Martin Kemka is part of a five-strong team that recently founded WeTeachMe, an online resource that links people who want to learn a skill with someone who can teach them.
He speaks to StartupSmart about the early lessons in business that he’s been learning.
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Can you explain a little about the founders’ backgrounds?
WeTeachMe was founded by five very different but passionate people who came together from the Launch48 event held in Melbourne in April 2011.
We all have very different backgrounds but each have some sort of connection to education.
How was the process of coming up with the idea at Launch48?
Before Launch48 all I had was a concept and a bit of a dream. Every time it was explained to someone they would nod and say, “That’s a nice idea,” and that would be the end of it; leaving a nice warm probably-maybe feeling and nothing else.
Launch48 was an irreplaceable opportunity to bring this thing to life.
I can’t really describe the energy you get when 15 driven strangers giving up their weekend to collaborate on a concept.
We had mentors such as Grant Downie, Ian Broom, Daniel May, Stephen Burke and Pete Williams giving us advice all through the weekend and all resources were provided by Deloitte.
We still keep in touch with everyone and have received quite a bit of advice and feedback along the way.
Can you explain what the business does?
We connect everyday people who want to skill up and learn new things.
The kicker is that all the learning takes place in the real world where the sense of smell, touch and sight play an integral role to the learning process.
Members can create profiles and even start teaching others so there is no separation between teacher and learner.
All transactions are handled online and there are safety measures put in place to ensure transactions flow smoothly.
In addition to this we empower people to start sharing their passions, provide resources to improve their skills, offer then opportunities to improve and gain exposure and create a community where people can see this happening and jump in.
We will continue to roll out functionality as we receive feedback from our customers and shape the platform to suit their requirements. At the end of the day it is driven by the community so we need that flow of feedback.
How have you differentiated yourself in the marketplace?
We focus on the offline interaction and use online resources to manage and enhance the experience. All the answers are online.
Wikipedia has everything you ever need to know, but we believe that the face-to-face interaction is vital to actually retain and incorporate information yourself.
How have you funded the business?
This has been bootstrapped by ourselves and was launched for under $500 in total, over 116 days of work.
How will you monetise the business?
The basic fee is a small percentage whenever a ticket is purchased. This fee is in line with other booking websites.
We’re not looking to provide obtrusive advertising or anything like that but there are a number of other services we will incorporate into the platform as we move forward.
How are you marketing the business?
At the start we did everything from planting fake humorous fliers for lessons, handing out business cards with lollies, crowd-sourcing videos, crowd-sourcing cooking lessons, CBD teaching demonstrations, planning speed teaching events, lots of social media and approaching the public directly.
What has been the most challenging part of starting up?
Trying to justify why we had not done it earlier.
What would you have done differently if you had the chance?
These things are iterative processes. I can’t really think of any mistakes that I would have done differently since I have learnt quite a bit from all of them.
There’s some things we had to try just to get the response.
What is the biggest risk your business faces?
Growing stale or thinking we know better than the people who use the site.
What is your ambition for the business, in the short- and long-term?
In the short-term we wish to build a solid community.
In the long-term we want to see this as a trusted community that provides solid education to students and a platform for people to teach their passions and make a living. A real living.