Tan Han Sing, Founder of Tueetor

Tueetor is a self-serve, automated, location-based platform where learners, trainers, education providers and merchants may discover, interact and transact — direct, instant, 24×7.

What’s your story? Tell us more about yourself, how it all began.

A few friends were going through some rough patches in the late 2000s. One, a struggling single mother, could not afford to provide her primary school son with private tuition. He was faring badly in school and needed help desperately. So despaired, she had a mental meltdown. Another, a father whose daughter was diagnosed with a severe form of Autism Spectrum Disorder, and if not intervened by the age of 5, would see her child being institutionalized. As a father myself, I can only imagine how tough it must have been for both of them. So, I started researching technologies that could help solve what was essentially an issue of affordability and accessibility. It was also during the post-financial crisis and a few other friends had lost their jobs. I hope the same solution could help promote employment too. And Tueetor was born.

What were some of the obstacles that your company faced during its initial years and how did your team overcome it?

Tueetor promises to help learners quickly and accurately identify teaching resources nearby, riding on location-based services. We had difficulties delivering that promise. Geolocation, geocoding developments were at their infancy back then. Adoption was low as users in general, did not like (and trust) a discovery experience over the map. To top it off, slower bandwidth made everything even more unbearable. As our user base increases, we soon found our app and web assets coming to a crawl. Over the years, with better network infrastructure and software technology, a lot of these problems have been solved. The proliferation of Google Maps; travel websites, transport apps made people rely heavily on maps these days. Through the help of our technology partners and accelerators — Grab Ventures Velocity and AWS EdStart, we have also learnt how to make our products better.

How do your company separate itself from the competitors?

Most aggregator-platforms we know focus on certain user profiles, subject interest and market. For example, curation of Singaporean academic tutors for local users. Tueetor aims to connect learners, trainers, course providers and merchants, across different cities, and over 500 subjects. Through products such as Virtual Classroom and Video on Demand, Tueetor also allows trainers to teach and sell contents to much larger domestic and foreign markets.

Tueetor team

Name 1 most memorable learning experience of your entrepreneurial journey.

During the Grab Ventures Velocity (GVV) program, a founding, senior leader of Grab shared a true story that happened to him and his team when they arrived in Singapore many years ago to recruit drivers. After days scouring the city by themselves with little progress, they decided to hop on a cab to take them around town and speed things up. Hours into the ride, no success. At a traffic junction, a motorcyclist knocked on the window of their car and pointed at one of its tires. It was flat. As the cab driver was an elderly auntie, the gracious Grab team offered to change the tire for her. The taxi auntie was so grateful that she immediately signed up for the service and referred more drivers to join in later. For that kind act, she will also be remembered forever as Grab’s first Singapore recruit. That kindness begets kindness, for everyone. The story reinforced my belief.

What was your experience joining an accelerator program?

We were chosen to be part of GVV’s 3-month long accelerator program. It was as demanding as it was rewarding, with our limits pushed and challenged on many levels — technology, design; GTM, fundraising strategies; business, revenue models, to name a few. Our mentors — most of them senior leaders of Grab, were a source of inspiration and strength for my team and me throughout the program. They worked tirelessly and selflessly in making sure that we complete the program successfully. We owe our graduation and a place in GVV to them.

What do you think should be the most important characteristic of a startup and its team to possess?

I have a story: There were two campers. One night, they heard this loud growl coming from outside their tent. They looked out, and to their horror, found a huge bear standing right in front of them. Before they could even react, the bear started shaking the tent, trying to force its way in. Instinctively, the first camper dashed out of the tent, barefooted, leaving everything behind. The second camper, however, took the time to wear his sports shoes, before he too started running. Minutes later, the second camper caught up with the first. Still running, the first camper turned around and yelled at the second “Are you crazy? Did you think you could run faster than that bear with those shoes on?” “I don’t have to run faster than the bear,” said the 2nd camper, “I just have to run faster than you.”

It’s not about solving the problem but solving it faster than everyone else.

What are you working on right now that motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

It would be the Virtual Classroom module we are co-developing with a partner currently. To be introduced (first) in Singapore by June 2020, it will help local trainers, instructors, coaches reach out to an unprecedented student-audience base in the region, teaching them online — “exporting” the high standard of education Singapore has come to be known for. The same tools could also help materialise our Global Classroom project — a CSR initiative that will help children in rural areas of CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) learn remotely from our volunteer-trainers worldwide, particularly on STEM subjects. With knowledge, we hope children in these regions could change their lives and shape their communities for the better. In view of the recent COVID-19 development, we have plans to roll out a simplified version of the Virtual Classroom module to the local teaching community in the coming weeks. It will be offered for free from our part to help slow down the outbreak by reducing human-to-human contact.

What is your company’s three-year plan?

Not going into specifics, more resources will be spent on AI to better predict searches; learning and purchasing behaviour, learning trend and outcome. We also intend to strengthen our e-learning technologies to better cope with demands, especially from areas with poor bandwidth and connectivity. Lastly, a loyalty program aimed at increasing MAU, LTV; lowering customer acquisition cost and churn. We are capital raising to make the above a reality while bringing Tueetor to more Asian countries in the next 3 years.

What are the key differences in Tueetor’s operations in different countries (i.e Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand)?

One difference is language and culture. We find marketing messages, web/app presentations, operational instructions created, understood and accepted by many in one country, might carry a different spin in another. Thankfully, our seed investor — having presence in every country we are in — has been actively supporting us, helping us close that gap. Subject, price point, partner preferences also vary from country to country, so we have to fine-tune our programs for each market for them to be successful.