How GooRoo Redefines The Educational System
In today’s society, it’s easy to think that quality education is for rich people only. To be able to study at some of the most prestigious colleges in the world you need determination, ambition, and most importantly - money!
But there’s one man who’s determined to bring quality education to every child, not just the ones lucky enough to have wealthy parents. That man is Scott Lee, and his product GooRoo revolutionized the way tutors and students interact.
For Scott, this was a personal battle, but he managed to overcome all the obstacles and create a platform where no one would be excluded.
Scott’s Background Story
Scott’s story might seem similar to the many entrepreneurial stories we hear nowadays.
However, being born and raised in Seoul, South Korea, Scott was put in the spotlight from day one. The Asian culture, with its unique characteristics and beliefs, molded him into an ambitious and disciplined young man.
When he was 16 years old, his family decided to move to Avon, Connecticut, USA. Scott attended Avon Old Farms School and everything would have turned out great if it wasn’t for one small problem - Scott didn’t know a word of English. It was challenging for him to attend classes and hang out with friends, but he was eager to learn it as English was the language of the future.
But, what was more concerning for Scott was the fact that Korean children were a step back into learning the English language. There was a massive deficit of young people who knew English very well and Scott wanted to change that.
So, while everyone else was busy partying or going for a swim during summer vacation, young Scott, still a high-schooler, started to match English tutors with some of his relatives. Scott was about to become an entrepreneur, while still in high school! He was able to connect more than 6000 tutors and students so they can work closely and learn the English language. He named the company PeerTutor and once he got the taste of the entrepreneurial life, Scott was determined to become successful!
He kept his mind on becoming a startup founder, but he continued to work on his education, deciding to attend Columbia University and study to get a bachelor’s degree in science.
However, his roots interfered in the middle of his studies, and he was about to endure a life-changing experience.
Once he started with his classes in Colombia, Scott witnessed the first difference between the American and Asian cultures - access to quality education. In South Korea, tutoring was accessible for everyone, but that wasn’t the case in the USA. On the contrary, in the states, tutoring was considered to be for the rich kids, or rather, the children of rich parents.
This class differentiation stuck with Scott for a while. He wanted to find a solution, but he was obliged to go back to South Korea. Being a young student and younger than 35, Scott had an obligation towards his country to serve in the military. It was a life-changing experience for him and it helped him develop skills that would, later on, determine his leadership style.
Once he got back to Columbia, the real problems started. He was too far behind with the lectures and he still had a problem with the language, so finding a tutor to help him was inevitable. As a foreign student, Scott knew that he couldn’t possibly be the only one who experienced this problem and needed a tutor.
His idea stuck with him, but it took a while until he started to work on it - first, he wanted to launch another company.
Constant Entrepreneurial Spirit
While at college, Scott wanted to test his business skills once again. In 2013, he founded a company named Mud Cafe, which was an online fashion retailer. Single-handedly, Scott managed to turn his simple idea into a profitable business, with sales reaching higher than $100.000 in the first year!
By this point, it was obvious that Scott was fully committed to the business world, but first, he needed to get a taste of his field as well, being a future engineer and all.
He graduated in 2014, and his first and only job was at JPMorganChase as an analyst. But, he quickly realized that corporate work wasn’t the right fit for him and started planning some big changes.
He went back to his roots and his initial desire - better education for everyone.
The Birth Of GooRoo
Scott had developed a soft spot for education, specifically about creating more opportunities for students who needed help but couldn’t afford the usual tutoring classes. So, when the time came for him to launch his third company, he chose his heart’s desire.
He had the initial idea in his head and he wanted to share his plan with someone. His close friend Phil Hwang, who would become GooRoo’s COO, was the obvious best choice. Both of them would meet up for coffee and discuss the idea of building an online platform for students. Nevertheless, Scott wanted more than just to create an opportunity for everyone - he wanted to provide a unique learning experience, crafted according to the student’s abilities, understanding, and potential.
Easier said than done right?
To do this, he needed a team of developers and an office. The office was a two-bedroom apartment where Scott lived for more than two and a half years, while still working on GooRoo! The entire team - from developers, tech, product design team, and business development were working day and night, trying to launch the product as fast as possible.
Scott was outside, trying to get the attention of the students. The funny thing was that he was trying to sell a product that didn’t exist at the time - the developers were still working on it! But Scott had faith in his team and his idea, so he used every moment he could to share flyers of their product out on the streets. Several times, he even visited Colombia’s campus and sneaked in the bathrooms to leave some flyers there!
On one particular walk, a man came up to him and asked him about the product. This almost never happened and Scott was more than happy to explain everything! The idea grew on him and he was considering the classes for his daughter.
The man turned out to be one of the most important in GooRoo’s story.
He’s Phil Poppinga, the first customer of GooRoo’s, but also future advisor, investor, and current Director of Operations.
This was a turning point in Scott’s struggle to launch the business - he realized that opportunity may arise when someone least expects! Phil brought hope into Scott’s heart, a hope he used to work even harder to achieve his dream.
Once the team had around 250 local tutors on their platform, they were ready to launch, and in June 2015, that’s exactly what happened. Choosing the Big Apple for their headquarters, GooRoo was ready to create a revolution in New York’s educational system!
The Growth Of GooRoo
Scott would often say that he was very lucky during the birth of GooRoo. Of course, like many other founders, he started without any money. On top of that, he received countless rejections for his idea, but he never gave up.
Things started to develop when he decided to shift from looking for investors to ask his closest friend and family for investments. He turned to one of his closest friends and previous colleague Jiaeh, who gladly accepted his request and chipped in with her money.
From that point on, it was a smooth ride. Jiaeh was the connection between Scott and 7 other investors. Over the last 5 years, the company managed to get $4.2 million in funding - more than enough to keep the motor running!
The platform is now available in multiple locations in the USA and their next goal is to launch in South Korea. Even though it’s a team effort, the man responsible for all this is Scott. His hard-working ethics, determination, and desire to create better educational conditions for everyone have finally paid off. He even meets almost every tutor - an exceptional dedication from a leader!
By trying to solve his own problem, he was able to solve the problems of thousands of students all over the country - and that’s a great reason to applaud him on his efforts!