Ger O'Sullivan of Flip IQ
Grinds are a somewhat taboo subject. Nobody likes admitting to having them, yet every year thousands of students, at all levels, do.
Flip IQ is a newly launched, live, one-to-one tuition website that provides students with interactive expert help without having to leave home. It is the brainchild of Ger O’Sullivan, a software developer by training, who has spent the past 15 years in development and leadership roles in the e-learning sector with some of the big names in the business such as Intuition and Houghton Miffin Harcourt.
Flip IQ had a soft launch a month ago and O’Sullivan is in the process of building up his tutor and student base. It took over a year to develop and trial the site that will initially cater for Leaving and Junior Certificate students with third-level tuition to come. The initial emphasis will be on attracting those sitting State exams in 2014/2015.
“There are plenty of ‘one-on-many’ tuition sites out there. One-to-one is unique and there is ample research that shows students do best in a one-to-one situation,” O’Sullivan says. “The market for grinds here each year is around €40 million and I saw an opportunity to tap into that and build a platform that could take it online in an innovative way. The individual elements of what we are doing are not new from an algorithmic point of view. The way we have brought them together is and we will be making the most of our first mover advantage.”
Flip IQ secured €50,000 in competitive start-up funding from Enterprise Ireland last year and O’Sullivan estimates that he has invested a similar amount of cash and an unquantifiable amount of time in the venture. The company currently employs two part-time developers and will be hiring more staff later this year.
Students logging on to Flip IQ can see what tutors are available, read about them and have a free introductory session. Those deciding to engage a tutor open an account and lodge funds that are automatically drawn down to cover tuition costs. Tutors set their own rates and students pay according to the amount of time they use. Flip IQ makes its money by taking 20 per cent of the tutoring fee to cover costs such as marketing, security and promoting the tutors.
While Skype-like visuals might have seemed the way to go, Flip IQ students and tutors don’t actually see each other. Instead they connect via a white board. O’Sullivan says his research shows that seeing the tutor is not important and that youngsters are very comfortable using white board technology. Flip IQ plans to harvest data generated by the site to refine its tuition focus. “If we find a lot of questions cropping up around plant biology for example we will look for an expert tutor in this field,” O’Sullivan says.