In a space that has players like Prepclass, Tuteria and Tutor.ng, a new startup has launched with the aim of helping people learn at great place – and it is doing this not in Lagos, but in Ibadan. This startup is NearTutors and its founding partner, Damola Anjorin, spoke to Innovation Village in the premises of one of the sprawling malls in Ibadan.
Innovation Village: What are you trying to achieve with Neartutors?
We imagine a world where anyone can be helped to learn and master any subject and our goal is to engage the best tutors of any subject or skill to facilitate that objective. The objective is is learning; it’s the primary outcome of everything we’re about. In fact, our mantra is Efficient, Quality and Affordable Learning (EQUAL) Opportunities. In other words our focus is to help people learn at a great pace, towards mastery, and not have to pay through their noses for that to happen.
Why are you focusing on learning and not something else – say ecommerce?
We believe that learning is the solution to most of the challenges in Nigeria today. We want to help fix some basic problems by facilitating effective knowledge transfer and helping people build valuable competencies and skill sets. We hope we’d be able to change some statistics like unemployment at above 50%, more than 70% of students failing WAEC and so on.
Is Neartutors a social enterprise or a business?
No, we’re not a social enterprise but we’re very aware of those social challenges in the environment and the ultimate goal of our business is to be make a positive dent in those areas.
There are already a number of players in the space you’re entering e.g. Prepclass and Tuteria, what are they doing wrong that you believe you can do right?
Interesting question. We actually don’t think they’re doing anything wrong, in fact we think they have interesting models…we just want to try something radically different that aligns with our beliefs.
What is unique about Neartutors?
Prepclass for instance tries to provide tutors in response to requests and is primarily focused in Lagos, Tuteria is going national with a model similar to that of Wyzant (the dominant player in the US) with their commission range of 15 to 35% from tutors’ earnings. At Neartutors, we don’t charge tutors. Once they make it through our screening process, they’re allowed to set their own rates and earn what they choose.
So how do you intend to make money?
We’re holding the tutors accountable to a very high standard on behalf of the students so we hope to capture some value from there.
Do you think such model is sustainable?
It has not been tried but we’re positive about it. It just might succeed enough to start attracting clones soon, maybe from Rocket Internet.
What unique user experience do you think will set you apart in the market?
On the product side, we’re currently the only one that has a system where tutors can host classes. But more importantly, the interesting thing is that this feels like building a product for one’s self too – I and my partners are learners and tutors ourselves. For instance, I’ve hired myself a basketball tutor, I teach physics and mathematics too and hopefully, I would have learnt enough to start teaching about startups soon. But overall, we will continue to put ourselves in the shoes of the user to craft out the kind of experience we’d love to have ourselves while we continue to operate from our beliefs and values.
Why did you choose Ibadan for your pivot?
I love Ibadan and I’ve been here all my life. I studied Electrical Engineering at the University of Ibadan (UI) and I worked with Procter & Gamble in Oluyole. When I finally decided to take the plunge to do this, I wasn’t convinced I had to leave Ibadan to make it happen.
What are your expansion plans?
We’re still primarily focused on Ibadan but we’re running a challenge on campuses which we started in UI but have extended to the University of Lagos (UNILAG) and Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife.
Tell us about the challenge
It’s called Campus Learning Ambassador Challenge (CLAC) and the goal is to encourage students that teach on campuses to help their colleagues learn faster and do better by organizing tutorials and extra classes on campuses. We think it’d go a long way in helping to realize our vision. We’ve set aside a grant of N75,000 for the winner of the challenge on each campus. Interested folks that are eligible can check here for more details.