Deep Dives
min read

How Tutero has powered 50,000+ hours of personalised teaching

Written by
Scott Dommett
Published on

Revealing how to cook up marketplace secret sauce, handing over the playbook for building an international team, and demonstrating how Tutero is defining the future of education - an interview with Tutero co-founder Joey Moshinsky

I have a deep fascination with startups and how they grow and I often deep dive into companies that really interest me (even outside the Rampersand portfolio). I am excited to share this investigation into Tutero’s story through my favourite newsletter – Overnight Success.

💡 Tutero’s Genesis

In the early hours of the morning during the COVID lockdown, Joey, one of the co-founders of Tutero, recalls the discussion that led to the genesis of one of Australia’s fastest-growing education marketplaces. 

He was reflecting with his brother & co-founder Sonny on why students have such varied experiences learning math and why gaps form during schooling. It was during this debate that they started to develop a hypothesis around where the maths curriculum breaks down - small gaps in education can lead to foundational issues that inhibit learning. Upon this realisation, they started pursuing Tutero’s North Star objective - personalised education.

🏫 The Math Education Problem

The two brothers had very different experiences with math education. Joey found he struggled with foundational gaps during school, which held him back as they compounded through the years. Sonny, on the other hand, excelled and was tutoring several students. Here, he saw the problem from the other side of his students. 

There is plenty of research that supports these gaps in Australian education. According to the 2022 OECD Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), over 50% of 15-year-old Australian students are behind national standards. This report also found it is not a local problem; globally, there has been a backward trend in education outcomes.

🛠️ The MVP: Mapping out the Australian Mathematics Curriculum

Tutero’s first iteration was a knowledge graph of the Australian mathematics curriculum, representing learning outcomes as a network of interconnected skills. Based on this network concept, the team spent a month hacking together an MVP of a diagnostic tool that could be used during Sonny’s tutoring sessions to quickly identify where the foundational gaps were in a student’s education. 

Despite Joey’s claim that this was the “ugliest software [he had] ever seen” it served the purpose of an MVP. It proved to the team that they could identify “first gaps” that were blockers in a student’s education more quickly and diagnose the content that needed revision. 

This diagnosis of problem areas was they key element missing for students both with and without tutors. With a successful MVP under their belt, the team threw themselves at it 100%, going all in on  Tutero.

“When we think about the future of education, to greatly uplift outcomes we need individualised learning for students” - Joey

🧑‍🍳 Marketplace Secret Sauce

Tutero's ascension in the EdTech arena is marked by its strategic approach to building its tutoring marketplace. The key to their success has been focusing on a marketplace where both supply and demand find unmatched value. Tutero is a perfect example of what Rampersand’s Hunter Watkin refers to as the mongrel required to start and scale a marketplace.

0 —> 1:

At the origination of a marketplace, founders need to balance their focus on supply and demand to ensure both remain engaged throughout the fledgling stages of operation. Tutero’s advantage in this ‘cold start’ problem is the 1-to-many structure of their marketplace. This means that one tutor can satisfy multiple tutees. 

For the supply side, this means they were able to leverage a small group of early supporters (and even team insiders) to provide tutoring that was superpowered by their platform while they developed a system to stoke demand. On the demand side, students and parents were drawn by the promise of personalised tutoring, connecting with the issue of foundational gaps. 

Tutero leveraged various marketing strategies, including performance marketing, SEO, word of mouth, and incentivised referrals. Once customers discovered Tutero, choosing them over an alternative marketplace was a no-brainer, given the tutors were vetted, cheaper and superpowered by the platform.

1 —> ∞:

Successful marketplaces are those that benefit from economies of scale; as the number of users of the marketplace grows, they can offer a better experience and acquire customers cheaper. 

In this instance, they can sustain better margins than new entrants. For every additional tutee, Tutero strengthens the trust in its product through reviews as well as refining its learning outcomes by feeding tutee progress back into its proprietary algorithm to further strengthen learning pathways. 

Growth also strengthens Tutero’s supply side as it has been able to attract a broader range of tutoring talent, currently receiving 1,000s of applications to be a tutor, allowing them to filter for just the top 2% of tutors in Australia. These top-tier tutors are then supercharged through the platform. The platform enables effective lessons based on individualised data, efficient lesson planning through curriculum alignment, and the ability to eliminate admin work (billing, student management, report writing, to name a few).

Platform Retention:

In a classic matching marketplace, a key risk is matched pairs moving off the platform to avoid fees which undercuts the growth in the marketplace. Within the book The Marketplace Building Playbook, Jonathan Golden laid out the path to avoid leakage as “the trust and convenience of the platform needs to overcome the cost to use the platform.” 

While Tutero does have high convenience for both sides and strong trust in the platform, the unique leakage blocker is the underlying technology - tutors are only superpowered on the platform. Attempting to tutor off-platform will lead to worse outcomes for the student, and tutors will find it more burdensome to identify student knowledge gaps. Over and above this, if a tutor left the platform, they would need to take on all the burden of planning and organising lessons. It’s easier and more lucrative to stay.

Pick your tutor (the choice is simple)

🧑‍🏫 Lesson Plan Solution

Launching this year in a school near you!

As the topic of their new lesson plan solution came up, Joey became visibly excited. Australia has a school teacher attrition problem, and Tutero is hoping to solve this through an in-classroom platform that empowers teachers with Tutero’s knowledge graph and removes any admin and planning work. This allows teachers to focus on what they love - engaging students.

Connecting Teaching & Tutoring: Joey’s consumer research revealed that tutors and teachers were inextricably linked as parents look to teachers for referrals to tutors but there is no infrastructure connecting the two. By having Tutero in both the classroom and the tutor’s hand, the full potential of Tutero’s knowledge graph is unlocked. 

If a student has fallen behind in the classroom, teachers now have a reliable place to send students so they can plug these knowledge gaps and then flourish in classrooms. By having a clear personalised education pathway, students are less likely to disengage in the classroom and teachers can better understand their class.

Bottom-up Go-To-Market: Joey wants every teacher in Australia to have access to the platform but recognises that trying to sell to schools is difficult. To ensure teachers have access, they designed a model that allows teachers to use almost all the features of the platform for free (get on the waitlist here), and then schools can upgrade to unlock an enterprise-wide version. 

A freemium model like this will not work for everyone, but in the case of Tutero, it allows them to  get into schools without putting a cost burden on teachers. Fortunately for Tutero, some of its tutors are teachers, and teachers more broadly have become familiar with the platform and its reputation, which has given them strong early supporters. Joey hopes this will turbocharge the rate of adoption in schools. 

While the platform is currently designed around the latest Australian curriculum, Joey says the team has their sights set abroad given they now have proof that integrated personalized education is a more effective teaching method.

Lessons built in minutes, not hours

🌏 International Team Playbook

An interesting facet of the Tutero business that I wanted to dig into more with Joey was the diverse makeup of their cross-border team. There are diehards on both sides of the debate on whether you can build an effective team virtually but Tutero stands as clear proof that it is possible.

First International Hire: During their first year, when the team was looking for a Flutter engineer to help build its product, they found the community within Australia was too small. 

This is when they stumbled across a large Flutter community in the Philippines. After cold messaging multiple developers on the platform, they ended up on a Zoom call with Oliver, a credentialed Flutter engineer who fit the team’s culture. Despite the initial working relationship being fairly informal, Oliver quickly proved himself to be an incredible asset to the team, and his successful integration into Tutero became a blueprint for growing the team further. Oliver is now one of the most senior members of the Tutero team.

Team Expansion: Following Oliver, the first few international employees for Tutero came from gig-work style engagements that flourished into full-time work. Given the incredible importance of hiring, part of the success of this approach has been the ability to focus on only hiring when there is a fit with the team. While this had been effective in sourcing great talent, the team needed a more scalable solution. 

On the surface, it seems difficult to tap into global talent pools, but the team realised that it was as simple as posting international jobs on job boards such as LinkedIn (which then received hundreds of pedigreed applicants). While the team has expanded, Joey says they have still ensured they have consistent, high-quality output through a sophisticated KANBAN-based project management system, coordinated through Notion. 

Alongside the project management is a culture of trust and respect for the team, empowering individuals to drive projects to completion and layering on a system that allows for transparency of progress. Ultimately the team is focused on top decile employee retention which they achieve through strong compensation, collaborative career planning, structured promotion pathways, flexible working arrangements and a fun culture.

Fostering Virtual Culture: As Tutero's team grew across continents, the challenge was not just about managing different time zones, but about recreating the camaraderie and spontaneous interactions of a traditional office. This is where the team has effectively leveraged ‘Gather’: a virtual office space that became Tutero's answer to an office in the metaverse. 

Gather simulates walking around an office, water cooler conversations, and the ability to walk over to someone’s desk for a quick chat rather than requesting a Zoom call. The flexibility of Gather as a virtual space has opened up unique opportunities for the Tutero team to literally build their ideal work environment - including having winners of team hackathons build sections of the office. And yes, the office is neo-pet friendly. 

The Tutero virtual office in Gather

🎁 Wrapping-Up

Tutero is a shining example of Australian entrepreneurialism, and while they are still early in their journey to reshaping the way we think about education, there are already plenty of lessons to be learned from their progress so far. 

Whether you want to understand how to start and scale a marketplace, build out an international team, or empower teachers, the Tutero team has shown us how. I am looking forward to closely following their trajectory as they make education better for everyone and undoubtedly uncover even more lessons on the way.

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