27 year old Godwin Benson is a Nigerian entrepreneur who gave up a stable salary at Deloitte to start his own company, Tuteria.
The business essentially operates like an Uber for tutors by allowing those looking to learn a particular skill to locate qualified tutors in their proximity via an online platform. Once a match is made, lessons can be conducted in person or online – depending on individual needs.
Tuteria’s model caught the attention of the Innovation Prize for Africa – within just a year of operation – and is one of this year’s finalists for the prize.
Emphasis on the vetting process
Benson’s inspiration behind Tuteria came from his own struggles as a tutor years ago. He understood how difficult it was for many Nigerians to find competent tutors in their area, and experienced first-hand the challenges of receiving payments for services from shady clients. He recognised an opportunity to formalise the process.
While there are many peer-to-peer learning startups in Nigeria today, what makes Tuteria so innovative is its vetting process of both teachers and students. Tutors who want to market themselves on the platform have to first upload a valid, government-issued ID card to verify who they are. They then have to pass a competency assessment. This includes time-limited, standardised tests for subjects such as maths, science and English, or video submissions of lessons for classes like cooking or dancing. Those that make the grade are then interviewed over Skype by the Tuteria team before finally being marketed on the platform.
Lastly, there is a rating system where clients can review each tutor’s performance.
“This is then shown on the tutors’ profiles so intending clients looking to hire a tutor can see what previous clients have said about the tutor’s performance and conduct. It gives them some level of confidence to trust and deal with that particular tutor,” notes Benson.
The platform also allows for verified tutors to be paid upfront for their services to ensure it attracts only committed clients. Tuteria takes a 15-30% commission of each paid lesson.
Out of about 16,000 tutor applicants nationwide around 2,500 have passed Tuteria’s competency assessments so far.
The company’s main challenge at the moment is finding affordable human resources.
“Most of those who have the skill set we need are really expensive; the amount they want to be paid per month is quite outrageous. And those who are available to work don’t necessarily have the skills,” explains Benson.
“We have remained a team of three in the company for a long time because even though we have employed people at some point, we had to let them go because it wasn’t really working out. So it has been a challenge and we are still working to see how we can get people who have at least some of a skill set that we need.”
According to Benson, one of the biggest lessons he has learnt in launching a startup is to invest in finding out what the customer really wants as soon as possible.
“It saves the entrepreneur a lot of headache and wasted time. As quickly as possible, try and build a [prototype] of your product and quickly test it in the market to get feedback from users – they will tell you what they want and what they do not want. That’s one thing that I wish we knew at the onset.”
He also advises other aspiring entrepreneurs to manage cash flow carefully, look for a co-founder with complementary skills, and make sure they are pursuing entrepreneurship for the right reasons.
“You have to find that inner drive that keeps you going continuously because there are going to be a lot of challenges that make you want to run back to a regular job.”