Entrepreneur

Never Stop Learning: LessonsGoWhere's Ng E-Fei On Community, Inspiration & Lifelong Learning

While online learning is insanely popular nowadays, it is a largely solitary experience — it’s sometimes nicer to sit in a physical class and have some genuine, face-to-face interaction. Most of us have heard of HungryGoWhere, but if you’re looking to take up some local classes, you might like to check out LessonsGoWhere.

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LessonsGoWhere is an online marketplace where teachers can list offline classes, making it convenient for people to discover and sign up for them. Want to learn parkour, floral arrangement or the art of making carrot cake? A quick search of the website revealed that classes for all of these are listed there.

It’s often troublesome to search for classes, especially when you’re unable to compare your options effectively or hear what’s been said about a lesson.  That’s where LessonsGoWhere comes in: each course profile comes complete with reviews by attendees (if there’ve been lessons conducted already) and comprehensive details of what you’ll be learning. Best of all, there’s also a discount system: when you sign up for classes, you can earn reward points that’ll be converted into a discount off your next class.

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The Spark Behind LessonsGoWhere

The concept behind LessonsGoWhere is a simple one that, as co-founder Ng E-Fei explains, addresses a common problem.

“I think the opportunity was really discovered by my girlfriend. She’s a passionate baker and constantly tries new recipes and attends classes regularly to keep learning. She kept complaining to me that she couldn’t find the classes she wanted.”

Inspiration sprung up when E-Fei, too, realised the difficulty involved in finding reliable classes — without peer reviews or a consolidated lesson platform, lesson-seekers had to face an arduous search.

“I was trying to improve my own digital marketing skillset, and had a horrible time looking for in-person classes where I could interact and learn from a mentor. I did the research into baking classes, and realised that there wasn’t a service that centralizes local classes, or provides unbiased reviews. I looked up other types of local classes, like language, yoga and art classes — the same problems existed in those areas too.”

So what LessonsGoWhere aims to do, he says, is three-pronged. Their emphasis is on “community — through learning, we can connect people, building bonds and relationships”. At the same time, “inspiring others to learning something new” is key, made easier by the wide variety of courses featured — scrolling through the site, I found myself struck by the random urge to take up bookbinding. Lastly, E-Fei, says, by centralizing and curating learning opportunities, “we make it easier for people who want to enrich their lives and never stop learning.”

Considering the popularity of platforms which list online courses, such as Coursera, the workability of an online-to-offline marketplace seems only natural. For the three founders of LessonsGoWhere, “it felt like ‘hey, this should already exist!’”

The Entrepreneurial Path

With their belief in the irreplaceable bonds created from shared learning experiences, it seems fitting that the three co-founders of LessonsGoWhere — E-Fei, Ethan, and Jackie — met through their shared passion for basketball.

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Having quit their corporate jobs to take the entrepreneurial path, lifestyle was a big change for them. Capital was one sacrifice — even with $50, 000 from Singapore’s ACE startup grant, the three of them had to invest an additional $30, 000 of their own money — but as any entrepreneur knows, switching to the startup life means relentless, gruelling effort. Asked to recall some surprising lessons from their journey so far, E-Fei said, “Think you work hard at your corporate job? Starting your own business means working even harder!”, adding in a deadpan, “It IS possible to work 100 hours or more a week, but it’s better not to have to do it.”

The principle that LessonsGoWhere lives by, he said, is to “Test everything. We’re building a business from the ground up. We don’t know what works until we test it, and even then, it can be improved.” This work ethic has stood them in good stead in resolving disagreements, and steering the startup from just an idea to its official launch in July last year.

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Next Steps

LessonsGoWhere isn’t the only online-to-offline skills marketplace in Singapore — Learnemy and Skill Ministry both center upon the same concept. Nevertheless, in spite of the competition, the startup has seen rapid growth since it launched its beta version in December 2013 and its full version in July last year.

E-Fei said, “I think right now, more and more lesson providers are gaining awareness of us. In the past, we had to directly approach lesson providers to join us, but we’re starting to see 15 to 20 lesson providers each month coming to us!” He added, “We’ve seen big jumps in our traffic recently, exceeding even our projections.” And with more lesson providers getting listed on the site — a quick browse yields everything from typical courses like Beginner Yoga to more exotic ones like ‘Tok Tok Chiang! Interactive Chinese Opera Workshop’ — there’s an attractive diversity of lesson types for even the most particular of users.

So where’s LessonsGoWhere headed next? This year, E-Fei said, “is about accelerating our growth as a platform locally. We hope that by next year, LGW will be available in another country!”

He summed it up, “We want to make it easier for people to step out, and learn something new today!”

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