As an avid diver and basketball player, Ng E-fei, Co-founder, LessonsGoWhere, had built many friendships around leisure activities.
For instance, he met his Co-founders (Ethan Yeo and Jackie Yong) through a shared passion for basketball, and the three of them have been playing the sport for a decade now. He also got to know a community of divers through signing up for a diving course back in 2010.
The three of them then went on to set up LessonsGoWhere, a Singapore-based online marketplace for lessons on anything and everything, with personal savings of S$30,000 (about US$24,000) in mid-2013. A few months later, the team received the Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE) Startups grant of S$50,000 (about US$40,000). Meanwhile, the beta version was released last December. The full version, on the other hand, was launched in June 2014.
To date, the website, which generates revenue by taking a 20 per cent commission fee from vendors, has processed almost S$40,000 (US$32,000) in transactions. There are more than 700 classes on the platform. These classes include baking, photography, yoga and bouquet making.
Going forward, Ng said that there will be more types of lessons, and more ways of marketing lessons to audiences like corporations “as part of team building events and employee incentive schemes”.
Their most immediate goal, according to him, is to complete all milestones for the aforementioned ACE Start-up Grant. At the moment, two out of three tranches of the grant have been paid out to the startup. Additionally, he also intends to gather more than 200 lesson providers listing on the platform. Currently, there are 150 lesson providers on board.
Aside from garnering partners, other goals include achieving profitability by the end of the year, and priming LessonsGoWhere for overseas expansion.
Where did the idea germinate?
It all started with Ng’s girlfriend searching the internet for baking classes. While she wasn’t able to find a suitable class to take up, it sparked an idea.
He then started talking to providers of such classes and realised that there were bigger challenges than just setting up a website to list their offerings. Other issues include reaching out to new and a sufficient number of students, getting payment before the lesson especially since some classes require pre-bought ingredients, etc.
One lesson provider Rachael Lee, who lists Hello Kitty macaron baking classes on the platform, gave a glowing testimonial:
“As a single person operation, I’ve preferred to focus on the core function of make and bake, which is teaching students how to bake. As such, I’ve previously found it a challenge to get enough students, as well as set up a convenient e-commerce platform. Immediately after signing up my baking classes with LessonsGoWhere, I received an overwhelming response and had to increase the number of slots for my lessons. Within a month, I needed to organise more sessions to accommodate the influx of new students from LessonsGoWhere.”
As for LessonsGoWhere, there were countless early challenges. Ng said that the biggest challenge faced was probably the task of bringing in lesson providers, especially in the initial days where there was no minimum viable product (MVP). Yong, who is in charge of sales, would pitch to prospective partners with a mere paper mock-up.
Ng added that the first 30 lesson providers on boarded onto LessonsGoWhere are still with the platform this very day.
Another struggle, which is still faced to date, is the issue of constant liquidity – high volume of activity between lesson providers and seekers on the platform. It’s a chicken and egg problem, said Ng, noting finding balance between supply and demand is a tough nut to crack.
Understanding which categories to include is also another problem LessonsGoWhere faced in the beginning. The team analysed over 200 categories and subcategories, breaking them down in terms of search competitiveness, keyword demand, market fragmentation and market size, to identify potential verticals.
“We believe that this industry is underserved by technology and hope we can make finding and booking a class as simple as how we find and book our hotels now,” said Ng.
The firm also faces competition from another Singapore-based online marketplace Learnemy, which launched earlier this year.