In June 2010, Elisha Tan found herself exasperated at the dearth of web search results for a reputable squash instructor. Four months later, she incorporated a company in Singapore, and started Learnemy, an online marketplace for finding trainers and classes.
Fast forward to 2014, Tan has today announced that the website is live with its public launch. It had been in beta since April 2012, a couple of months after the startup secured a funding of S$50,000 (US$40,000) from the government’s SPRING YES! fund (which was replaced by ACE fund) and went full-time in July 2011.
While in beta, the platform matched more than 700 students to instructors, and attracted 135 instructors, including software engineers from PayPal, NEO, and Pirate3D, and ex-national team athletes from Singapore and Malaysia.
Challenges In conversation with e27, Tan admitted that the long wait was partly caused by mandatory milestones to hit during her contract with the organisation. “… in my two years of contract (with SPRING YES!), my grant administrator was changed four times. So it was difficult to discuss for a milestone change so I can pivot,” explained Tan.
However, looking back, she said that she would still take the grant, although she might consider Media Development Authority of Singapore’s iJam instead. “With iJam, I get to work with an incubator — people who know things and have the right connections. … Spring organises events … but meeting people at events can’t beat a personal introduction,” she told this author.
Learnemy is currently made up of two team members: Tan, and Nicholas Ng, the lead developer. While the team might seem small, it was even smaller to begin with. Scouring for a technical co-founder was an arduous task. She said, “While I couldn’t find a tech co-founder, I learned how to code so I could understand my product and also not to be conned by developers.”
Opportunities Tan is an alumna of Founder Institute Singapore, which eventually helped her to score a mentorship session with Will Bunker, Founder, 90’s (now better known as Match.com) in the US.
“I don’t remember the specifics, but the biggest lesson I took away (from my session with Will) was to keep trying new things,” she said.
Prior to her discussion with Bunker, Learnemy was limited to sports lessons and private one-to-one sessions. However, after making the trip, she added entrepreneurship and programming lessons to the list, and started group classes.
While it does not cost a single cent for instructors to list classes on the platform, the company takes a 20 per cent commission fee per enrolment. Tan shared that while both professional trainers and enthusiasts are welcomed to teach, there is an authentication process.
She explained, “I don’t validate a person’s skills — I believe that if you know a little, you can still teach what little you know. Willing buyer – willing seller thing. What I authenticate is that this person truly exists and is contactable. With proper picture and bio up I can sort of tell if someone looks a bit off — I will remove that. So far so good though. There are no no-shows and runaway cases.” (Sic)
Learnemy is also looking to raise a seed round to boost its presence in home country Singapore.