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Science alumnus selected for "Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia" list

Screencap of SnapAsk website

Timothy Yu 余佑謙BSc 2012

Timothy is one of the 300 honorees of Forbes Asia's inaugural 30 under 30 list - a list of the top promising young leaders, daring entrepreneurs and game changers in 10 different sectors including Consumer Tech that Timothy was categorised under. He cofounded SnapAsk, an app for on-demand homework help that is trusted by 50,000 students across Asia. 

 

Know more about Timothy's story here (上榜福布斯 90後辦補習APP 月做百萬生意(Acknowledgement: East Week 東周刊 658期 ) 

 

在這個數位年代,年輕人都屬APP世代,不但操作起來得心應手,用之創業更有機會豬籠入水。

二十六歲的余佑謙憑着大學時期開辦小型補習社的經驗,花了兩年時間研發補習應用程式Snapask,去年一月一日正式在港上架,更在下半年進軍台灣及新加坡市場。

 

學生透過Snapask提問,由系統配對已獲認證的導師即時回應問題,配對模式與Uber相似。上架至今,三地用戶累積近六萬人,每月營業額接近一百萬元。余佑謙雄心壯志,揚言希望Snapask能帶起線上補習熱潮,締造補習新時代。

 

上月尾,福布斯(Forbes)公布「亞洲30位30歲以下年輕領袖」(30 Under 30 Asia)名單,從十個領域中,各選出三十人,讚揚他們為該行業帶來變革,三百名上榜者中香港人佔了十五席,余佑謙是其中之一。「我在一二年開始研發教育應用程式,經歷了幾年零收入才有今日!無一間startup一開始就知道條路要點行,我們都經過好多驗證、嘗試,先搵到Snapask這個『正確』方向。」他笑說。

 

五十萬元研發程式

港大金融系畢業的余佑謙,在學期間已開始他的「教育生涯」,大學二年級時便與友人集資七萬元開辦小型補習社,短短三個月便回本。後來他更開設網站上載教學短片,希望一次性回應學生在課程上遇到的疑問,惟他發現憑一己之力難以滿足學生需求,便萌生研發線上補習的念頭,於一二年開始研發教育應用程式。

 

畢業後,余佑謙在滙豐做基金行政工作,並沒有放棄教育事業,「同時搞補習社,研發教育APP,在滙豐打工,那時三邊走,不時要在補習社瞓,諗落都幾傻,哈哈。」

 

直至一三年初,余佑謙參加了「數碼港培育計劃」,索性捨易取難,放棄高薪厚職、賣掉補習社,用分得的錢加上積蓄共五十萬元,全力研發補習APP。「始終都要選擇,我留意到線上補習APP的可行性,就決定破釜沉舟博一博!」

 

月收逾十萬問題

Snapask於去年一月一日在香港推出,拍檔包括來自台灣和新加坡的江則希和洪傑妃,他們一四年加入Snapask做實習生,去年下半年回國,將Snapask也發展到台灣和新加坡。

 

Snapask由最初的三人團隊,至今發展至有近六十名員工,三地的學生用戶合共六萬人,每月營業額接近一百萬元,扣除三地的營運成本及研發開支,公司早已達收支平衡。「營業額好受考試月份影響,例如去年十二月是考試高峰期,用戶發問的問題數目是暫時最高。三地有約一萬六千位用戶登入戶口發問,問題總數達六位數水平,成績真係唔錯。」

 

上架不過年多,Snapask已有如此成績,余佑謙歸因於程式易用及導師回答夠快。「學生只要將問題好似Whatsapp咁影相傳送出嚟,系統就會分配問題畀在線的導師解答。單是香港已有千六位導師坐陣,做到即時回應滿足學生需求。」

 

應屆DSE考生Wilson於去年暑假逛書展時獲贈Snapask的「問題贈卷」,使用後發現非常便利,因為私人補習的老師未必次次回覆,有時太夜他也不好意思問,用Snapask就隨時都得,每月平均發問十數條問題。此外,導師可以語音解答問題更清晰。

 

「我主要問數理科,有時數學題的答案好簡單,就咁睇未必明,導師就會影張相,然後用錄音好詳細咁逐個步驟咁解答我。」他笑說:「可能因為每次收到答案後我們都要評分畀位導師,所以他們唔會敷衍了事。」

 

所有導師都是中大、港大和科大的學生,文憑試成績須達五級以上才能成為該科目的導師。學生發問一條問題最少付七元五角,價錢相較傳統補習社便宜。導師及Snapask以拆賬的方式分賬,平均雙方各得一半利潤。

 

去年十月加入導師團隊的中大工商管理二年級生Dexter,自余佑謙拍網上教學片時已有留意,決定做Snapask導師,除了可賺外快,也很享受「學生」突如其來的挑戰:「試過有學生唔係問功課,而係send咗條頗難的數獨題出嚟,好淘氣咁話覺得無人可以解得到,叫我即管試下。我足足用咗四十五分鐘時間去解決呢個『問題』,諗返都幾得意!」

 

Revisit his entrepreneurial story published in the Convocation Newsletter FALL 2014:  

 

Tutors – in a Snap

 

“Promoting paid app services in Hong Kong is not at all easy, as app education is a relatively new concept for local Chinese students.”

 

At the tender age of 21, Timothy Yu was earning more than HK$50,000 a month.

 

“In 2011, I was a student studying risk management and finance at HKU. After some time, a few friends and I decided to start a tutorial centre in Fortress Hill,” said Yu.

 

Like many university students in Hong Kong, Yu gave private tutorials to secondary school students in his spare time. But what stood out was that he kept pushing boundaries.

“Originally, it was more about business,” commented Yu. “But then I switched my mindset.”

Yu’s company Appedu initially charged students HK$500 per class, which equated to HK$2000 per subject per month. “We realised this was a large sum to pay for parents whose salaries are less than HK$20,000 per month. In fact, one of my students told me he only had HK$500 left for the month and this was just before his public examinations.”

 

“I didn’t want my student to miss out so I ended up not charging him. But I know I cannot help everyone in need this way.” said the founder.

 

As a solution-seeker, Yu turned to technology for a more cost-effective business model and an affordable education.


His idea was to create Snapask, an app that allows students to ask questions and receive replies from trained tutors within 15 minutes. The pitch quickly won its way to Cyberport’s incubation programme, which offered him a HK$320,000 grant and two years of free office space.

 

According to Yu, there are 130 million students who are not receiving an education worldwide.

 

“Hong Kong is our first stop,” said Yu. “We are eager to make knowledge an abundant resource for all people around the world through technology.”

 

Yu pulled together a team for Snapask in 2013. On board was also HKU graduate Philip Hong, who completed his Master’s degree in Statistics.

 

“We are testing Snapask and collecting data from a school now,” commented Hong, whose main responsibility is encapsulating the app’s market analysis. “So far, we have recruited 25 secondary schools and roughly 6,000 students have installed the app.”

“We have about 200 part-time tutors and four full-timers answering questions that students may have.”

 

However promoting paid app services in Hong Kong is not at all easy. As app education is a relatively new concept for local Chinese students, getting subscriptions from them is a challenge.

 

“International students are more receptive to our product mainly because they are more familiar with e-learning,” said Yu.


The actual app will be available for downloads in January 2015 and monthly subscriptions will cost about HK$300.


“We have an open recruitment for tutors,” said Yu. “But in order to make sure tutors can really handle queries, we will run training programmes. In fact, there will be one in February 2015.”

Promoting paid app services in Hong Kong is not at all easy. As app education is a relatively new concept for local Chinese students.

  • Portrait of Timothy Yu