What was it:
Emtyazdr.com was a website for Egyptian medical school students from Ain Shams University to practice exam style questions online. Users would pay a monthly fee for access to the question bank. "Emtyaz" is an arabic word meaning excellent, so "Emtyaz Dr" literally means "excellent doctor." You can test out some practice questions here.
Why I built it:
Not much is digital here in Egypt. Medical students walk around our campus carrying physical textbooks and their notes are hand written on physical pieces of paper. Before exams, students sit outside exam halls ruthlessly flicking through huge ring binders of sketches, diagrams, notes and mock exam questions.
Emtyaz Dr aimed to digitse the learning process for medical students specifically in my univeristy. They would be able to practice exam-style questions (in the form of MCQs) from a website on their phone, laptop or computer. No need to carry books or sheets of paper, study right from your phone or computer.
From August 2020 to April 2021 Emtyaz Dr did $441 in revenue although I'm pretty sure I made a loss on the project after paying website hosting and plugins. We managed, at best, a handful of paying customers per month. I would always see a spike in users upon uploading free exam questions to the site. I would time these such that they were released right before an upcoming exam.
How I built it:
I built the site with very little code, it was all powered by Wordpress and the Learndash plugin (a learning management system plugin for Wordpress websites).
Why it failed:
It's always difficult to know exactly why but there definately are things I could have done differently. For starters, I found it difficult running this thing whilst also passing med school at the same time. Marketing, squashing bugs, speaking to users, adding more questions to the site. It took much more time than I expected. When users were growing my grades were falling. When I decided to fix my grades, the site growth stagnated. I wasn't going to drop out to build this.
I did the whole thing alone. Perhaps having someone else alongside would have reduced my workload. Finding someone I trusted who was also equally motivated about the project was difficult, especially considering at the time I could hardly speak any Arabic at the time.
I priced it at $13 per month. This works out to be 321 EGP per month, which is extortionate. Netflix in Egypt is 120 EGP a month. I priced at a premium because I didn't want to deal with too much inbound from users. I wanted to target certain students who could afford this premium but who were a much higher quality of customer. I did this despite knowing I was leaving a huge amount on the table, for context there are over 1000 medical students in each year. I targetted the most affluent who represent around 20% of each year.
In hindsight lowering the price would have definately improved growth, on the odd occassion that I released small samples of free questions, the site traffic skyrocketed. Clearly there was demand for this thing, I priced too many potential customers out of it.
Payments were processed by Stripe in USD, I couldn't figure out a way to accept Egyptian credit cards despite a lot of research. Incoperating Emtyaz Dr as an Egyptian business would have helped, but even then the payment rails and developer documentation was skanty at best. I could have collected monthly payments in Egyptian pounds via cash, although this would have been another headache to deal with. So I was limited to students who had non-Egyptian credit cards.
What it could have been:
In some ways, the timing was perfect. I launched the site during COVID just when my university announced that lectures were moving online (sheer coincidence). I thought I had hit the jackpot. Everyone was going to start studying online, and emtyazdr.com was positioned perfectly to capitalise on this. Egypt also announced nationwide quarantine, so students would effectively be trapped at home without access to bookshops beyond a certain time. If you couldn't go out and buy MCQ books, surely it just made sense to do them online.
Why I stopped:
I worked on the project during the evenings or weekends because university and studying took priority. Anytime I just wanted to chill after studying I felt incredibly guilty that I wasn't working on the project. That guilt continued to grow until it became a chronic anxiety. Any moment of "free time" was accompanied by this fear that something needed to be to grow the website. Eventually I got tired of this and called it quits. I was massively relieved after taking the decision to drop the project. For the first time in a long time, I felt my shoulders dropping back and down rather than being hunched forward and tight. It was like immediate relief.