Why SA ed-tech startup Tuta-Me pivoted to a B2B model

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South African ed-tech startup Tuta-Me is benefiting from a pivot to a business-to-business (B2B) model, with its co-founder telling Disrupt Africa business-to-consumer (B2C) models were unworkable in the current economic environment.

Co-founded by Abed Tau and Dylan Hyslop in April 2015 and launched in March of 2016, Tuta-Me was an “Uber for tutoring”, a mobile app that allowed students to identify, book and pay for vetted and qualified tutors.

The startup came to the public’s attention when it came second at the #Hack.Jozi Challenge, and raised angel funding to quicken its rollout, but within 18 months it had pivoted. In early 2018 Tuta-Me changed tack, switching to a B2B model and focusing on fewer clients with bigger impact.

Now, it offers online learning programmes to Grade 8-12 learners in subjects such as Maths, Physical Science and English, and allows corporate entities to sponsor tutoring sessions for bursary students.

Hyslop told Disrupt Africa the pivot was primarily for economic reasons, with the Tuta-Me team having overestimated the B2C buying power in South Africa.

“The majority of individuals just do not have the cash to spend on non-primary needs such as tutoring. We then pivoted towards a B2B model where large corporates had the funding, and their bursary students needed academic support,” he said.

Hyslop explained the impact Tuta-Me is having in this niche. Corporates use the startup’s platform to sponsor bursary students with a specific number of tutor sessions within the academic year, with Tuta-Me then assigning a compatible tutor to students and managing the use of lessons through its app.

“If a corporate sponsored a bursary learner and that learner dropped out in the third year, all their funding has essentially been ineffective. So we come in and assist these learners with tutoring bursaries paid for by their sponsors. We then report on their progress and participation,” he said.

The change of approach has been worthwhile, with Tuta-Me’s clients now including Investec, Deloitte, Shell, Honeywell and Anglo American. It has assisted around 2,300 learners so far through these corporate customers, and raised its second funding round – from a large education firm – in 2018.

Hyslop said he would advise South African startups operating using B2C business models to seriously consider pivoting given the current economic climate.

“Both myself and my co-founder Abed are very anti-B2C in our economic environment. All our other investments and efforts all have a strong B2B focus,” he said.

Successfully pivoted, and with major corporate clients and additional funding in hand, Tuta-Me is now looking forward to a bright future.

“The goal is to keep building our technology and learning platform, growing in content and partners which help spread the availability of the platform. Our ultimate goal is to get out learning platform to all school users in the country for free,” said Hyslop.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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