This startup innovates education by connecting parents with expert tutors in as quickly as 30sec

Sainul Abudheen

Yodaa wants to innovate the process of vetting and finding tutors, going beyond forums and word-of-mouth

Tuition is an age-old industry. Even as the world has changed a lot, Singapore’s US$1 billion local tuition system has not seen much innovation. While there have been attempts from some startups like Koobits and Snapask to steer this sector into new territories, the most traditional form of tuition — tutelage — has received little upgrade. Today, parents still rely on agencies to broker them with tutors. And majority of parents/students turn to forums, friends and colleagues for more reliable word-of-mouth recommendations.

Worse, the advent of IoT and Virtual Reality has not brought much innovtion (barring some startups) either, and as a result, it still remains highly fragmented and hazy.

Four Singapore-based edtech entrepreneurs — three of whom are alumni of NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) Program for aspiring entrepreneurs — have decided to solve this bottleneck.

“We want to introduce certainty into the mix of tutorials — the certainty of quality, time and cost,” says Samuel Huang, Co-founder of Yodaa, a recently-launched online tutors marketplace. “In this industry, quality matters. The number of people who engage in forums and traditional word-of-mouth is testament to that. But not everyone knows a good teacher, and not everyone has someone to turn to. Our goal is to level this field,” he says.

From 15 days to just 30 seconds

Conceived in the first half of this year, Yodaa essentially lets parents and students request a tutor within 30 seconds and receive up to five profile quotes within 24 hours. Within this time, their request is sent in real-time to a set of curated tutors in the vicinity, who can choose to quote and make a personal introduction to the parents.

In contrast, it normally takes five to 15 days to get a home teacher today.

“As an educated market, we found that parents don’t want just a teacher for their child. They demand an excellent one with grades and experience attested,” Huang adds. “But accomplishing this today is extremely difficult. Forums and word-of-mouth chart no clear path, and results are not guaranteed. On the other hand, brokerages tend to focus merely on matching transactions — their model works in a way that poorer matches become a boon for their business. The higher the churn, the higher the repeat transactions and commission earned.”

Huang claims that Yodaa’s model helps parents easily gain access to tutors who are already experienced in the industry. As per this, such tutors would be organically incentivised to bring their word-of-mouth reviews online.

“We introduced a strict curation process to select teachers. We invite them based on how long they’ve been active in the industry. This makes sure only those with reviews vouched for by previous parents would make it through the final selection. By holding a line on this, all parents will finally have access to experienced and curated teachers in a way that is simple, non-intrusive, and useful,” he explained.

online tuition

Huang also said that Yodaa also eliminates the hidden costs attached to online tutoring these days. “There are the costs of hiring a broker, the cost of time, the cost of not knowing someone suitable, and even the cost of hiring the wrong person for your child. We strip away all that. For parents, it is free for ever. Plus, the duration is simply kept to 24 hours, and the risk of hiring somebody blindly is mitigated.”

The company does not have a plan to monetise the platform yet, even though it is looking at several potential revenue streams. It is looking to gain market validation before thinking of making money.

Currently, Yodaa has around 2,000 teachers who have made it through the selection process and are already part of the community.

Eyeing the middle-class with increased disposable income

For Yodaa, the real opportunity lies not in the lack of quality teaching but somewhere else, the founder added. “There is no lack of quality teaching. Rather, increased disposable income and parents’ perceived need for tuition so their children can stay ahead of their peers are all factors that continue to drive this tuition juggernaut.”

As per an estimate, Singapore’s tuition industry is valued at approximately US$1.2 billion as of 2016, almost double the US$650 million spent a decade ago, and a third of the US$820 million five years ago, according to Huang.

There are quite a few players in the online tutor space in Southeast Asia, such as Ruangguru (Indonesia). Yet, many others still rely on more archaic models like agencies and forums. “That said, the main pie we’re really targeting is word-of-mouth (which takes approximately 70 per cent of the market) by offering a much simpler and credible alternative to this incumbent,” he noted.

In Huang’s view, the edtech industry has been seeing some good traction. “Companies are getting more funding from VCs as many western companies are expanding into Singapore. Key factors include Asia’s willingness to spend on education and the continued demand for education services as this region develops,” he adds.

Although the current focus is Singapore, it is evaluating opportunities in geographies like Malaysia and South Korea, two markets that are facing similar demographic problem.

“Still, we’re razor focused on keeping this service clean and simple for now,” he signed off.

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Image Credit: paylessimages / 123RF Stock Photo

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