Godwin Benson is a first class graduate of Systems Engineering from the University of Lagos. He is the Founder of Tuteria, a Nigerian-based online platform that connects individuals seeking to learn with those who can teach the subject or skill in their neighborhood.
Godwin was one of the top five winners of Microsoft’s Passion to Empire Campaign, held in April this year at Intercontinental Hotel, in Lagos-Nigeria.
Could you please introduce yourself to the community?
Sure! I am Godwin Benson, a graduate of Systems Engineering from the University of Lagos, Akoka and also the founder of Tuteria. I’m from Akwa-Ibom, though I grew up in Lagos.
Tell us, what exactly is the story behind Tuteria?
Well, the seed for Tuteria was planted back in 2005 when I taught a man’s two children Mathematics for a month. I was extremely good at teaching Math, so I taught them extremely well, yet didn’t get paid a dime out of the N9,000 fee we agreed on. So I wanted to do something to prevent such from happening.
Moreover, this man’s house was approximately 10 minutes’ walk from mine, yet it took him almost 2 months to find me, meaning he had lost 2 months of active tutoring. And progressively, I realized that so many people wanted to learn various things but had no easy or reliable way to find someone who can teach them, even if that person stays nearby; and those who find usually get only one referral without the ability to compare and hire their best fit at the right price, and sometimes don’t get quality service.
On the other hand, thousands of people who can teach various subjects and skills, had no means by which they may be found by those seeking their services, thereby hindering that source of extra income. So I wanted to build a trustworthy platform that reliably connects people seeking to learn anything, with those who live around them and can teach them what they want to learn at affordable prices; as well as ensures safety, accountability and quality service delivery. The result of that is Tuteria.
How do you verify and evaluate your tutors before they can teach any particular subject on your platform?
Tutors go through various stages of verification and evaluation before they can teach any particular subject; and are also continuously evaluated to ensure they maintain high quality while on our site.
First of all, we manually review every tutor applicant as well as schedule an interview to ensure they have the kind of high quality in personality, passion and communication that can succeed on Tuteria. Those who don’t pass this stage are not approved, and cannot re-apply till after 3 months.
Then for most subjects like academics, languages, music and instruments, various exams like IELTS, SAT, GRE, TOEFL etc., and even skills like Public Speaking, Data Analysis, Programming, Creative Writing, Swimming, etc., we have created standard competency tests which tutors have to pass before they can teach those subjects. The tests are timed, and can only be attempted once per tutor. Those who do not pass are automatically denied.
For other non-testable subjects like Bead-making, Dance, Photography etc., tutors write about their experience and method of teaching, as well as upload samples of their work if applicable which is reviewed by our quality team. If the review is positive, then they are allowed to teach the subject, otherwise their application is rejected.
Beyond that, we also verify tutors’ online and offline identities, facilitate background checks and continuously evaluate tutors’ performance based on reviews from their previous clients, and only tutors who continue to offer great service to clients are allowed to stay on Tuteria.
To get a better idea of what we’ve done in this regard, you can take a look at our trust page, www.tuteria.com/trust
Great! How then do you ensure they (your tutors) deliver and maintain high quality services to the people they are providing these services to?
Basically, tutors adopt varying styles of teaching depending on the types and varying needs of their clients. We ensure that every tutor who gets listed on Tuteria is top-notch, but the clients – and not us – are the only true validators of whether or not they have received quality service from tutors.
So we have made it possible and very easy for clients to provide feedback about their experience with a tutor, and also rate the tutor’s performance which helps other clients learn from their experience and is also used by us to evaluate the tutor. Only clients who have had a lesson with a tutor can give a review.
Tuteria is built to reward performance, so tutors who maintain a certain high rating will get more clients (and more money), and those whose ratings fall below a certain benchmark can no longer continue tutoring. Everything is closely monitored on Tuteria and tutors who succeed don’t only earn money but also build their reputation which stands as a validation of their competence anywhere they go.
Are you targeting a specific demographic? Who is your target market?
Well, you can imagine that our target market is pretty large considering the fact that it’s not only academics but also includes various local and international exams, as well as skill acquisition – and it is nationwide. So people all over Nigeria can find someone around them who has been verified to teach whatever subject they wish to learn.
Nonetheless, quite a number of parents have already reached out to us about hiring tutors for their kids, so we’ll put extra effort to cater to them specifically. A few others also want to learn various non-academic skills. As we progress, we’ll identify the best demographics for various subjects, and reach out to them.
What were you doing before you founded Tuteria?
I was working at Deloitte Nigeria as an Information Security Associate. Deloitte was great and I met a lot of amazingly smart people who also helped me refine the idea. I left when I knew in my heart that it was time to leave.
You were one of the winners in Microsoft’s “Passion to Empire” campaign in April this year, where you raised N3.5million. Tell us, how you felt when you were announced as one of the winners and how this has made a great impact on your entrepreneurial journey?
Sincerely, winning the Microsoft campaign was indeed a blessing. It really inspired us to keep working. We always knew we were doing something really awesome and would be making a lot of impact, but having a company like Microsoft sort of validating the idea was a big morale booster for which I’m thankful to God.
We haven’t even spent much of it yet, most of the technologies we use are either cheap, free or built in-house; but we’re getting to the point where it’ll come in handy.
Where does your passion for teaching come from?
From the point in primary school when I developed a love for learning, I literally read everything my eyes could see. I read whole subjects and topics in school long before they were even introduced in class. So I knew a lot; and naturally, I had to teach.
I taught my class Integrated Science, Math, Physics, Further Math and Chemistry; and I had the grace of simplifying very complex concepts so that even the weakest person in class would understand and lighten up with joy. That’s just an amazing experience. Only those who have taught before can know how it feels.
Tell us a bit about your childhood days.
I grew up in a simple Christian family with parents and relatives who taught us to love God and live right. I was often the ‘destructive’ one as I’d disassemble almost everything in the house in an attempt to understand how they work from TV set, to radio, parts of my dad’s car and even video games!
I guess I wanted to understand many things, but I wasn’t doing so well at school – was often promoted on trial. However, I never felt I was dull; and always wanted to be around the smart guys in class because I thought I belonged there. In primary 4, my grandma decided to teach me herself from the basics of how to spell, add and count. She also bought a lot of interesting story books which made me love reading.
That was the beginning of my journey away from the bottom of the class to the very top which made me form some reading and diligence habits that have helped me up to this point.
It’s obvious you’re an excellent young man. What do you think are the secrets to achieving excellence?
Thanks for the compliment! I think I’m still learning anyways. My principle for excellence is to do everything in best possible way the first time, without leaving room for mediocrity. Especially when what I do affects other people or will be used by other people, I don’t believe they deserve anything less than excellence.
What drives you as young entrepreneur?
Primarily, the vision God has planted in my heart keeps me going, and propels me to do what I have to do. The reality that my life and work will inspire and create opportunities for millions of people, and the smiles I can put on their faces keeps me very focused on carrying out my assignment.
Entrepreneurship is not for the feeble-minded. Tell us, how do you handle set-back?
Setbacks are nothing, absolutely nothing. Learning is everything. If something doesn’t go as planned, I learn fast, I adapt and I keep moving. I think everyone instinctively knows this.
Awesome! Do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs who are experiencing challenging times?
Yes I do because I’m one of them too! I found out that a lack of wisdom or relevant information is almost always the reason for protracted challenges. As a young entrepreneur, you must know a lot about everything relating to your business. If you’re experiencing challenges, always ask yourself “What am I supposed to know that I don’t know now?” Learn it then innovate the process, study how other people have directly or indirectly tried to solve similar problems. Find the right people to help. Read a lot. Write down your thoughts. Take some hours away from work to think and reflect. Talk to your customers a lot. Forget about competition–seriously, forget. Focus on your business.
What would you say has been your biggest lesson on this entrepreneurial journey?
Oh! One major lesson is that nothing is more important than having the right people in your team. Once you have that, everything else can be handled. The journey becomes easier.
If you could give prospective entrepreneurs two pieces of advice, what would those be?
Prospective Entrepreneurs…hmm. First is, don’t wait till you have everything figured out before you venture in. You’ll learn a lot as you go. Try to talk to a few ‘potential customers’ about your idea and watch their response. Not necessary their words, but their gestures, expressions and reactions. If they seem to love it, then move. If not, ask them what they don’t love about it. Learn, and then move still.
Second is to get the right person(s) to join you. It must be a friend (or friends) you have known for a while – several years at least. Never partner with someone who’s not as passionate about solving the same problem as you are. Don’t focus too much on making money – you will make money. Focus on offering real value to your customers.