interested in more than exams. He considered scaling up the methods and came up with the idea of Temari Bet.

The problem narrated

"Graduating meant like a stamp that the person has quit asking questions."

Once a kid tiring the people around him with his ceaseless questions gets into school, things change. He discovers this new place he is in does not welcome many questions. The teacher becomes the inquisitor, expecting the students to reiterate what they were already told. As this happens repeatedly, the curious child stops asking and begins echoing what is said. Habtamu believed interfering at some point in this vicious cycle was necessary for a turnaround.

A young man's wrestle with a big disoriented system

When Temari Bet started to strive to change the flawed education system, the founder was just 19 and had no experience in what he was dealing with. He was just so driven by the complexity of the problem and his conviction to do something about it. He found schools to be solely exam preparation and not learning centers. After the methods he devised for tutoring became productive, he aspired to reach and benefit many. He thought a thoroughly designed e-learning platform should do just that and named his platform Temari Bet, an old Amharic way of saying School.

Habtamu had a demanding schedule and needed to skip classes to get his project running. His two commitments pulled him tight. Being in an Engineering campus, which was supposed to be where people find practical solutions to problems, only a couple of his teachers valued his innovation and entrepreneurial endeavor.

Habtamu paid great prices as a novice trying to find balance. He admits the startup hustle excited him more, though. “I was fascinated by the adventure of the uncertain,” he told us. He went around pitching the idea, searching for financial support, and structuring his Temari Bet with so little knowledge. He learned to minimize costs and know what to prioritize the hard way. Having an Entrepreneurship course in his final year, he firmly believes the market is the best teacher.

Shoving his way through to the startup space

Habtamu prepared a two-page proposal and emailed the then-director of Meriam Beza library. They were receptive to the idea and passed it through for a competition organized by Reach for Change. The idea was among the top 15 and Habtamu got a 40,000 birr grant and a six months training. That was Habtamu’s first touch point with the startup ecosystem. He came across the concept of social entrepreneurship and tried to shape his idea accordingly.

The grant was used up to hire a system developer and perform surveys. Then, the covid pandemic hit the country, and accelerator programs were nowhere in sight. It left Temari Bet with little progress and not many options forward. Habtamu, as he was always on his toes, he joined the Orbit accelerator program the first chance he got. His winning project was endowed with a 5000 USD seed fund. The program was more advanced and equipped him with the legal, branding, and marketing tools he needed to thrive.

Temari Bet now

Temari Bet aims to spark and nurture curiosity. That was what their exceptionally designed e-learning platform is for. The development of the program is delayed because of the upcoming nationwide curricular revision. But, once completed, the promises are immense.

Through surveys, though, Temari Bet found out many people wanted the usual form of exam preparation. This gave rise to their now thriving tutoring services with five staff on the team. In this department, they have acquired about 100 customers in about four months. They train qualified tutors and appropriate them with the right learners. By helping students improve their results, Temari Bet has earned trust. Families are growingly willing to let their children go through a remodeled form of learning that guarantees long-term results.

The biggest challenges

The challenges for Temari Bet were layered. Habtamu remembers deciding to quit multiple times. Defining the root problem had for long been argued over. Temari Bet was up for a system that would revitalize the curious nature of students. Many educators and parents, however, thought the issue was low exam scores. They were looking for more exam-preparation means. Temari Bet needed to find a way to build what people wanted without losing its core aspirations.

Devising a feasible business model and getting finances was arduous for Temari Bet and its, at the time, inexperienced founder. The ecosystem has multifaceted variables that determine success. Getting to know how to roll as a startup in Ethiopia was complicated as information was not readily available at government offices. Habtamu commented on the Ethiopian policy that still treats startups like established companies. The bureaucratic process burdened Temari Bet as it did many other ventures.

Entrepreneurial lessons

"Don’t start what you won’t finish."

Temari Bet has been through the ebb and flow of a startup. Patience and perseverance were the biggest lessons for the founder. Being a business leader at such a young age was no picnic and required a lot of discipline. Given the uncertainty of the ecosystem, Habtamu told us the right partnerships, where one complements the other, are essential.

The vision

Temari Bet is built on the understanding that the education system is a product of the curriculum, teachers, and examination. The team recognizes the extensive work the sector requires to make substantial advances. The projections are to reach 100,000 students through its e-learning platform.

Habtamu believes the finest, well-designed, and interactive content will help Temari Bet get to where they aspire. There is no place at Temari Bet for self-flattery and complacency over what looks like early success. There won’t be any rest until the results they labored for materialize.

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