FinTech Focus

My learning curve

March 13 - 19, 2019
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Gulf Weekly Stan Szecowka
By Stan Szecowka




Gulf Weekly My learning curve

AN entrepreneurial Bahraini start-up has been launched to provide an online platform which helps students find and book lessons with private tutors instantly.

The platform – www.Telpme.org – was only unveiled last year and, in a little over three months, has attracted more than 300 tutor applicants, 400-plus students and has already completed 1,300 hours of tutoring.

It is the brainchild of former Kanoo International School pupil Ameena Bucheeri, 23, who lives in Arad. She said: “I came up with the idea when I was a Mass Communications student at the American University of Sharjah.

“I had always been fascinated with education and loved to tutor friends and family, some of my friends at the university noticed this and recommended that I join the university’s ‘writing centre’ which was a peer-to-peer tutoring centre where ‘A’ English students could tutor other students of all majors in writing.

“I was required to take a one semester course where we studied peer tutoring and were trained on different teaching techniques. I then taught at the centre for two years and was truly inspired by the outcome.

“On a personal level I was able to explore my passion in education as well as earn an income, I tutored a diverse array of students including those with visual impairment, as well as Master level engineering students.

“On a larger level, I saw the impact the centre had on students, as it was helping to solve a problem the majority of students faced.

“I wanted to create a similar opportunity for students and graduates here while simultaneously solving a widespread pain that many often endure. So, a year after I came back to Bahrain, I started working on the platform. I fully financed the launch myself by investing all my savings … and the outcome has been outstanding!”

The concept is clever. Telp means ‘teach/tutor’ + ‘help’. “My vision for Telp is to be able to connect and reach as many students and potential educators as possible so I chose a name that had a global feel, yet was simple and memorable. Also, the aspect of being supportive and helpful is a key value in our start-up so I wanted to choose a name that reflected that,” explained Ameena, who graduated with a Bachelors in Mass Communication, with a concentration on journalism, and she also holds CELTA teaching certification.

Her vision and drive quickly impressed others and Telpme was soon selected by Flat6Labs, a regional start-up accelerator programme and seed-investment company, that fosters and invests in ‘bright and passionate entrepreneurs with cutting-edge ideas’, located on the 15th floor of the National Bank of Bahrain (NBB) towers in Manama.

It provides seed funding, strategic mentorship, a creative workspace along with a multitude of perks and entrepreneurship-focused business training and, last week, as it celebrated its first birthday in Bahrain, its Second Demo Day was hosted at The National Theatre of Bahrain, where eight start-ups showcased their businesses in front of an audience of VIPs, investors, prominent officials and members of the media.

Ameena gave up a secure research manager’s position she’d held for a year to launch her venture and was backed all the way by her parents. Her dad, Adel, is a doctor working at the paediatric intensive care unit at Salmaniya hospital and her mother, Bushra, teaches the Quran.

“I’m blessed with extremely supportive parents, they were very excited about the idea and have been supporting my journey since Day One and have been very understanding of the time and effort founding a start-up requires,” she said. “They were also extremely supportive of my decision to resign from my job to focus on Telp full-time.”

Her siblings, Amal Adel, 25, a PhD candidate and school students Eman Adel, 16, and Omar Adel, nine, are all backing Ameena to make a success of her endeavours.

The saying goes ‘from little acorns mighty oak trees grow’ and that appears to be the case with Telpme. “As I was designing and building the website, I had tested the concept by simply launching an Instagram page where I did everything manually,” explained Ameena. “I received great feedback from that experience as well which validated the need for an automated platform. We are now also launching our mobile app which will be introduced in the coming weeks.”

The ‘we’ comes in the form of her colleagues – Esra Al Sayed, 23, customer support agent, Mahmood Al Shehabi, 25, marketing & outreach manager, and Khalid Al Belooshi, 25, technical lead.

“Joining Flat6Labs has been a great push for Telp,” said Ameena. “I started by working on it alone from my bedroom so to go from that to an energetic environment where there is always someone to offer all types of support is amazing.

“I’m never stuck for too long and even if the Flat6Labs team do not have the expertise needed to help they always make sure to connect me to the right people. They offer a great support package for early-stage start-ups, including funding, office space, mentorship and networking opportunities.”

Business has also taken off thanks to the many students and parents who have spread news of the service by word-of-mouth. “Instead of recommending specific tutors they recommend Telp instead as they trust our selection process, as we offer complete transparency,” Ameena said. “We certainly make the experience of finding a trusted tutor much easier and it’s heart-warming to hear graduates and parents say ‘we wish Telp was around when we were students’!

“Most of our tutors offer very competitive prices so even with our 10 per cent commission we tend to be much more affordable as the average market hourly rate of BD10 and our average hourly rate is only BD7.500.”

“To retain our customers, the team:

l Advise tutors to maintain a lower, or same, hourly rate as they do outside of the platform to be able to build a loyal customer base.

l Offer a better experience with Telp which makes it easier for parents to book their lessons with telp than otherwise.

l Offer supportive customer support that makes the process of booking a tutor feel much more reliable with the platform. Even if a family faces an issue with a tutor the team is ‘more than happy’ to help and ready to find an alternative tutor in case one is needed.

“We are also currently working on enhancing our customer retention schemes to further support this,’ added Ameena.

So, what’s next for @telp? “We’re growing our team and launching our app very soon. There are also a lot of exciting partnerships coming on the way, so stay tuned for those announcements!” she added.







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