Featured Image: Yu Gao Fei
STYLEGUIDE sits down with Learnseeker's CEO, Yu Gao Fei, 24, who managed to start this highly successful education startup aimed at matching credible and reliable tutors to students. To date, Learnseeker, which is currently incubated in NUS Furnace, has successfully matched over 500 students to tutors. The business also has over 1,000 reliable tutors under them. We speak to Gao Fei to find out what keeps him going.
When did you first get interested in the idea of starting up your own business?
I have always been very passionate about entrepreneurship ever since I was very young.
Coming from a poor family, I used to sell playing cards in my primary school in order to buy candy that I wanted. I only had a small allowance.
My interest and passion in entrepreneurship grew as I began to start other ventures in school and found the joy of creating something from nothing.
For example, when I was in junior college, I was able to generate $3,000 worth of sales when I started the school’s first entrepreneur club.
Such experiences really helped me because when I started Learnseeker, to help parents to look for quality tutors for their child’s academic subjects, I was able to channel my passion and skills to serve our customers better as I was better able to understand how businesses work as compared to my peers.
Tell me more about what Learnseeker is all about.
Learnseeker is a data-driven 1-1 tuition provider platform that helps tuition seekers locate a quality home tutor easily. We use big data in the form of past reviews, ratings and track record of tutors to help tuition seekers find a suitable home tutor.
After the tutor is matched with the client, we use data to track our tutors’ performances in order to assure consistent performance.
Photo Credit: Yu Gao Fei
How did the idea of Learnseeker come about? What inspired you to go into the tuition business?
The initial idea was sparked when I myself was having a problem finding a suitable tutor for my brother, who was in Primary 5 at the time.
After going through a frustrating process of finding a good tutor, I was inspired to create something better than what was out there in the market and was able to provide quality tutors for students in need.
After one year of testing, we were able to release something that differentiated ourselves from the competition as we were able to use data to help tuition seekers make better decisions when finding a good tutor for their children.
So far, we have gotten very good responses from the market in Singapore and are planning to expand to Malaysia at the end of 2018.
Did you have any failed ideas or ventures before you started Learnseeker?
Haha, oh yes, I failed 6 times before Learnseeker was conceived and developed.
I was just out of Junior College and really did not know what I was doing back then. After reading up on how the late Steve Jobs have defied the odds and built up such a great company, I was inspired to build one myself.
Little did I know that it was be two long years of failure and learning before I would finally be able to build something functionable and sustainable like Learnseeker.
What was the most difficult part of your journey as an entrepreneur?
The most difficult part about being an entrepreneur was in pushing on where others have given up. A lot of my peers around me share similar passions in wanting to start a company but end up not following through due to various reasons.
The journey to becoming an entrepreneur is a really tough one and I realized that it is not for everybody. The successful ones that I have seen are ones that truly believe in their vision and who want to build a company rather than trying to get rich quick or become famous overnight.
So I would say that being persistent in the tough times is the most difficult part of being an entrepreneur.
Photo Credit: Yu Gao Fei
What was the most memorable part about creating Learnseeker?
Getting our first investment and hitting our first 100 customers!
What motivates you to keep moving forward with your company?
I’ve always want to build a company since I was young and have always had a passion for business and entrepreneurship.
Looking back, the journey of being able to build something up from zero was a very fulfilling one and I really enjoyed the process of building Learnseeker. It is immensely gratifying for me personally and I see it as a great challenge that I am overcoming.
What are some of the misconceptions people might have about entrepreneurs?
I think the biggest misconception is that entrepreneurs are people who have achieved financial freedom, are insanely rich, idle and are always drinking a glass of martini while having a nice holiday somewhere. Especially when you watch success story videos on YouTube or see advertisments, there are so many people selling the passive income dream.
While that is true for some people, I think, at least in the earlier part of building a business, entrepreneurs are the hardest working people and are on the move all the time.
A typical entrepreneur probably wears a T-shirt and jeans and works 7 days a week. This is because if he doesn’t, he will be crushed by the competition and be put out of business really soon.
Also, the sheer amount of time and energy needed to build a business from nothing is insanely huge. So it is not possible for that entrepreneur – at least at the very beginning – to have any free time at all.
What future plans do you have in store for Learnseeker? Are you looking to expand the company?
Yes, we are trying to raise a new round and expand to Malaysia by end of this year and Indonesia during the earlier part of next year.
What advice would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs?
Start early, get good mentors, do not do it for the money and create a product or service that can truly solve an existing problem.
It would be good if the problem is one that is scalable and applies globally as well.