SZ: Tell us about your background
Japhet: I graduated from National University of Singapore (NUS) back in 2016, and had never held a full-time job since. Before Reubiks, I tried my hands on various entrepreneurship opportunities. While some of it were fruitful, most failed. No matter how many times I failed, I always got back up, took the learnings from the attempt and tried again.
Throughout these trials and errors, I understood what I am truly passionate about and that is education and learning. Even during my undergraduate days, I would take up multiple training and speaking roles in various fields of interest, which includes e-commerce, Forex Trading and even Blockchain Technology. Being a trainer made me understand the gaps in the system, and the importance of addressing them for a smoother learning experience for the coming generation. I also understood the importance of taking a holistic approach on learning. It should never be something that is confined to classrooms, exams and results.
SZ: Tell us how did you come with your company/startup/product idea?
Japhet: Being a student, tutor and trainer made me understand the gap in the system more thoroughly. People do not hesitate to pay large sums of money on courses, simply because they went for a preview or read up on the trainer. However, truth be told, there are many other trainers and courses available, who might be providing similar services or even better but are often not in consideration because they are not strong in marketing. There are even cases where students end up paying thousands of dollars for courses that do not even benefit them or worth the money paid.
The main reason for this phenomenon? Learners do not have many choices to choose from as there simply was not a single third party platform where users can compare and contrast between all of these courses, to see which one is the best and most suited to their needs and lifestyle. I believe that if thousands of dollars must be paid for a course, then it better be paid to the trainer who can truly impart the right knowledge. More importantly, when trainers are put side by side, it provides a fairer and more wholesome picture for the end user, who no longer has to decide entirely based on trial lessons and seminar previews.
Another problem I spotted in the learning industry is the fact that parents did not know where to go to find quality tutors or for some average to lower income groups, not knowing where to find affordable options for tutoring. Parents also often pondered whether to choose a private tutor or to send their kids to a tuition centre, and if they did send their kids to a tuition centre, where would the closest tuition centre be? These are the issues in the academic learning industry and I believe that an app like Reubiks can solve these problems and disrupt the learning industry in a highly positive manner.
Reubiks started off as a training platform; we wanted to share our knowledge on wealth and finance. However, as we progressed further, we realised the gaps and potentials in this marketplace. That is why we decided to develop a platform for education as a whole.
Although Covid-19 seems like an unlikely time to start an app business, given that an app business has a strong need to burn cash, we realised that it is times like this that has the potential to change the norm. Digitising has been the hot topic during this pandemic period, and we believe that we can bring real changes to academic and non-academic education in Singapore and soon in the region.
SZ: Who is the person that inspired you to do what you do?
Japhet: It’s not exactly one person, but truly what inspired me to kickstart this journey would be my ex-students whom I taught during the earlier days, who had to go through multiple tutors and centres to find the teaching style and system that suits them and their work-life balance. Other than that, it would be my friends who are private tutors themselves who struggle to advertise their expertise, tired of middlemen commissions and not being able to secure enough gigs in the vicinity. I wanted to bring about a system that will benefit both sides.
SZ: How is your company/product different from competitors?
Japhet: User Experience. We make finding a tuition centre/trainer and tutor so seamless and easy. We choose not to over-clutter the app, like our competitors. We want the app to be something that both young students and older parents can use with confidence.
SZ: What is the business model of your company/startup?
Japhet: Exactly like GrabFood, our lowest hanging fruit in terms of company revenue would be commissions. But we will choose to do this in phases. We have other ways to monetize the app, like for example, coming up with a leaderboard for tuition centres to advertise themselves.
SZ: How do you come over the challenges you face on a daily basis?
Japhet: There is no secret formula. We simply make sure that even when nobody supports us, we have that ability to warm our own hands and carry on the fight.
SZ: What is the most difficult decision you have to make in your business?
Japhet: If there’s one thing I have to mark as the most difficult decision to make thus far in my journey, it was turning down a good paying full-time job to pursue my business idea. It was a difficult but necessary decision to make at that point of time. I am not only not earning as much at the moment, but we are also fueling in all the time and money we have in this business. With that said, I can strongly say that I do not regret taking the decision because this is a project with great potential, and working on it brings me more satisfaction than any 9 to 5 could ever offer.
SZ: What is your advice to the new entrepreneurs ?
Japhet: Be very cautiously optimistic. Money cannot be the only driving factor behind what you do. In my own experience, I would say I was at the worst place when I was betrayed by my ex-business partner and an external party. I remember correctly, at that point in time I only had SGD 289.60 in my bank account and had to hold three to four part-time jobs to survive. This included deliveringworking as merchant acquisition at GrabFood, tutoring primary school students on the weekends and taking on multiple IT and training jobs on an ad-hoc basis to meet my ends.
In hindsight, it was during this period that I understood what was lacking in our system, the support needed for tutors and trainers, especially those operating on their own. It was the rock-bottom that led me to Reubiks Academy. Even at your worst, if you focus on what you are truly passionate about and be open to opportunities, you will not only make it out but will be able to make the best out of it. For that, you need to be optimistic even on the darkest days.
SZ: Anything you like to add?
Japhet: I still recall when I approached one of the tuition centres, I was chased out by a broom, they thought I was a thief. The tuition centre was very quiet but the door was opened, so I went in and the principal thought I was a thief. Still makes me laugh every time I think of that incident.