The world has been changing faster than ever due to improvements in technology sector. However, schools face the challenge to catch up with technology education and there is a shortage of trained teachers in this area. Today I talk to the founders of Hub21 – a platform which aims at connecting today’s technology producers with tomorrow`s in order to empower them with Coding, Game Dev, and Creative Tech. Didem and Sylvain share with me the story of how they worked on the business model of their platform.
Agnieszka Węglarz: Please introduce yourself and your company – what is your role in the company? And what does your company offer – in short?
Hub21: My name is Didem, and I run Hub21 as co-founder and CEO. I have been working with startups for 8 years. I was part of a tech startup as a marketer, then I worked in a telecommunication company and created the most popular crowdfunding platform for tech startups in Turkey. After working in venture capital, two years ago I decided to create my own company and create value for the future of children. I am a Middle East Technical University graduate and Cherie Blair Foundation mentee.
I am Sylvain and I graduated from Pantheon Sorbonne University, with a Master’s degree in Corporate Law. However, I wish to create value in children’s life after working in a law firm for 2 years. I worked with children as a private tutor in New York, Paris, and Istanbul. Then, I specialized in empowering children to understand the underlying mechanisms of technology. Two years ago, Didem and I decided to launch Hub21.
Hub21 is a tech learning platform creating a joyful environment for children to improve their tech skills. Our tech-savvy and passionate tutors are from top-notch universities and we offer in-demand content curated by the Hub21 Team and tested by Hub21 students.
AW: Let me ask you first how you came up with the idea for your startup? What was the problem that you have observed and wanted to solve?
We have been observing the main problem in education. As Tom Hierck, Education Consultant said “21st-century kids are being taught by 20th-century adults using 19th-century curriculum and techniques on an 18th-century calendar.” During the pandemic, we faced the same reality in many countries. Today, the world has been changing faster than ever due to improvements in tech. However, schools are not able to prioritize tech education and there is clearly a lack of trained teachers in this area.
Parents also had to learn everything from scratch with their kids. Even with endless resources online, kids need guidance in tech learning. We are solving this problem by connecting today`s tech producers with tomorrow`s in order to empower them with Coding, Game Dev, and Creative Tech.
Hub21`s tutors are top university students and talented young professionals, specialized in these areas and trained by the Hub21 Team. Their goal is to help children to achieve their best at their own pace and style by adapting our curriculum to their needs.
AW: Your ambition is to help children improve the skills that will prepare them for the future. Which skills in particular are you teaching?
Hub21 aims to teach children the competencies of the new century through technology. We empower our students with tomorrow`s skills such as problem-solving, strategic thinking, creativity, near-to-peer collaboration, and adaptation. Through our diverse outreach and work to create a love for coding, we are inspiring greater levels of respect for science and technology. We are offering online private tutoring and in-person summer camps for students aged between 7 and 17 curated by our tutors from top-notch universities.
AW: Which personal experiences with learning and teaching have helped you develop the teaching methods that you are using now in theHub21? What is specific and unique about those methods?
We believe that every student is unique and they learn at a unique pace and style. Our mission at Hub21 is to discover their passion together and make them love what they are learning. That is why we propose a unique learning experience with fun projects featuring famous characters and self-paced challenges for them to improve in a joyful environment.
Our students develop their projects with the guidance of our tutors who received a particular training in order to keep the students’ creativity and interest at its highest level. Hub21 gives a chance to students to meet role models and experts in their own field and share a common passion about the latest tech projects developed in the most prestigious institutions.
AW: Quite recently you have graduated from Business Model Mastering – a Google for Startups Programme aimed at growing startups. Why did you realize that you need such a programme?
We established our company a few months before the pandemic in Turkey. We adapted quickly and started to offer online lessons before the schools even started online. This quick transformation taught us a lot and gave us a chance to discover more markets. We analyzed the opportunity of 1-1 tutoring in tech and focused on it to create a more efficient business model.
While looking for a new business model, we had a chance to join the Google For Startup’s Business Model Mastering program. It was so exciting and at the same time challenging because for the first time we were asked to analyze our business model and make it more efficient.
As a founder, at the early age of our startup, we focus on extinguishing the fire rather than strategic movements that deeply impact the future of our startup. The Google For Startups Business Model Mastering program drives us to question our own approach, think about pros and cons and guide us to take actions which are the most important at the end of this process! We feel truly grateful to the guidance of each member of the BMM programme.
AW: What were the main challenges that you wanted to address during this Programme?
We are looking to build a new business model for our digital product. We have been working on a new digital product to offer our programs to students globally. Our main focus was to develop the most effective business model to empower our new product.
We were uncertain about our segmentation, the potential markets, general customer behaviors, and pricing strategies. To be part of a global program helped us a lot to dive deeper into these subjects, gather data and learn from a global perspective.
AW: What were your greatest discoveries and turning points during this Programme?
While we were talking about our value offer and customer segment we realized that we haven’t segmented our customers yet. After realizing that, we talked to our customers to learn their needs and preferences by analyzing their choices. We opened a blank page and since then we have been able to learn from our future customers. This was like our aha! moment, the rest of our improvements came with customer segmentation. That’s why we can say that one of the turning points was customer segmentation.
AW: How is your business model changing now after that Programme?
Our business model changed a lot during the program. We started with the differentiation of our target customers and differentiated our value offer according to different customer segments. It sounds like the basics however, we just realized that we have not asked these questions ourselves until now. After separating customer segments and their needs, our minds were more clear to proceed on different topics regarding our business model.
The main change that we came up with during the program is to offer a subscription business model rather than one-time sales of program packages. We think it will be a game-changer in our business.
AW: You operate in the edu-tech industry. Based on your experiences so far, what do you think is the key to success – the industry knowledge – i.e. good understanding of what you are teaching and how you are teaching or the managerial knowledge? Or both of them?
Our Hub21 team has a common mission: to empower kids to learn in new and engaging ways. As part of the Edu-tech industry, we are responsible for the future of a new generation for that reason we provide the best quality education.
Based on our own experiences, which were defined by the crucial role of mentors, we encourage our tutors to be themselves role models to the students in order to develop their creativity, self-confidence and grit. In addition, we hand-pick our tutors and train them to Hub21 curriculum delivery so that there is no guesswork.
The management of the community requires a deep understanding of parents, students, and tutors` needs and demands. With the observation of these needs and demands, we create solutions and our solutions make us different. To provide a seamless online community experience, our management and technology teams are bringing new tools and solutions every day.
AW: What would advise, recommend to startups at the beginning of their road?
We only recommend them to start as soon as possible, test their idea, learn from their customers and repeat the loop by adapting themselves to the changes that life gives us. Of course to be part of the program and seek other opportunities globally.
AW: Thank you very much for sharing your story with me. I wish you continued success!
Agnieszka Węglarz is an independent consultant, business strategist and practitioner in B2B and B2C, as well as lecturer, speaker and blogger. She has over 20 years of professional experience working as manager in both large corporations and SMEs, where she was responsible for strategy, marketing and business development. She uses her long term executive experience and training expertise to assist companies and their managers in building their business strategy using a workshop methodology. She specializes in business modeling, segmentation, value proposition, sales and marketing strategies as well as consultative selling. She runs her own consultancy business, as well as cooperates with Google for Startups Campus in Warsaw as the leading expert in Business Model Mastering – a Program for European startups providing founders and their teams with a structured approach to run their company and accelerate their growth. Agnieszka is an author of many business publications. You can read her writing on her business blog on www.agnieszkaweglarz.com and watch her business content on her YouTube channel – Biznes Ring by Agnieszka Węglarz. You can contact her by writing to: email@example.com or directly by sending a message via LinkedIN
Didem Cikse runs Hub21 as co-founder and CEO.A graduate of Middle East Technical University, with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics, she has worked as an Associate for Collective Spark and a Senior Business Development Project Manager at Turkcell/ Arıkovanı.She also brings over seven years of experience as a consultant for YGA Ventures, Imece, and Zorlu Holding. You can contact her by writing to: firstname.lastname@example.org or directly by sending a message via LinkedIN
Sylvain Roussarie graduated from Pantheon Sorbonne University, with a Masters degree in Corporate Law. He is a highly experienced private tutor and specializes in empowering children to understand the underlying mechanisms of technology. Before designing tech programs for children, he was part of a start-up team based in New York: Motaword, the world’s fastest collaborative translation platform. You can contact him by writing to: email@example.com