Ibrahim Ezzedine, Basel Jalaleddine, Cherpa, Lebanon, startup, robotics
Ibrahim Ezzedine (left) and Basel Jalaleddine (right) Source: Facebook/Blackbox.vc

When Ibrahim Ezzeddine and Basel Jalaleddine met, they had no idea that a friendship based on mutual love for robotics will open so many doors for them. 

They shared the same university dorm room, subsequently turned it into a "lab", and it was only a matter of time before they founded the first Robotics Club on campus.

With more effort and perseverance, their teamwork led their startup - Cherpa - all the way to California’s Silicon Valley.

So, how did that happen?  

Co-founder Basel Jalaleddine laid it out in this interview with StepFeed.

cherpa logo

What is "Cherpa"?

The startup is an online platform created to help youth learn and engage more with the field of robotics. Its "interactive and gamified" flair transforms this experience into an easier, more interesting one for kids. 

Derived and influenced by the term Sherpa - also Sherwa, shar (east) and wa (people,) inhabitants of the northeastern parts of Nepal - the name was conceived.

"Sherpa is the guide who helps mountaineers reach the top of the Himalaya mountains. Cherpa, on the other hand, goals to help students reach the peak in the field of robotics," Jalaleddine explained.

How did you meet Ezzedine?

"My co-founder Ibrahim Ezzeddine and I were dorm roommates at the Lebanese American University. 

We both had a passion for robotics and we even transformed our dorm room into a "lab" with equipment and tools, and we started building some cool stuff just for fun. One of which was PAT," he told StepFeed.

LAU Robotics Club
Pictured: Founders of Cherpa at LAU Robotics Club Source: Facebook/LAURoboticsClub

How did you come up with the idea and how did things go from there?

After initially co-founding LAU Robotics Club, the two then-students began their mentoring path by giving workshops and organizing competitions in this field for high school and university students. 

Later on, they teamed up for their final year project, creating a hardware tool design used for teaching robotics to their main target audience.

"We submitted our project to the MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab and we were amongst the 78 out of 8,700 applicants who made it to the semifinals," Jalaleddine continues.

Cherpa at SV, Silicon Valley, Lebanon, USA, California, robotics, Ibrahim Ezzedine, Basel Jalaleddine
Cherpa at Silicon Valey Source: Facebook/Basel.Jalaleddine

"After that, we enrolled in SPEED@BDD Lebanon, a Beirut-based startup accelerator and Cherpa received funding of 30k dollars. We then won 50k dollars in the SEED BOOST competition organized by SPEED@BDD as an investment in our project," he said.

The door to Silicon Valley was open by Blackbox.vc when they selected Cherpa's founders to join a two-week acceleration program in the well-acclaimed, high-tech hub in California. 

"Finally, our latest accomplishment is winning another funding award worth 15k dollars in the Best Youth Startup in GITEX Technology week exhibition in Dubai," he added. 

They are currently a team of six people operating in Beirut.

Winners Cherpa, Speed@BDD, Ibrahim Ezzedine, Basel Jalaleddine, robotics
Cherpa winning at SPEED@BDD Source: Facebook/Basel.Jalaleddine

How challenging is it in Lebanon to be a young startup in a field that few understand?

"The Lebanese society has been positively developing in the past couple of years, which has paved the way for us and other startups. However, it is always challenging to find the right talent with the proper skills and the right cultural fit. 

Access to money remains a hurdle for all startups. Although Cherpa tackles a specific subject, there are always mentors and field experts in Lebanon who share with us their insights and expertise," Jalaleddine explained.

Where do you see your company in the next five years and what do you hope it’ll achieve?

"We see Cherpa in every school for an interesting and beneficial robotics class. We also see self-learners relying on Cherpa to help them understand the basics of robotics in an organised way. 

With Cherpa we aim to make robotics accessible and easy for everyone. Robotics is becoming an essential part of most fields (medicine, agriculture, automation, etc.), and schools are starting to realize the importance of teaching it, maybe as an afternoon activity or even as an embedded course in the curriculum," he added. 

Videos for more info:

For more information, check out the following videos:

LBCI interview

Cherpa: Inventor is everyone!