Myles Hunter, the co-founder, and CEO at TutorMe tells us about online tutoring during the Covid-19 pandemic.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Myles Hunter: We’re doing well, thankfully. My family and I are healthy and staying safe. I’ve been minimizing how much I see my parents, and if I do see them, I quarantine for a period of time before that.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded TutorMe.
Myles Hunter: When my co-founders and I were undergrads at the University of Southern California, we really struggled with finding effective tutoring options. So we worked with the tutoring center on campus to develop a platform where students wouldn’t ultimately have to pay for tutoring. We felt that that would be the best way to make tutoring more equitable. That’s how it all got started, then we found an angel investor who was willing to take the journey with us, so we were able to quit all of our day jobs and commit to TutorMe full-time. In April 2019, we were acquired by Zovio, and I stayed on as CEO.
How does TutorMe innovate?
Myles Hunter: From day one, we’ve been a product-centric company. We obsess over our end users, who are students. We really want to provide the best tutoring experience possible. Our sheer obsession with trying to perfect the platform led us to take almost 8 months to finally release the beta of the product. That was an early lesson we learned; we eventually became more agile.
TutorMe connects students to tutors within seconds, which was an innovation when we launched, and we’ve strongly committed to providing that level of convenience across hundreds of subjects.
Also, our fundamental business model is innovative. We partner with schools so that the students don’t pay for tutoring out-of-pocket. Private tutoring in the United States was typically something only the affluent could afford, and we wanted to change that.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business and how are you coping?
Myles Hunter: Coronavirus has led to an increase in the usage of distance-learning tools, and online tutoring has been one of them. We had a 330% increase in tutoring hours in 2020 as compared to 2019. Our company has grown greatly since the epidemic started because we’re providing a resource that’s filling in gaps for students and schools. We now have more than 14,000 tutors on the platform, and our core team has expanded from 7 to nearly 30 of us.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Myles Hunter: Unfortunately, the pandemic led to massive layoffs and widespread unemployment. For a company that is on a hiring surge like ours, we have the upside of recruiting from an impressive talent pool. For us, the difficult choice was actually trying to decide who was the best fit for the team, because there were so many qualified applicants out there.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Myles Hunter: We’re a fundamentally remote, global team, so we were already using Slack and other tools to stay connected across multiple time zones. Our founding team understands what it’s like to work remotely, so there was no big change for us.
We always try to reduce the number of meetings we have, while at the same time maintaining an open line of communication among everyone on the team. We don’t have to formally send invites to connect on Zoom. It’s not uncommon that my CTO and my VP of sales just call me when we need to put our heads together. It’s super-efficient.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Myles Hunter: Our competitors are either online platforms that have been around for 15 years or more or legacy companies that started off as in-person tutoring solutions. We were founded as an online platform in a time when people expect immediate interaction, and that really gives us a leg up in many ways.
We’re constantly working on improving the product, and I think that’s what really fuels our team. That passion, combined with the lack of paralysis that competitors might have because they were designed initially as in-person tutoring solutions, makes us a different breed.
Your final thoughts?
Myles Hunter: The big educational silver lining I’ve seen from the pandemic is that schools, teachers, and parents are holding academic support in higher regard.
On the business side, it has been incredibly exciting to see the inflow of money coming into Edtech. It has catapulted the industry into a realm where it’s never been before. With that comes the opportunity for us and our colleagues to invest everything we can in making our products better and helping as many students as possible.
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