I came across the new about.me website the other day.

It’s interesting as it provides you with a neat custom splash page (with some cool images) and personal twitter analytics.

Not sure how they plan to monetise the website, or which direction they will take the business. Interesting none the less.

Check out my about.me profile!

Tutorhub – What’s the problem we are trying to solve?

It happens to the best of us.

We all get stuck once in a while and need that little extra help to see us over the high hurdles. For kids, struggling with homework can be a real source of worry and frustration, leading to feelings of inadequacy which can be highly damaging to their confidence and self esteem.

Many parents already look outside the education system and make use of home tuition to top-up learning, but this alone is not without its obstacles. It’s easy to see why so many of us take the decision to get help – perennial concerns over expanding class sizes, failing schools and general education standards are all factors.

Private tuition is a growing trend amongst parents wanting to help their kids keep up at school, compete for places at the best schools or revise for exams. Identifying the need for extra help is one thing but there are still hurdles to jump – not least finding a private tutor.

Though seemingly convenient, home tutoring requires a good deal of organisation and deep pockets; parents must first find the time to both locate good tutors and fit sessions into already busy family schedules – not to mention find a way to fund the whole operation.

Problems even finding home tutors mean that some kids simply never get the support they need. Those already benefiting from face to face tutoring agree there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to supporting kids outside of school.

What next for Tutorhub?

We have been working on Tutorhub for some months now. We expect the website to change dramatically over the coming months.

It’s fair to say that it has taken longer than we would have expected, but understandable considering our decision to focus on chat technology using XMPP – which is also used by Facebook chat.

We have a laser-like focus now on controlled growth in customer numbers and adapting the customer offer so that it fits what people really want. We will be holding more parent and tutor market research sessions – getting credible primary research on our web app. When we have ‘nailed it’ then will be time to ‘scale it’.

Measuring what happens on the website is really important – and I have started using Webtrends in preference to Google Analytics. Early signs are that this will be a really useful tool, and worth the investment – even though the dev team find it a pain. We are also completing a website scorecard, so that we can measure things such as feedback ratings. Getting the management information right at the outset is important.

To date, just about all of our resources have been focused on the development challenge – but from now the main challenge is commercial. We have recruited an intern to help with the communications and marketing, and this marks the start of building a commercial team. Our technology remains very important, and we have a series of planned developments in progress.

We have already received our first subscribing customer but are keeping the website low key until the week commencing 1st November when we start advertising on Google. We will also kick-off a wider PR and news campaign then.

Exciting times!

Pete Ferne

It was with enormous sadness that I learned that my friend and colleague passed away yesterday, after a brief struggle with a brain tumour.

For those of you who didn’t know him, he was super-intellligent, honest and generous, liberal-minded creative web geek. Even though we were complete opposites in many ways – him creative, me a bull in a china shop etc… we managed to hit it off. To be honest, I can’t recall anyone who didn’t take to him straight away.

In some ways our working class backgrounds meant that we had similar roots. Despite this he was excelling at School and off to Cambridge to read maths, whereas it was Bristol Polytechnic for me. My path was much more conventional after college, whereas Pete was living in a squat.

When we first met, we were looking for a Chief Technology Officer for our web start-up. Kevin had met Pete before and thought that Pete wasn’t that interested in the role – it was Pete being Pete though. Kevin called him again, and Pete said he was up for it. When I met Pete, I wondered who would turn up to an interview dressed like someone out of the band ‘Haircut 100’, but what struck me was his obvious mental capacity, desire to create something new and rock solid values. I knew then that he would be right for us.

We worked together for approaching three years, during which time I got to know him well. He enjoyed nothing more than a great coffee and a chat at Barristas, where we put the world to rights.

Pete had a great sense of humour and never took himself too seriously. I remember that one day he brought his dog Edith into work wearing this old well-worn coat, something that made me liken him to a Big Issue Seller – he was great at taking jokes at his expense.

He and I often played table football on the same team  as the two worst players in the office we were often forced together. Every now and again we even won a game. Kevin is right when he says that Pete is the only person in the world with a table football move named after him – the ‘Ferney special’, which involves keeping you player just in front of the opposition goalkeeper and waiting for them to pass you the ball before snatching a sneaky goal. Pete would grin widely every time he snatched a Ferney special.

As someone who regards family as the most important part of life, Pete’s own attitude to family was one I could empathise with. He was devoted to his partner Debs, and often spoke about his beautiful daughters Bella and Maisie. As Pete’s illness took hold of him, I got to understand what made them all special.

Pete’s funeral is on 18th October at the Memorial Woodlands at Alveston.

Rest in peace Pete. The world is a lesser place without you.

Tutorhub.com launched

Just a quick post to say that our new online tutoring website tutorhub.com has been launched into public beta. Getting the timing right is always a difficult decision. We have launched our minimum viable product, and before we take it onto the next level we need to ensure that we are on the right track.

Developing any new business idea relies on a series of assumptions, and the first priority for us is to talk again to parents, kids and tutors and find out whether it really meets their needs – also known as product:market fit. We also need to prove how best to market it and that it’s economically viable. Only when we have done this can we go for growth – simply put we have to ‘nail it before we scale it‘.

If you fancy helping us with this, please get in touch.