Audrey Nakad first realized the importance of tutoring when she tutored fellow students at Concordia University, Canada while she was pursuing her undergrad studies in finance. “I noticed that my students not only outperformed their peers in their courses but they started liking the material after taking sessions with me” explains this young entrepreneur who came back to Lebanon six years later with an idea for a startup.
“One day my sister came to me with this problem: she couldn’t find a qualified tutor to help her out with her study material. When she did find someone, they were either super expensive or had a very busy schedule. I then realized that when I graduated from university, it was also tough for me as a tutor to get in touch with students,” recounts Audrey who then decided, with her sister, to create the Uber for private tutoring: Synkers.
Synkers is a mobile application that connects students to highly qualified tutors on the spot, in three simple steps: a student searches for the course, picks a tutor based on his or her preferences and directly books a session on the app.
“I came here with just an idea and a rough business plan and started Synkers with my sister and a third co-founder and then we met our lucky developer. We became part of this entrepreneurship journey together.”
Launched in September 2016, Synkers is now present in 10 universities, used by 5000 students and hires 11 employees. Its mission is to enhance academic performance and to prepare students for a brighter future.
Beyond matching students with tutors, Synkers aims to follow their progress, assess their strengths and accompany them until they find a job. For that, Synkers has partnered with top corporations that are looking for qualified interns and cannot find them. This is another gap in the market that Synkers covers, since potential interns can be found in the high performing pool of tutors registered on the platform. In order to become a tutor on Synkers, candidates must have a grade of 85+ on the material they would like to teach. Additionally, the Synkers team interviews candidates to make sure that they have proper communication skills.
Synkers graduated from Speed@BDD and has won several competitions including the Hyundai Start-up Competion and the Femme Francophone Entrepreneure Competition. They also won the Arabnet Startup battle in Beirut and will be representing the Arab championship in Dubai this May.
Besides financial awards from competitions, Synkers is receiving a grant from Kafalat and is currently looking for funds. The app makes money from taking a commission on every booked session. Expansion plans include growing locally to be present in both schools and universities and penetrating the Dubai market in September.
Audrey and the Synkers team faced a few challenges while starting up. One of which is finding talented software developers who are competent in mobile development particularly iOS. “Universities here tend to focus on web development rather than mobile. Talented mobile developers are readily recruited into major corporations here and abroad,” explains Audrey.
Another major challenge is funding. Audrey notes that “Although Circular 331 has jumpstarted the entrepreneurial ecosystem but the process is still slow and some of the VCs are not yet very entrepreneurial friendly.”
In her journey with Synkers, Audrey strives to build a lovable brand. The Synkers team works hard to make sure that their customers are always satisfied. The app offers a money back guarantee, complaints are answered within 2 hours, and the team works to pick the best tutors.
Audrey reflects on her entrepreneurial journey: “ Being an entrepreneur is a hate and love relationship. But, I can tell you that I’ve never been this happy in my life. When it’s a lean startup you see results right away, whether positive or negative. It is very satisfying to work for the end goal and feel the impact.”
“You start a bit naïve. You set out a plan and an amazing strategy but you don’t think of all the problems you will face. When you come to execution, you notice that it has nothing to do with what you had already planned. You will never end up doing what you initially thought you were going to do. It’s trying and failing. I learn a lot from my failures.”
Synkers is available to download both on the App Store and on Google Play. www.synkers.com