Today we’re discovering Tutoroo, a startup focused on helping you learn new languages. Nicolas Vanhove, Founder, told us this incredible story.

What is Tutoroo?

Tutoroo connects native speakers with people who want to enhance their conversational skills in any language at their preferred place and time. The company was incorporated in Singapore in 2017. We run a platform where people who want to learn a language can register and find a native speaker of this language in their city, and we put them in touch. Our mission is to democratize language courses and find a simple job for foreigners in every city.

Today we have 80000 tutors in more than 30 cities, and about 30.000 people last year are looking for teachers -and the number are growing steadily. The company generates more than 1M SGD yearly. We are 20 people from multiple countries, which is very relevant for our business, and the whole team is remote, a little like Buffer.

How did you have this idea?

Well actually I never decided to start a business. I had no company name, no strategy or anything like that. In fact, I lived in Montreal from 2007 to 2013 and worked a a few startups there, and then in I moved in Hong-Kong. I arrived there with nothing and since it is a very expensive city I started to look for ways to make some money. Giving French lessons was an easy one so I put a lot of ads, and very quickly I found out that it was well paid and that there was a huge demand! In a couple months my agenda filled-up completely and I spent my days teaching French in cafés or at my student’s home. From there I knew for sure there was something bigger to do…I just didn’t really what!

In August 2014 I decided to move to Singapore. Thing is, I was still getting a lot of requests for lessons in Hong-Kong but I couldn’t deliver them since my core belief is to learn through face-to-face conversations. So I started to look for motivated folks in Hong-Kong who could do it for me. The deal was very simple: I bring you a customer and in return I take a commission of your first 2 weeks of revenue from the lessons.

I started to do this on Whatsapp -that’s interesting because I really started with nothing, there was no website or app or anything like that. The demand picked-up fast and before I knew it I was spending my days on whatsapp, and it was a much more profitable use of my time!

Amazing, so the demand is really that strong?

You’d be surprised -and I have to say I was! For instance today in Singapore every day we have requests to learn Greek! And we haven’t been able to find anyone, so if you know someone send them over to me 😉! I think our model works well because it’s very human, so it’s not only convenient but it’s also very personal.

By the way it took me a while to realize that there might be a similar demand in Singapore as well. I spent a year in Singapore before launching here, and today it’s our biggest market.

Today we are in more than 30 cities in countries like Australia, New-Zealand, Emirates, South-Africa, Philippines or Indonesia, and we’re launching Europe at the moment with London, Brussels or Paris.

How do you find your clients and launch new markets?

We do quite a bit of digital marketing. About 2 years ago I started to invest on Google Ads which is our main acquisition channel. It took me a lot of time, trial and error before I really master the tool but it really helped us find the right people who were looking for our offer, and now we spend around 30k SGD monthly on Adwords.

Quite frankly if you have a niche on which you really focus I think Google Adwords is really an amazing tool that can help you sell anything as long as you have a decent landing page!

Any insights for other entrepreneurs?

I’d say the key thing is to learn the difference between working FOR your company and working ON you company. This means several things

  • You need to focus on where you have most impact. I try to apply Pareto’s law and focus my time on the 20% of efforts that will produce 80% of the results.
  • You must delegate and this is a very hard thing to do and the trick is to delegate only something you could do yourself.
  • At the same time you must also be able to do many different things on your own, and be ready to roll-up your sleeves and do the dirty work when needed. And it happens everyday!

Some more resources to know more

Building a 5 million dollars business on Whatsapp on Nicola’s Medium.

Nicolas’ interview by Graham Brown on Asia Tech Podcast


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