New tutoring concept wins CBS Startup Award
Sometimes you don’t have to create a brand-new concept to win awards. You can just tweak an existing industry formula to increase flexibility and reach more customers. That was exactly what university students Hasan El Youssef and Elmar J. Johannsson did when they started TopTutors in 2021. A concept that secured them the CBS Startup Award in November 2022, which comes with a grant of DKK 75,000 to help them scale up their business.
The CBS Startup Award has existed since 2017, giving startups the opportunity to pitch their companies in front of a jury. These experts are tasked with selecting the three best startups and awarding them with seed capital – a grant of DKK 75,000 each.
TopTutors is a tutoring company for primary and high school students that differs from its competitors by being completely online. This enables better matches between tutors and students, since geography is not an issue.
This is especially advantageous for students outside the major cities, as they gain access to university student tutors. It also enables the team behind TopTutors to factor in interests and other considerations when matching tutors with students.
“We can find a tutor who is not only very skilled in the subject but also has similar interests to the student. If a third grader is interested in soccer, we can find a tutor who is a soccer fan as well. If a high school student wants to be a chemical engineer, we can find a tutor from that exact university programme,” says Hasan El Youssef, CEO at TopTutors.
He believes that shared interests create better connections between tutors and students and that this will help students learn.
Hasan El Youssef has a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Copenhagen, while the other founder, CTO Elmar J. Johannsson sports a bachelor’s degree in International Business from CBS. Right now, both are taking time off from their studies to work full time on TopTutors.
Own experiences turned into a start-up
The idea for TopTutors came from their own experiences. Elmar J. Johannsson is originally from Iceland and struggled to learn Danish when starting at a Danish primary school. In the 7th grade, his teachers told him that he was not fit to go to high school.
But a tutor changed that.
Hasan El Youssef, on the other hand, had experience with being a tutor when he worked as a maths tutor for Copenhagen Municipality. He met Elmar J. Johannsson when both were studying at CBS, before Hasan El Youssef switched to the University of Copenhagen.
Education has been a very traditional and old-fashioned business where you do what you have always done, but COVID showed that education could also take place onlineHasan El Youssef, CEO at TopTutors
“Our entrepreneurial spirits and our shared experiences with tutoring laid the foundation for TopTutors,” says Hasan El Youssef.
But they did not want a tutoring company like the others on the Danish market. They wanted a company that was completely online in order to offer maximum flexibility to tutors, students and parents.
Besides the opportunity to match students and tutors regardless of where they live, the system also makes it easier for parents to keep track of what their children are studying at the moment.
TopTutors was launched in January 2021 and, with the help of 300 tutors, has already helped 450 students.
The founders are not blind to the fact that their launch was timely, as the COVID-19 pandemic gave it a push in the right direction.
“COVID changed the way we perceive the world. Education has been a very traditional and old-fashioned business where you do what you have always done, but COVID showed that education could also take place online,” explains Hasan El Youssef.
Applied twice for the CBS Startup Award before winning
In fact, 2022 was not the first time the team behind TopTutors had applied for the CBS Startup Award. They did so in 2021 as well.
They clearly understood that even if you do not win, the experience of applying is still very educational.
“As a candidate for the CBS Startup Award, you have to go through a lot of steps, such as creating a pitch for your company, and working in-depth with your budget and future strategy. This is really helpful, even if you don’t win,” says Hasan El Youssef.
He explains that even though the grant of DKK 75,000 was an important reason for applying, the acknowledgement of their work that comes with the award is equally valuable.
“It is recognition of our hard work and our concept. It’s so nice that others understand and believe in our vision about online tutoring,” says Hasan El Youssef.
They believe that the award will make them more attractive to future investors and will raise awareness among both potential customers and the media.
Besides TopTutors the other companies that also won the CBS Startup Award in 2022 were Exur Insurance Technologies and Instructr. Applications for the CBS Startup Award 2023 are welcome in the autumn of 2023.