The core promise of technology is to, simply, make our lives easier and more convenient. It’s a need that’s sorely felt in our country’s education system.
The number and difficulty of exams has only continued to mount, as has the continued pressure on every student to perform well despite of these obstacles. The fact that students and their parents feel the need to enroll in multiple tuition centers to tackle these only compounds the problem.
10 Minute School is a promising initiative, formed by students and for students, that has taken upon itself to rise to the challenge. Its website, www.10minuteschool.com, provides hundreds of quizzes for major exams such as the SSC and HSC exams, as well as variety of admission tests, such as IBA BBA, MBA, Medical, Engineering, IELTS, SAT, GRE and GMAT, among others.
The initiative is spearheaded by Ayman Sadiq, a final year BBA student at IBA. We had the chance to sit down with him and discuss 10 Minute School at length, as well as the experience and challenges of being a student entrepreneur.
Q. Could you give us a brief summary of your startup journey so far?
AS: The idea came to me when I was in 2nd year, around mid-2013. Over the next couple of months, we came up with a business plan. When we were sure that it was quite feasible, in 2014 we explored a couple of options, such as going to professional software firms for developing our product; however, we faced some setbacks in the next couple of months. It took one of these firms six months just to realize they couldn’t pull it off!
Finally, I brushed up on some basic web development, got together with some of my friends and started working on building the website from the ground up. Special mention goes to Abyad Raied. He’s a junior from BUET, and he basically built the entire website, and that too within 2 months! He did it with more efficiency than any of the firms we had approached before.
It was hard, hard work, definitely, but we finally got all our bases covered and launched 10 Minute School this May.
Q. What is your main motivation behind 10 Minute School?
AS: It’s teaching, actually! When I started teaching in Mentors, I didn’t realize just how much I would come to love it. It became a full-fledged passion in a pretty short amount of time.
There’s that, and also the fact that, while studying for an exam, I decided to check out a couple of videos on Youtube to brush up on the syllabus. I managed to cover about 18 chapters in just 3 hours, which is just amazing when compared to the 1-2 hours it takes to finish up just one chapter with a conventional approach. There’s also Khan Academy, of course—that’s been a major source of motivation, too.
It’s clear that there are substantial geographic and economic barriers in our country when it comes to getting quality and effective education. 10 Minute School aims to break those barriers. In that process, we also hope that we can strike a balance between fun and practicality, providing a lively education experience.
Q. Could you mention some of the key challenges you have faced so far?
AS: Funding was a major challenge, definitely. Both banks and companies are reluctant to invest in someone who’s not even a graduate, and that’s understandable. A lot of companies want to see a prototype to get a better idea of what they will be getting into, but then you need some funding to create that prototype in the first place. It’s a cycle!
It’s hard in this context to be a student entrepreneur, because investors are looking for a viable entity to fund, and you are hardly an entity at this point: you are just one person.
Q. Could you share some insights about the business model you have in mind for 10 Minute School?
AS: Our current focus is on building up a solid user base. Look at it like this: since Bangladesh is the eighth largest country in the world, its education problem is also the eighth largest education problem in the world. If you can build up a viable platform to tackle this problem and engage the masses to use this platform in large enough numbers, you can come up with lots of ways to generate revenue from that userbase.
We are currently offering all our website services for free. The focus is on attracting as many users to our platform as possible.
Q. Let’s talk about the website. It looks pretty polished, with lots of nifty features. What has been the user response so far?
AS: It’s been amazing! Everyone is praising the intuitive interface. Most of them are surprised with the sheer depth of content we are providing right now. We have 1,500 registered users so far, with more than 500 unique visitors every day.
One negative feedback we got was the slow loading time for the website. Which is happening because of the small server that we are using right now. Moving to a larger one down the line will solve that pretty easily.
Q. Could you share some of the future plans you have for 10 Minute School?
AS: The main focus is on building sustainability for the platform, and for that I am looking for financial support from various organisations and investors to scale the idea to the next stage. The long-term goal with 10 Minute School is to provide access to free education for everyone, and we do mean everyone. We plan to gain better footholds in schools and colleges, and eventually make it possible to provide access to our content for even those who don’t have internet connections.
Q. Finally, as a student entrepreneur, any kind of encouragement you would like to give to other students aspiring towards entrepreneurship?
AS: Start working on your fear of failure. Most of us don’t even try implementing our ideas because we are so worried about what other people will think of us. Be the change that you want to see.
If you are looking for immediate success, this route is probably not for you. You really need to have the passion and commitment for the idea, and the understanding that you are in it for the long haul. When it comes to startups, it’s a given that you will fail; you need to learn from those failures, and move past them to continue building upon your idea.
By the time you move past break-even and start making profit, your friends working corporate jobs will already be earning substantially more. At the end of the day, the odds are pretty high, but stay committed, and you just might make it through!