With a 17% university admission rate in Hong Kong, it is common for the upper class to have a private tutor, since it improves their chances of gaining entry. Since it’s hard for the less privileged to afford tuition fees of HK$1200 per a subject, a cheaper alternative is a crammer school, yet these usually deliver no significant improvement to attendees since the teaching is mass-produced and tutors do not offer after-school support.
Appedu‘s flagship product, Snapask however offers affordable and personalized teaching to students through a mobile app that allows students to post academic questions and to instantly connect to tutors for 1-to-1 real-time study. Once a question is posted via photo, tutors then screen for and select questions they can help with. This process take an average of just 17 seconds, and during the daytime when tutors are more active, it often takes just a few seconds. The student can then interact with tutor instantly in a chat room and ask questions through instant messages. This process helps student’s independent and active learning process.
The company has added 300 more tutors in last two weeks. Having recruited over 600 tutors from the top three universities in Hong Kong (HKU, CUHK, HKUST), most are undergraduates, while ten are PhD students and 28 are studying for a Masters. “It has been quite easy to retain the commitment from tutors. Some tutors we’ve talked to said that they usually answer the question in their leisure time and tend to regard it as a game,” Appedu CEO Timothy Yu said.
The mobile-based platform now embraces 8,000 users, of whom 40% are active, with questions mainly regarding high school subjects like math, science, chemistry and geometry. Among 500 high schools in Hong Kong, 15% (88) now use the platform to better perform in inter-school competitions. The business model is based on a monthly subscription where students can ask either 30 or 50 questions
by purchasing credits. At a price of HK$6 per question, tutors receive HK$4 while the company takes the rest. A tutor having answered certain amount of questions is offered movie tickets or vouchers from the company.
Three years ago, Yu was teaching in a tutoring center, where one teacher was responsible for four students. The students preferred the intimacy of 1:1 lessons and actively asked many of questions. Worn out by the effort, Yu thought of a better method and founded the company.
The team received micro funding and joined the incubation program provided by Cyberport. With its Hong Kong headquarter functioning as a R&D hub, the company is looking to expand to Taipei, Shanghai and other relevant Asian countries. The team is currently contacting local high schools in Shanghai to establish partnerships utilising their solution, while they are also reaching out to Fudan University, Tsinghua University, Peking University and USTC students to increase their tutors.
Image Credit: Snapask
Editing by Mike Cormack