Taylor Phoo is a co-founder and CEO of MMTutors, an online marketplace where high school students can find the best tutors in Myanmar.
Human Asia is privileged to have this interview with her.
What is the idea behind MMTutors?
In Myanmar, there are nearly 1.5 million high school students and over 200,000 of those students are from Yangon. Over 33% of high school students took private tuition by spending nearly 10% to 20% of their income. From our 16 combined years of teaching experience and after meeting with many parents, we found that they are all facing the same problems.
Because of those problems in Myanmar, the pass rate is around 37% which means that only 37 out of 100 students could pass the examination. This is an important statistic because university entrance examination is like a turning point in a student’s life. This is the reason why we wanted to help them to have a better and more systematic education.
Just like what our slogan says: “You don’t have to learn hard, just learn smart “. We aim to provide efficient learning methods with MMTUTORS.
Are you the leader in this market as per your tagline “Best Tutoring Service in Myanmar” ?
Although there are other similar platforms in Myanmar, their vision is different. Our vision is to be the best resource for learning and developing students’ skills. By providing them with systematic learning, we do believe that MMTutors can help Myanmar promote a better education system.
Is it difficult to find tutors who want to join your platform, and how do you vet these tutors?
All applicants have to pass three stages to become our tutor. Firstly, they have to pass the interview where we test not only their experience but also their attitude. Secondly, they have to attend our training where they have to demonstrate their teaching method. And finally, if they pass the final test, they can become an official tutor on our platform.
Yes, it is difficult to find professional tutors in Myanmar and we do have a tight selection process by asking them a lot of questions during the interview process. These questions are mainly designed to find out their professionalism and proficiency in their specialized subject.
What difficulties have you faced in running MMTutors?
Running a tech startup in a developing country like Myanmar is challenging. We need to be more creative in developing products in order solve more complex problems that still exist in the region. It is hard to persuade the supply side, in this case tutors, since this is a new system for them. We need to educate and convince them about how technology can help their teaching style and also their careers. Secondly, we have a limited amount of resources to take traditional tutoring to the next level. We need more people and funding to accelerate growth.
Recently MMTutors received seed funding from Phandeeyar. What has been done with it and are you looking for additional funding?
We received seed funding from Phandeeyar in September 2017 and we have used the funding to successfully build a platform where both potential tutors and students can contact MMTutors online based on their specifications and needs. As we explained before, we do not accept random tutors who say they could do tutoring in our platform. We have developed a system to screen tutor documents, conduct interviews, train, and test them. We are still looking for additional funding to accelerate the growth and build a better and more systematic matchmaking platform.
MMTutors was also selected as Telenor Digital Winner Myanmar 2017. Tell us more about that.
Yes we were selected as the “Telenor Digital Winner Myanmar” for 2017. We attended the “Slush”and “Telenor Digital Winners” Events in Singapore. We saw many startups from around the world which were using high technology like AI and that encouraged us to innovate more for Myanmar. We also had a chance to meet with other “Telenor Digital Winners” teams from Asia and exchanged insights in startup ecosystems from their countries.
We concluded that compared to other countries in Asia, Myanmar startup ecosystem is still in its infancy stage and that is good because this means there are opportunities for startups in our country to accelerate along to give the greatest added value for customers.
Where do you see MMTutors in the next few years?
For the next few years, we will try to expand to other cities within Myanmar and we want to be the number one tutoring platform in the country.
All the co-founders of MMTutors are still very young. Did you all aspire to become entrepreneurs from an early age?
Yes, we are very young and we started working at the age of sixteen. We are all passion-driven individuals and we are ready to face problems and difficulties along the way. We started MMTutors only with our passion, quitting our high salary careers. Being very young is a good opportunity because it allows us to make mistakes and fail, and still get up and start again. As people often say, we are crazy enough to follow our dreams, and we never doubted that. It does not mean we are over-confident. We can fail but we will definitely give it our best shot.
What has been the biggest risk you had to take so far?
The biggest risk was that we are the very first platform to provide this service in Myanmar. Although this type of tutoring platform has been successful in other countries, this is still a totally strange concept for Myanmar as we are still a developing country. So when we started, we did not know whether our idea would work or not. But now we have positive feedbacks from our customers and we are trying to give more creative solutions to solve existing problems better.
Advice for young entrepreneurs who want to follow in your footsteps?
Our advice is that never be afraid to fail. Every entrepreneur will have a period of struggles. Never feel depressed and never ever give up. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one does.
Visit MMTutors at http://www.mmtutors.com/
To get updates on similar stories, follow our Facebook page on www.facebook.com/thehumanasia