In the course of developing technology to generate efficiencies in their own ‘fragmented” sector, the co-CEOs of Scooter Tutor, Cameron Schmidt and Sam Robertson, have been helping organisations from other industries to better manage remote workforces and customer service.
Scooter Tutor is a software-driven tutoring organisation that enables the parents of primary and secondary students to tap into a network of qualified tutors, operating in capital cities across Australia. It began life ten years ago as one-man show. To see him through a degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering, Schmidt taught mathematics, chemistry and physics to high-school students in Brisbane, commuting to their homes by – wait for it – scooter (hence the name). Scooter Tutor eventually grew to include a handful of local tutors before Schmidt partnered with Robertson, with whom he reinvented the business as an online platform in mid-2015.
“An awesome opportunity”
Robertson told Dynamic Business that the introduction of the online platform allowed the business to more efficiently manage their remote workforce and customers, and represented “an awesome opportunity” to modernise a “fragmented” sector.
“By this, I mean there are a number of drastically different business modes in the tutoring market,” he explained. “You have everything from traditional bricks-and-mortar tutoring centres and web-based video tutoring services through to un-vetted online tutor directories. Then, of course, there are cash-in-hand tutors, who still dominate the market. The problem is that some options, such as centres, offer quality control but aren’t necessarily convenient for parents and students while other options, such as cash-in-hand tutors, offer convenience but quality is not always assured.
“At Scooter Tutor, we’re using our platform to facilitate greater levels of flexibility, convenience and quality in tutoring. Parents are able to find and instantly book tutors for a range of subjects across different year levels, and manage all of their payments and bookings online with ease. As we’re assisting young students in their own homes, we do a significant amount of work upfront to find Australia’s best tutors, including interviews and background checks. We then employ the successful candidates, who are certified to work with children, covered by insurance and receive super (if they meet the threshold). Critically, tutors are given the flexibility to work when they want, and our platform ensures they only receive lesson bookings within the times they set. This removes any uncertainty around availability, and allows us to book lessons confidently and quickly.”
A cross-industry solution
Since the reinvention, Robertson said Scooter Tutor has enjoyed year-on-year-growth of around 300-400% in terms of demand-side metrics (i.e. revenue and lessons taught), with traction in Brisbane helping them secure the capital (north of $700k raised to date) to launch into Melbourne, Sydney Gold Coast, Adelaide and Canberra. On the supply-side of the equation, its workforce has ballooned over the last year and a half – at the start of 2016, it’s network consisted of only 26 tutors but today it boasts more than 250 to meet increased demand.
Robertson attributes the company’s success to the quality of its tutors as well as the technology driving its platform. He explained, “Making this kind of business work at scale is quite challenging but as an ex-engineer and management consultant, solving some of the operational issues that come with growing a business like this is also extremely exciting. Without our technology, we wouldn’t be able to manage a workforce of 250 tutors with such a small team.”
Of course, Scooter Tutor’s platform isn’t just helping Robertson and Schmidt to work at scale, it’s also helping other businesses do so – both within and outside the tutoring sector.
“We’re in the process of letting other tutoring organisations use our platform to streamline their own operations and provide a better overall service to their customers and tutors,” Robertson said. “We’re excited to be working with another national tutoring organisation to roll this out over the coming months, and we’re really hoping to streamline the industry even further by working with other providers across the country. Our platform can also be white-labelled for use by third party organisations in other industries to help them manage their remote workforces. We’ve already licensed our platform to a major aged care provider in Brisbane and we’re in late-stage discussions with a number of other providers.”
“A lot of trial and error”
Asked to identify a major challenge he and Schmidt have faced at the helm of Scooter Tutor, Robertson revealed it has been marketing.
“Without being parents of school aged kids, it’s difficult to know what channels work most effectively for our target audience,” he said. “Our business also has an interesting customer structure where the service recipient (the student) isn’t, in most cases, the bill payer. We need to tailor our messaging to make sure that’s reaching the right touch points for each of the different demographics we’re focused on. The last 24 months have involved a lot of trial and error on this front, but we’re lucky to be working with some awesome marketing gurus now who have straightened things out, and are making sure we get the right messages across to parents, tutors and students.”
In the coming weeks, Scooter Tutor will be rolling out video lessons to support students in regional towns and Tasmania, where. Although the core focus right now is on primary and high school subjects – with mathematics, English and science being the most in-demand – Robertson said he and Schmidt are “very keen” to extend Scooter Tutor to offer such services as music lessons, baby-sitting and after-school care. Beyond that, and further expansion across Australia, Robertson said the aim is to streamline tutoring internationally. He added, “Cam and I and are both very excited about the product we’re developing and we’re enjoying seeing the market adopt some of our solutions.”