We talked to Ryan McCartney of LumenEd about online tutoring, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ryan McCartney: We’re learning to enjoy the benefits of staying close to home, spending less money and more time with each other. Glad we’re all happy and healthy. I can’t wait to get back to a routine and kids back to school!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded LumenEd.
Ryan McCartney: I’ve had a good run as a player and a coach building the revenue operations teams at 2 successful scaleup tech companies, one in Edtech. I’ve enjoyed growing businesses, building teams, meeting great clients from all walks of life, and helping them solve problems. I spent some with an investment bank supporting their innovation and tech lending platforms. I always wanted to build a company from scratch, and with two small children entering the broken school system, online tutoring seemed like a great place to have an outsized impact on the hours I put in in a day. Our timing couldn’t be better!
How does LumenEd innovate?
Ryan McCartney: We’re innovators at heart. We started with tutoring companies with legacy operations and systems and learned how to ask challenging questions about why and what if. This has been the foundation for our development. We’re implementing cutting edge machine learning tech to influence learning outcomes through providing the highest quality match in the process to find a tutor. Tutoring shouldn’t just be about pedigree and experience when personality and pedagogy are critical to successful learning outcomes.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Ryan McCartney: No doubt COVID 19 pandemic is crushing academic and social progress in schools around. Tutoring is a critical path to catch up and excel. Now is the time to fuel the fire for our innovative technology to grow the tutoring market, increase access, efficiency and efficacy. Adding capital will certainly help us achieve our mission quicker.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Ryan McCartney: Yes, we did. We initially underinvested in user experience design in favor of getting live an MVP because we needed to raise money. While this accomplished the short-term objective, we have learned that to scale; we need to invest heavily in the right team that understands UX. Same thing on performance marketing. There is significant noise in our space, and blindly spending money on ads within the red ocean isn’t going to cut it. We need to hire more experts to help us successfully get to scale.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Ryan McCartney: Initially, our target market was private tutoring companies in the search for tutor management tech. We had a modern offering that supported the buying habits of their consumers. We are now focused on ramping up the lead generation machine for these customers by helping them provide the best-fit-match with the least friction and high trust. It’s what we sell at the end of the day. We use all the internal tools – Slack, Hubspot, Stripe, etc.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Ryan McCartney: We have been fortunate to be accepted into 3 competitive incubator and accelerator programs; AC Jumpstart (provincially funded initiative), Velocity (University of Waterloo), and Google for Startups Canada (350+ applicants, 9 successful companies). These have certainly been a big help.
Your final thoughts?
Ryan McCartney: We’re in a significantly growing market, with a differentiated thesis, killer team, traction, and perfect timing. We need to work with governments and agencies to subsidize tutoring programs to improve access and ultimately improve outcomes for so many families and learners who are struggling and who have fallen behind. We are fundraising and would be open to a connection.