The excitement of becoming a tutor does not come from filling out forms and performing administrative duties — it comes from being able to take advantage of helping students in a meaningful way. Removing the burden for tutors is Clark, the first data-driven platform for tutors, students, and parents that results in a stress free interface for intentional learning. With a recent $3.5M of funding under its belt, the company is on its way to create the most seamless tutoring experience for all parties.
AlleyWatch chatted with cofounder Sam Gimbel about the company and how it plans to redefine the tutoring industry.
Tell us about the product or service. And, how is it different?
Clark is the first data-driven platform built specifically for tutors. The service consists of a mobile app for tutors and a web portal for parents, teachers, and anyone else invested in a student’s education. We empower tutors to create, run, and grow their businesses by making it easy to book sessions, track student progress, and communicate with decision-makers such as teachers and parents. By spending less time on administrative work, tutors are able to teach more hours and provide better education while also appearing more professional in the eyes of their clientele.
More than a personal assistant for tutors, Clark is democratizing access to tutoring services including matching students with tutors, reporting on student progress, and simple nudges to assist in session attendance. Through our web portal, parents are able to take an active role in their students’ education without having to ask for updates. Clark is the best way for parents to stay involved outside the classroom for the entirety of a student’s tutoring experience.
Clark is attacking the independent education market also known as tutoring. In addition to working with the 2.5M tutors in the US, Clark also aims to convert every teacher into a tutor, by making it effortless to launch and scale a tutoring business.
What is the business model?
We are primarily focused on adding tutoring sessions to a tutor’s schedule by opening up new hours they would have been spending on administrative work. By managing their business from end-to-end we are able to create opportunities for new sessions and fill those with newly matched students from our student discovery feature. This translates to an average of 25% more hours available. It’s this revenue potential and time saved that tutors are paying for currently.
Clark also provides tutors with the ability to become professionals within their field: from apprenticeship opportunities to displaying certifications, we make it easy for tutors to demonstrate their expertise. We offer something called the “clark guarantee,” through which a tutor is guaranteed payment in all cases as long as they pass a background check.
Parents engage via a web portal that provides them with significant value simply by having their student in the Clark ecosystem. While these features are currently free, the platform has the potential to grow towards a set of premium features for parents as well.
What inspired the business?
The idea for Clark was inspired by my co-founder, Megan O’Connor, from watching her mom, a public school teacher and tutor, struggle to make ends meet. Her mother was a single mom and the extra money that tutoring brought in was a vital part of their financial well-being. We know that there are many other educators, similar to Megan’s mother, who are in need of additional income to support themselves and their families. So, we created Clark to help educators build scalable tutoring businesses to increase their income. With Clark, we have eliminated the administrative work like scheduling and processing payments to put the focus back on tutoring.
Would you mind telling us about your experience with Planet of the Apps?
Our journey to Apple’s Series, Planet of the Apps, and meeting such an esteemed panel of judges that included Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, Gary Vaynerchuk, and will.i.am, started more than a year ago when we first applied to participate. Megan and I went through multiple rounds of interviews and demos of the Clark features. Then, last November we received an exciting call to go to Los Angeles for a final round of interviews, which is when we found out we were officially on the show. It started with a lightning pitch, where each entrepreneur has 60 seconds to share their idea in front of the judges … on a slow-moving escalator. This was not our favorite part — there were no handrails and Megan has a serious fear of heights!
Our pitch to the panel of judges was successful and from November 2016 to February 2017, we worked with Gary Vaynerchuk, whom we choose to be our mentor. He gave us insight on how to perfect our product and get it to where it needed to be. We were thrilled to be advised by Gary, who created VaynerMedia and has built and invested in America’s most well-known brands. Gary’s mentorship and advice was invaluable, and he made sure we stayed true to Clark’s mission.
The next step was to pitch to the VC firm, Lightspeed Venture Partners (LSVP). Megan and I were thrilled that they saw the potential of Clark and agreed, on air, to invest. Following this successful pitch, we received additional participation from Rethink Education, Flatworld Partners, and Winkelvoss Capital and, led by LSVP, we raised $2.5M in a seed round. To date, we have now raised a total of $3.5M in funding. With this latest round of funding, we’re one giant leap closer to making a meaningful impact in the lives of tutors, independent educators, and students across the country, starting with New York City.
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?
We have a few primary goals: first, to release the true v1 of our product on iOS, Android, and the parent-facing experience on the web. We’re excited to apply all of our learnings over the last year to a best-in-class experience for tutors and their communities. Beyond that, we’re looking forward to partnering with schools in the NYC area to bring Clark to the teachers whose daily experience is vital to a full picture of how a student performs. We’ll see these milestones hit one after another starting with National Tutoring Week, which falls in the first week of October. We can’t wait to celebrate the awesome work tutors are doing in our area and around the world!
What is the one piece of startup advice that you never got?
When you’re working for someone else you have a constant stream of feedback on how you’re performing relative to expectations. Starting a company is the opposite: your vision and your motivation are the primary goal-setting mechanisms, and external validation is rare. You end up questioning yourself constantly. The best advice I ever got addressed this directly: no one, regardless of what they tell you, knows what they’re doing. Remembering this makes it a lot easier to keep going in the face of uncertainty – you’re your own north star, so follow it!
If you could be put in touch with anyone in the New York community who would it be and why?
Neil Degrasse Tyson – I’m a science geek at heart, and he’s the modern embodiment of Carl Sagan, one of my personal heroes. The evidence-based approach he takes is relevant to business and startup life in a big way, and I try to apply it to everything we do here.
Why did you launch in New York?
New York is the best place to tech enable a legacy industry like education. There is a diverse set of talented individuals with backgrounds beyond just the startup world as well.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?
I’m a huge fan of Broccolino in Park Slope (they have another location in Brooklyn too). It’s amazing Italian food, and in the summer it’s a lovely place to sit outside. Recently, the owner of their shop stopped by a stoop sale we were having and bought some posters to hang in the restaurant, so I feel I’ve contributed to their success in a small way, too.