In a country where private tuition is a billion-dollar industry, three people decided to offer homework help for free.
Mr Chia Luck Yong, 28, Mr Shaun Tan, 27, and Mr Anders Tan, 31, were third-year students at Singapore Management University (SMU) when they decided to introduce an app to help students.
The app, Edusnap, allows students to upload questions onto a platform. Then volunteer teachers, tutors and tuition centres get on that platform to guide students.
The app, launched last year, has close to 7,000 users now, approximately half of them parents, and the other half students from Primary 1 to Secondary 4. (See other report on how it works.)
App creator Anders Tan says he can empathise with students who need help because of his own experience.
He had gone to ITE, then polytechnic before making it to SMU.
Mr Tan says: "It was knowing how painful it can be to have no one to turn to for help. I experienced the helplessness and the hurt of loved ones because they wanted to help but could not, and that drove me to create this app.
"I went through a long academic journey and that has cost both my family and me heavily -emotionally and financially. I want to try my best (to help) so no one else will ever have to face a similar situation."
Mr Shaun Tan adds: "I have had the experience of feeling helpless and lost, especially during my junior college days.
"It was only because I had friends who cared and were willing to help me that I made it through my promotional exams and the A levels. Not everyone will be as fortunate as me."
STARTING THE COMPANY
The trio, who graduated from SMU in 2013, incorporated their company Edusnap in the same year and applied for a grant with Spring Singapore.
Edusnap is registered as a social enterprise. Mr Chia says: "We were funded by Spring Singapore. We did not really need that much funding, but it was just that we were passionate."
Mr Chia says the grant took quite long to be disbursed.
"There were many rounds of pitching because it was a joint programme between Social Enterprise Association (SEA) and Spring. You have to pitch to SEA and then you have to pitch to the panel that releases the grant," he says.
They went through several rounds of rejections and rewriting their proposals.
"In Year 3, we came up with the idea. Then we took close to a year for the application for the grant.
"We also had difficulties creating the app. Finding a good development team was not easy. Although we could develop the app ourselves, we wanted to focus on the social and business aspects. We tried to outsource, but none of them worked," Mr Chia explains.
They also run a separate paid platform so schools and voluntary welfare organisations can have a virtual classroom that is exclusive to the school or organisation.
Rather than charging the users, the institutions bear the cost, and that is where Edusnap receives income.
Says Mr Chia: "We had to bring in revenue. Although many people told us to monetise the tuition platform and charge per question, it was not something we believed in."
"We would never equate money to knowledge. We have no intention to charge," adds Mr Chia with conviction.
"What kept us going, after we got the grant and faced numerous failures last year, was the feedback from students and parents.
"We really felt good when we saw e-mails and letters that said, 'Thank you so much for creating such a platform' and that they really needed it."
I experienced the helplessness and the hurt of loved ones because they wanted to help but could not, and that drove me to create this app.
This article was first published on March 29, 2015.
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