Struggles of a Startup: How Prepclass is connecting Nigerian homes with professional tutors

As our world becomes increasingly digitized, service providers are rapidly incorporating this trend into their business model, and are recording increasing success as a result. PrepClass is one of those.

Birthed at the heart of Nigeria’s Silicon Valley, Yaba in 2013, PrepClass has grown into a household name in the Nigerian digital learning space after launching an online marketplace that connects clients with professional tutors within close proximity to them. The idea, according to its co-founders Chukwuwezam Obanor and Olumide Ogunlana, is to provide a hub for tutors and students to connect under a controlled and well-regulated system.

Prior to the tutor marketplace launch, PrepClass had dilly-dallied with a number of potentially lucrative ventures including Testprep, a platform that offered questions and answers to students preparing for exams.

For its founding duo, being responsive to the ever-changing and highly unpredictable business climate has been key to PrepClass’ success. In this interview, they go on to share more on PrepClass’ rapid rise to fame, the accompanying accolades and investments and how it has managed to tackle challenges head on.

What PrepClass does

We are a hyper-local online marketplace that connects clients with professional tutors near them. We are very particular about the process being seamless, easy and reliable such that the tutors we connect are able to deliver the level of quality that we promise our clients.

There is a huge demand for the services PrepClass offers

We started as a testprep platform offering questions and answers to students preparing for exams. However as time went on the number of students calling our phones to ask for explanation to some concepts over the phone increased steadily and we realized it would be much more impactful on student’s learning for us to connect them with physical tutors. 

PrepClass

PrepClass’ cash cow

Before we settled on tutoring, we tried pivot PrepClass into a number of other services where we saw potential, however the tutoring service was the clear winner in terms of all the metrics that were important to us, particularly impact, so it’s definitely our cash cow.

PrepClass satisfied a need and became a hit

We became an instant hit in the “tech world” partly because there was a need for our product and also because we were the first to penetrate the market with a product so advanced and sophisticated. However, in the student market we realized what we had was great but there was more we could offer learners outside of test taking tips and practice Q and A.

Funding

We won a lot of competition for our test prep product. This shot us into the limelight and gave us much needed funds to survive for a significant amount of time.

Staying innovative

We anticipate the potential challenges our users might face so we build a scalable solution using the power of technology as soon as possible. Being responsive to a potential challenge is key.

More than 70% of Nigerian startups fail to grow into medium scale entities or larger conglomerates, but it’s bad everywhere.

Statistics paint a gloomy image about all startups on Earth. The failure rate for any business anywhere in the world is always higher than the success rate. Nigeria may be peculiar in the level of difficulty here but this very fact also creates a huge opportunity and a self-imposed barrier in the sense that once you manage to succeed in this part of the world it’s hard for anyone with just some idea to come pull the rug from under your feet.

That aside, in Nigeria infrastructural challenges push huge costs to small business that cannot afford to shoulder such a burden

PrepClass

With support programmes like the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEEP), Mara Mentors, She Leads Africa and incubator hubs like Idea Hub and CC Hub, do you think Nigeria startups are well equipped with right support system or do they need much more?

While the above mentioned are doing a fantastic job alone they cannot possibly provide sufficient support for all the potential startups in the country. I think they are a step in the right direction but we still have many more miles to cover.

As a startup operating in Nigeria, what were the challenges you encountered within the first year of operation that you think were peculiar to this environment?

Understanding the dynamics of the market and what people recognize as “value”. Nigeria is a very unique market and it’s important to recognize that what a market defines as value, what they are willing to pay for and even how much they are willing to pay varies from market to market. In Nigeria people like to see people, as a society we like “touch”. Payment was also a huge challenge as the payment infrastructure available in Nigerian is quite weak making it difficult to recover revenues

Where would you like PrepClass to be before you can use the phrase “We have arrived”?

*Laughs* We never want to “arrive” for us it’s about the journey, our dream and vision is to become a Pan African company operating in over 5 African countries by 2018 however it doesn’t end there. We never want to stop improving our services and reaching more and more people. Our most important metric for measuring ourselves is the learning outcome of our tutees. Our greatest joy would be to see all our tutees surpass their academic goals

Quick Fire Questions

Favourite business brand?

Facebook

Favourite business leader?

Chika Nwobi, Founder of L5Lab

Most Inspiring Quote?

“The secret of business is to know something that nobody else knows” – Aristotle Onassis

Most admired Nigerian Entrepreneur?

Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, Co-founder Andela.

Top Travel Destination?

Las Vegas, Bahamas