Changing tutoring – one marketplace at a time

Tutorspree (www.tutorspree.com) is built on a simple premise – parents should be able to find great tutors quickly and easily. To do that, we’ve built a feedback driven marketplace that matches tutors and students based on subject, geography, and price.

The idea for Tutorspree came from shared experiences looking for tutors back in high school combined with watching our friends (PhD’s, masters students, teachers, etc.) trying to make ends meet during the recession by tutoring. The process they went through was insane and archaic. The central problem that we saw, really, was that the only way to find a tutor was to check craigslist, local bulletin boards, and then maybe try an agency – which would keep 50% – 80% of every dollar spent. That seemed totally nuts to us, especially considering the distributed power of the internet.

So we set out to figure out exactly what the problems and needs of the community were. As it turned out, parents were not interested in complex technological solutions. There was no real need for web based chat platforms and whiteboards. Parents seemed to think that those systems were cool, but were not what they wanted. When they looked at existing distance learning/tutoring options, they were primarily disappointed with the possibilities for actual tutoring. To be sure, homework help is a different sort of thing. For that, a short lesson online with a tutor thousands of miles away might be good. But for real tutoring – nope, no can do. We knew there needed to be something better, something addressed the core problems. At the end of the day, that turned out to be building a platform to promote/create local tutoring interactions. Everything we’ve done from that point on has been geared towards that problem and that specific set of needs from parents.

With that set of targets in mind, we started working and building. The early build was entirely funded on a shoestring – we put our own money in, and would have continued that way for as long as necessary. When we got into Y Combinator, though, we had the opportunity to do things in a much better way, and we jumped on the chance. YC gave us a platform to access a broad range and depth of advisors (along with the money). For us, those advisors were the most significant and important piece of the whole puzzle. Without them, our business would surely have been slower to build. But with them, we could get to and use better ideas than we had on our own.

Furthermore, that opportunity has given Tutorspree the ability to help an increasingly large number of freelance tutors across the country. Instead of tutors having to stick flyers up on telephone poles, we market them, help them track their lessons, and make collecting money a snap with an integrated platform for credit card payments. Best of all, there’s no fee for tutors to list themselves on the site. We do everything we can to align our interests with our tutors, which means we only make money when they do. That’s an important piece, as tutors don’t want to have to spend money without knowing that they’ll get something back.

Everything that we do and build is designed to help our tutors and our parents/students get the most out of their tutoring relationships. It influences every business decision we’ve made in the last nine months – every product change and feature we’ve rolled out, every blog post we’ve written, and every pixel we’ve changed.

The future of Tutorspree is something we constantly consider. We want our network of amazing tutors to stretch from coast to coast – easy to find, high quality tutors wherever you look. Admittedly, it’s a big goal, but we think it’s doable, and, more than that, it’s important to the people spending many billions of dollars on tutoring across the country each year.

To do that, we’re going to need to continue building our team. We’re currently hiring at our HQ in NYC – which is a phenomenal place to be building a great company. We love being back here after a stint in California over the summer. The energy in the tech scene is palpable, and it is incredibly exciting. It has been said that NY is a finance town – and while that’s true, it doesn’t have to be an exclusive thing. Tech is growing, changing, evolving, and building amazing things all across the world, and NY is no exception.

At Tutorspree, we’re so excited to be part of that scene. Our mission is about more than finding amazing tutors for math, English, grammar, physics, etc. It’s about building an incredible company that solves problems for customers at every turn. We’ll keep working on that as long as we can, and we’ll accomplish it every way we know how.

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