Startups to watch

Startup Highlight: Tutor House

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Chris Apostolou

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We talked to Alex Dyer the founder of Tutor House and asked him some question about the company. And how customers have been adjusting to the pandemic.

Tell us about Tutor House! How did it all start and what are your goals?

My background is a Psychology Teacher. I was Head of Psychology for 8 years at a leading London school. Being a teacher and a psychologist I didn’t, understandably, get invited to many parties and so I had time to focus on starting a business. Tutor House started in 2013 after I saw firsthand the benefits of one-to-one tutoring. There is no comparison to learning in a group of 30 kids versus learning with a tutor and/or mentor in a one on one environment. In that environment you flourish. 
The aim was, and still is, to make tutoring accessible and beneficial for everyone. 

What are your values as an ambitious startup?

Integrity, virtue and taking responsibility. We work hard to be an honest, trustworthy platform that our customers and tutors can rely on. We also have high standards, and make sure that our platform only represents highly qualified, experienced and DBS checked tutors.

With your current knowledge and what you’ve learnt so far, is there any advice would you give yourself back when you were just getting started?

Don’t do it! I really get the statistic that ‘90% of businesses fail in the first year.’ It’s hard work. But not only that it’s lonely, frustrating and constantly reactive. All this can lead to huge amounts of stress, as well I know. So the main thing that I would tell myself, and of course advise others, is don’t do it alone but find one or two business partners. Have a goal and strategy and stick to it and get in a routine, which should include work but also self-focus and time out. (And don’t feel bad about taking time out – you’re working a 70 hour+ week!) 

What is next for Tutor House and what are the goals for 2021?

We’ve grown year on year for 7 years now and we are going to continue to do that. The horrible last year has allowed us to focus on ‘the bigger picture’ in education. For us that means that learning and academia should not just be about passing a maths exam but also helping people to grow in confidence, to motivate them and to focus on life skills. We work with many partners and hundreds of amazing tutors to make sure that kids benefit from tutoring, but also understand mental health and how important it is to us all. Stress leads to clouded thinking, reduced learning and poor decision making; we’re working to help reduce that in students, children and adult learners. 

The pandemic has obviously affected a lot of startups both in positive and negative ways, how have you guys been affected?

It’s definitely been a bit of both. When schools closed last year in April, people were scared and finding a tutor was not at the front of their mind. But now parents are taking matters into their own hands. They’re not relying on the government or schools but are turning to tutors to support their children, which makes sense. Yes it’s a cost, but some children will miss a year of school or at best watch pre-recorded videos online. The worst way to learn! So we have halved our entry price for hourly tutoring so it’s affordable for everyone. 

Did it change your customers’ requirements in anyways? Anything that surprised you?

We’ve seen a big drive in homeschooling and long term tutoring, which I guess isn’t a huge surprise. What will be interesting is to see how many customers continue homeschooling and hiring tutors to help with this once schools reopen.

Because of the pandemic we are 100% online tutoring only, but a huge amount of people want to return to in person tutoring when this is all over. I think they are bored of online learning, just as we are all bored of zoom and team calls! There have been huge advances but learning online is still not there with regards to replacing a face-face session. It’s not as interactive and it’s much harder to pick up on social and visual cues, which help learning. Online learning is here now, Covid established it as the norm, but in person will return in the future.

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