Snapask – Tutors in a Snap
Timothy Yu 余佑謙 (BSc 2012)
Philip Hong 康庭榕(BSc 2011; MStat 2012)
At the tender age of 21, Timothy Yu was earning more than HK$50,000 a month.
“In 2011, I was a student studying risk management and finance at HKU. After some time, a few friends and I decided to start a tutorial centre in Fortress Hill,” said Yu.
Like many university students in Hong Kong, Yu gave private tutorials to secondary school students in his spare time. But what stood out was that he kept pushing boundaries.
“Originally, it was more about business,” commented Yu. “But then I switched my mindset.”
Yu’s company Appedu initially charged students HK$500 per class, which equated to HK$2,000 per subject per month. “We realised this was a large sum to pay for parents whose salaries are less than HK$20,000 per month. In fact, one of my students told me he only had HK$500 left for the month and this was just before his public examinations.”
“I didn’t want my student to miss out so I ended up not charging him. But I know I cannot help everyone in need this way,” said the founder.
As a solution-seeker, Yu turned to technology for a more cost-effective business model and an affordable education.
His idea was to create Snapask, an app that allows students to ask questions and receive replies from trained tutors within 15 minutes. The pitch quickly won its way into Cyberport’s incubation programme, which offered him a HK$320,000 grant and two years of free office space.
According to Yu, there are 130 million students who are not receiving an education worldwide. “Hong Kong is our first stop,” said Yu. “We are eager to make knowledge an abundant resource for all people around the world through technology.”
Yu pulled together a team for Snapask in 2013. On board was also HKU graduate Philip Hong, who completed his Master’s degree in Statistics.
“We are testing Snapask and collecting data from a school now,” commented Hong, whose main responsibility is encapsulating the app’s market analysis. “So far, we have recruited 25 secondary schools and roughly 6,000 students have
installed the app.”
“We have about 200 part-time tutors and four full-timers answering questions that students may have.”
However promoting paid app services in Hong Kong is not at all easy. As app education is a relatively new concept for local Chinese students, getting subscriptions from them is a challenge.
“International students are more receptive to our product mainly because they are more familiar with e-learning,” said Yu.
The actual app will be available for downloads in January 2015 and monthly subscriptions will cost about HK$300.
“We have an open recruitment for tutors,” said Yu. “But in order to make sure tutors can really handle queries, we will run training programmes. In fact, there will be one held in February 2015.”