Meet the ambitious 25 year old Thea Myhrvold who is using technology to impact the world of education and take it to another level, believing her solution will engage a million students globally by end of 2016. She is the founder of teachmenow.com, which she started in 2014 for one-to-one learning in real time and has now got the backing of corporate giants such as Infiniti and Microsoft.
Arab Woman Platform had the pleasure to talking to Thea and finding out more about her imitative and dreams,
I was born in Jeddah, and went to school there for over 10 years. The other school years was shared between Greece, Norway and Switzerland for university.
My international background and Arabic heritage inspired and gave me the perspective to do what I am working on today. If you had ever asked me when I was younger what I wanted to be when I grew up, I never knew I would be running and education or technology company. Being half Arabic, an educator and a woman it was always important to do something for and in the region. Dubai was the easiest place for me to set up and start, and was amazed at how the startup ecosystem really encourages female entrepreneurship.
Where did the idea for TeachMeNow come from?
My passion for education accelerated when I started teaching students with learning disabilities. These students faced ADHD and dyslexia, and were in their final year of the IB Diploma. They had given up on the possibility of passing their exams, which would determine their acceptance to University. Within a few months of adaptive teaching, the students were receiving above average results! Their teacher was shocked that this had actually worked.
During this process I created games for them, and was soon to realize that this was a real hit. As I too became more addicted to my smartphone and apps, I recognized how modern technology could help streamline this transfer of knowledge in an efficient and simple way. The games that I created for my students inspired me to develop the world’s first gamified educational app covering high school material. This app was the first in its kind which was specialized in subjects like Economics, and is still available on the App Store.
Through this app, I got numerous requests for teaching from all around the world – Japan, Korea, Australia, US. The list goes on! And I realized, there was no “airbnb” or “uber” for learning and exchange of knowledge on a global scale, where anyone can share their knowledge or learn. There was no website that I was comfortable teaching on because they either set my rate for me or took 40 % (or more) commissions, didn’t let me create my own courses, etc. I wanted to create a simple tool that have everything I needed in one space, that took care of payments, documents, and the actual lessons as well for both teachers, students and parents.
What is the mission behind TeachMeNow?
Our mission is to make education accessible as well as create jobs through modern technology. We are essentially crowd sourcing teachers, experts, mentors and leveraging untapped potential like stay at home moms and dads, recent graduates, native speakers, and teachers who want to share their knowledge to those who want to learn.
We are an alternative to just using MOOC’s (prerecorded video learning like Khan Academy), as all of our classes are live, personalized and one to one. As a student I can choose who I want to work with and as a teacher I am incentivized by setting my own hourly rate and getting ratings and reviews. We have reached thousands of teachers and students so far and are looking to scale this reach. To give you an idea of how global this is, our first ever class happened between a student in Saudi Arabia learning from a professor in Venezuela.
We are self-funded for now. We have also been fortunate enough to have won some international start up competitions and won funding from these kinds of events.
What were some of the obstacles in your way and how did you overcome them?
There are always a million unexpected challenges, but the most important thing is to keep going.
The hardest and most important part is finding the right people who have the right skills and experience but who also share the vision and passion for what you do. There is a lot of truth in that company culture eats strategy for breakfast. If you have the right culture, attract the right people then you will grow your company organically, and as a team know that you can together overcome obstacles together.
What advice do you give young girls with a business idea but don’t know where to start or how?
Just do it! So many people when starting a business have what I call “paralysis by analysis.” If you over analyze and start doubting yourself, you will never get ahead. Accept that done is better than100%, because nothing will ever be 100% perfect in the start, but the fact that you start and keep going is what makes you get a head of everyone else.
The second most important and hardest part is to keep going.
Good question! The goal is to grow TeachMeNow to be the best it can be. We are also making customized rebranded versions of the platform for partnerships with different initiatives, institutes, academies and governments. Here is a short explainer video:
I am excited to see where this year takes us!