Ramya Tadikonda works for TutorVista and tutors
students online from her home in Chennai, India
TutorVista also stands out for its well-known venture backers, its scale and its ambition. The two-year-old company has raised more than $15 million from investors including Sequoia, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Silicon Valley Bank.
TutorVista employs 760 people, including 600 tutors in India, a teaching staff it plans to double by year-end. Its 52-person technical staff has spent countless hours building the software system to schedule, monitor and connect potentially tens of thousands of tutors with students oceans away.
“Our vision is to be part of the monthly budget of one million families,” Mr. Ganesh said.
It is a long-term goal. To date, TutorVista has signed up 10,000 subscribers in the United States, and its British service, rolled out in September, has 1,000.
Further gains will depend on winning over more customers like the Tham family in California. Since he was in elementary school, Kenneth has had stints of conventional tutoring, often in classroom settings with up to 10 other students. At times, this cost the family up to $500 a month. Last year, Ernest Tham, a truck driver, noticed a reference to TutorVista on a Web site and suggested his son give it a try.
“Kenneth was apprehensive at first, and I wasn’t sure how it would work,” Mr. Tham said. “But, shocking to say, it’s gone very well.”
Kenneth said he initially found it “very unusual, not seeing another person. You get used to it, though. It’s not a problem.” He schedules one or two sessions nearly every day, mainly for English and chemistry. With a digital pen and palette, he writes sentences and grammar exercises, for example, and his work appears on his computer screen and on the screen of his tutor. They discuss the lessons using Internet-telephone headsets.
“You can also get help with homework problems,” Kenneth said, “but they’re not supposed to do all your homework for you.”
In a year with the TutorVista service, Kenneth has improved both his grades and standardized test scores, his father said.
Ramya Tadikonda has tutored Kenneth Tham, among many others, from her home in Chennai, India. To achieve its ambitions, TutorVista must recruit, train and retain thousands of tutors like her.
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