Technology is now building bridges and connecting students to tutors in interesting ways.
By Godwin Benson
I had a personal experience in 2005 which formed the initial idea for what has now become Tuteria.
Being an A grade student, I was hired to tutor a man’s son in Math for N6,000 per month at the time. They lived about 15 mins from my house, but had been looking for a teacher for several months.
This was my first paid tutoring experience. I prepared so well, and taught his son much more than was agreed which was evident in his, almost instant, improvement in his Math assessments.
Sadly, at the end of the month, I wasn’t paid any money despite all my attempts to collect my payment.
So I thought about what I could do to ensure this didn’t repeat itself to me or any other tutor, as well as help students quickly find the very best teachers nearby to help them master the subjects, topics and skills they need help with.
That idea is what has evolved into Tuteria, which is an online platform that connects people seeking to learn any subject or skill with high-quality local tutors who can teach them what they wish to learn.
Well, before we launched, we spoke with a lot of people to try to understand what their concerns or reservations might be for using a service like ours. This helped us a lot in planning the initial version of Tuteria to incorporate some of the feedback we received.
However, after we launched, we continuously made changes to our business model, design, operational processes, etc., to reflect the way people were actually using our service.
At the early stages, I personally called every customer to reassure them that they could trust us, while responding to any questions or complaints they had. So we kept iterating based on user feedback till we progressively built a service that people loved to use.
We paid a great deal of attention to tutor competence, thorough verification and safety as well as excellent customer support which has won us a lot of trust with our thousands of customers nationwide.
Exploring New Frontiers
Tuteria as a brand has grown a lot over the years. We have received more than 50,000 requests from clients and over 45,000 tutor applications. We have also grown a lot in our understanding of the needs of the markets we serve.
We’re currently exploring new business models and target markets which I may not be able to disclose now, but in a couple of months, we will see a brand new Tuteria well posed to lead the market in Africa.
Bridging the Gap
Education technology is a burgeoning industry in Nigeria with a lot of room for immense growth and impact. Over the years, we’ve seen a proliferation of efforts to bridge the gaps inherent in our current educational system.
These gaps range from finding innovative ways to educate millions of out-of-school children; helping students make the right career choices; providing world-class education for teachers; providing educational financing services to parents, school owners, students; helping children master a topic they didn’t understand in class; teaching kids 21st century technologies like programming, robotics, AI etc., helping people practice and prepare for exams etc.
They are an infinite number of possible edtech businesses that can be created to serve these markets. So the industry is very young and growing, and we expect to see more activity in the education space in the nearest future.
And yes, I have always been a business-minded person. My first business was shoe-making where I made leather shoes by hand and sold them to my friends in 2002. I was in JSS 2.
At other times, I helped manage my mom’s and grandma’s businesses which gave me more exposure to dealing with customers, basics of bookkeeping and the science of exchanging value for money.
For Aspiring Edtech-preneurs
I don’t think anyone should start a business in education with the aim of making it as prominent as other industries. Each industry has its time and season, especially in Nigeria where we’re still in the early stages of internet-technology driven businesses.
First we saw a wave of Ecommerce and logistics, with the likes of Jumia and Konga, and now we’re seeing increased interest in payments and financial services. Following strongly is Agric-tech, health-tech and edtech.
However, these will take time as each industry is unique. So entrepreneurs looking to start a business in education should obsessively focus on meeting the needs of their customers and providing superior support without compromising on quality and user experience.
With time, we’ll also see more interest in edtech businesses.
How It Began
Both co-founders funded Tuteria from our personal savings initially. I previously worked at Deloitte and had saved most of my salary which we used to cover most of the initial setup costs like internet, fueling, hosting, marketing etc.
We also endeavoured to keep our expenses as low as possible. Neither of us took a salary until Tuteria started getting revenue. That’s also when we hired our first staff.
Also, we’re fortunate to have received a number of grants from supporting organisations including Facebook, Tony Elumelu Foundation, MIT, Harvard Africa Business Club and the Royal Academy of Engineering.
These grants helped us make tremendous progress as a company. However, our greatest source of funding has come from our thousands of customers who use our service every single day.
Growing Organically Versus Getting External Funding
I personally prefer to have achieved some measure of organic, increasing and repeatable growth before seeking out VC funding, especially in a place like Africa.
However, different businesses require different levels of funding. Each entrepreneur would have to assess the level of capital required for the business to start off and take off, and what sort of funding would be best – loans, equity investment, friends and families, VC funds. Etc.
Also, beyond the funds that VCs (or investors generally) bring into the business, often times they might be able to offer other invaluable, non-financial support that can help drive the success of the business in terms of access to market, industry expertise, navigating regulatory bottlenecks, distribution etc.
Godwin Benson is the founder of Tuteria, Nigeria’s foremost online platform that connects learners with competent teachers in any skill or subject nationwide. He is the first Nigerian to win the prestigious Africa Prize by the Royal Academy of Engineering, UK as well as Facebook’s Internet.org Innovation Challenge for his impact in Education in Africa. He has been featured on BBC, Forbes, FastCompany, Aljazeera, CCTV and other media platforms