This Bootstrapped Nigerian Startup Is Helping Students Find The Right Tutors
Whether the popular maxim “Examination is not a true test of knowledge” is true or not remains debatable. However, the fact is that parents tend to assess academic performance through examination results.
In fact, ‘low’ test scores are an indication that extra help is needed to boost the student’s performance.
Co-founder of edtech startup Dolessons, Martins Fidelis, corroborates this in an interview with WeeTracker. He said that during his stint as an ICT teacher in a model High school in Port Harcourt South South, Nigeria, he observed that parents actively sought one-on-one personalized classes for their kids.
The idea was to help find the right tutors that will help their kids build firm self-study skills and accelerate performance in their test scores.
However, the challenge was finding the right tutors with relevant experience and skill set to fill this learning vacuum.
According to Chief Executive Officer of Dolessons, Martins, a graduate of Computer Science from the University of Calabar, DoLessons emerged in the edtech marketplace in 2017 as a supplementary learning and tutoring platform that connects academically distressed students in Nigeria to verified expert tutors for after-school academic drills.
Its overall aim is to help students learn better, build self-study skills, raise grades and enhance performance in their test scores. This system relies on what Martins described as “individualized lesson options.” With this approach, a student’s learning need is customized to suit learning pace, style and predefined schedules.
At the moment, the team is not so bothered about joining the market later than its peers. Started in November 2014, it only ran a pilot on February 20, 2017. Indeed this stretch allowed other tutoring services like Primal Tutors and Prep Class e.t.c to launch, gaining traction and build brand awareness along with creating a market category.
But the startup believes that the competition is good for proffering solutions to the diverse challenges facing education in Nigeria.
“DoLessons is never intimidated by competition, to survive, we need to be constantly innovative and provide unparalleled value to our customers.”
“In the US and UK where the educational standard is somewhat best, there is still over 200 edtech companies, most generating average of USD 1 Mn annually,” Martins said.
He said that Dolessons had gained 20% of the market share for tutoring and over 40% of the books supply market share. It hopes to double these stats by December 2018.
An analysis of the marketplace shows that there’s room to catch up. The startup cited that the tutoring market in Nigeria is said to be worth over USD 2 Bn where 50% of the tutoring market is based in Lagos, 30% in Abuja and the other 20% in the remaining 35 States.
According to Martins, “this market has the potential to triple in the next decade, as parents continue to embrace personalized learning as the solution to the decaying educational standard in Nigeria and Africa at large.”
Currently, Dolessons averages 200 billable tutoring hours monthly, but its target is to serve 5000 billable tutoring hours weekly. The team believes that a radical marketing drive will help achieve their set goal. It has also implemented a ‘local government area’ functionality listing algorithm that enables students to find verified tutors near them. This algorithm also allows students to post tutors request to a poll of jobs page, a strategy that they say drives leads daily.
How is Dolessons addressing the tutoring needs?
For tutors, all that they need is to sign up and create tutoring profiles. After this, they take an online ‘subject evaluation test’ to prove their competence in subjects they intend to teach.
A less than 60 percent score in the evaluation, after two tries, disqualifies such candidate.
If successful, the tutor is assigned a subject badge as an expert tutor in that subject and is listed in the tutor listing page for the students to read his/her profile and select the tutor for lessons.
The tutor listing engine displays a list of DoLessons certified tutors for students to select lesson teachers based on Local Government (LGA) of residence, for proximity. So if someone is in Ikeja LGA and needs a tutor, they won’t see tutors that reside in Ojo LGA. Tutors select areas they intend to go and teach.
Students, on the other hand, can create an account, select their classes and the corresponding subjects. The student pays online or offline for the lessons, set schedule which is based on the select tutor’s availability and the tutor receives booking alert via SMS and contacts the student for lessons to commence.
Tutors earn 75% of the lessons cost while Dolessons keeps 25% for financing its overhead, marketing, administration, etc. The cost of lessons varies with class and subject the student is booking. The average lesson cost is USD 85 (N 30, 000) per month for a 2 hours session, thrice a week. There’s an increased cost for special needs students.
The platform allows users to sell learning content to a wide-learning audience. Parents may list their kids’ used textbooks for sale on DoLessons marketplace. Booksellers, vendors and publishers can create an account and sell online beyond their immediate environment.
The platform currently has 6,811 verified tutors, 1,314 students and 743 booksellers and vendors.
Dolessons is yet to secure external funding, but it is currently undergoing proof of concept with three investors for undisclosed sums. It is presently bootstrapping and has not declared a profit. It projects a monthly revenue of USD 150K in 2020.
So how difficult it has been sourcing the right talent?
Martins says a significant setback for the startup has been attracting world-class talents. He said, “It is difficult to find skilled personnel with relevant skills sets necessary for building a world-class company.” This is in addition to high marketing cost that the business needs for gaining traction.
It is almost certain that with the enormous educational needs that are in the edtech sector, the startup has the chance to be a force to be reckoned with.