In the cloudy days of August 2019, three youngsters were inspired to build a platform that revolved around Ethiopian middle-class parents and the dynamics of modern life in Addis.
The three friends noticed that as living expenses continued to soar, parents became busier, working harder to provide for their families.
These middle-class parents struggle to be there for their kids to help them with their homework, assignments, and exams. There is also the issue of proficiency in the subject matter for the parent.
The friends believed this would increase the demand for tutors as having a tutor would help the parents ensure their kids’ education.
With this challenge at hand, the team set out to build a web-based tutorial service platform where parents could find hundreds of tutors and select the ones best suited for their child. They called it Haleta Tutors.
On Haleta, every tutor’s profile comes with a name, profile picture, education background, service price, and elevator pitch as to why they are the best tutor.
The platform allows parents to filter tutors by price, subject, grade level, and schedule; meanwhile, tutors provide a detailed progress report on each lesson, allowing parents to track their children’s progress.
The three co-founders never thought Haleta would reach its current level, creating permanent jobs for ten people and a livelihood for 450 more and growing.
Three years after the platform was born into reality, Shega virtually sat down with one of the co-founders, Natnael Zewdu, who reflected on the voyage.
‘It was quite a journey,” Natnael said, with emotions in his words, as he was describing the path that the team had gone through.
Natnael is now based in Rwanda, just finishing up his undergraduate program at African Leadership University with his two friends, Natnael Yewondwosen and Kidu Yohannes, overseeing the day-to-day operations.
He mentions how it was a big struggle to open a business, go abroad and work from there. Natnael remembers the early days of October 2021, when Haleta went live legally as Haleta Business & Technologies Plc.
He recalls, ‘We didn’t even know what type of company to form. We didn’t know that there were different types of business licenses we had to acquire for this type of work.”
“I barely remember the process now because there were many offices we went to finish up the process. We just figured out most of the things as we went along, “said Natnael.
‘In Rwanda, it takes you a day to register your business legally,’ he added, with frustration in his tone.
“Haleta makes matches,” Natnael said while describing the product. For Haleta, both the tutors and those needing the tutoring are clients.
Both parties need to register on the website to get the services. For the tutors to qualify to be enrolled on the platform, they must pass three screening steps.
“We have been called conservatives for the steps we follow, but we have to ensure quality in our platform, and we can’t compromise that,” said Natnael.
Once a tutor has applied to be enlisted on the platform, the first step is to take an online test that will be graded out of 100. The online test comprises basic grammar in English, math, and physics.
“We expect our tutors to work on multiple subjects when they take up a client. That is why our first screening level covers content from three major subjects, “added Natnael.
An applicant should get a score of at least 70 to qualify for the next screening process. In the second step, applicants send a 4-minute video explaining a solution to a question sent by Haleta.
“We grade the applicant’s composure and talent. We see how well the applicant prepared for the content in the video. We have dropped quite a lot of applicants based on this criteria, and the ones that have passed this are the ones we are 100% confident in, “explains Natnael.
Once the applicant has passed the screening process, they will be listed on the platform and get matched based on the requirements given by the client. Besides the website, Haleta has also made available phone numbers to be contacted if the client wishes to put a tutor request through a phone call.
Haleta charges the tutors on its platform, taking between 15 to 25% of their monthly contract fee with the client. Tutors set their rates, and parents directly pay the tutors, who later pay Haleta. Tutors on Haleta charge up to 4000 birr a month.
Not for the Money
During Shega’s conversation with the co-founder of Haleta, we asked if there was a moment they were close to quitting the business.
Natnael didn’t even take a second to answer the question, saying, ‘wait, look, can you imagine that you start a business and leave the country in a few weeks?’
“After Haleta was registered, I left the country for Rwanda.” I was still in school, and I was working remotely. Even though my two co-founders were in Addis working and handling things on the ground, I often asked, ‘Is this really worth it?’.
“We were not getting customers on either of the sides. For a while, we didn’t see the impact we wanted to make. Then, after some time, customers started to approach us. Someone you don’t know is recommending your platform to others,” said Natnael.
“This gave us the energy, and now with 450 tutors in our pool and 1000s of customers requesting the service, we are seeing how we are impacting society. If it was for the money, we would have called it quits in August 2019,” he continued.
Natnael was excited and happy as he told Shega about Haleta’s partnership with nonprofit organizations.
“We were thinking about working with NGOs when they came and approached us for the opportunity.” It was an opportunity that we gladly took. So yea, we are growing well. ’ said Natnael.
Through this partnership, Haleta is helping disadvantaged children with quality education by providing tutors.
“We would like to grow steadily, and our number one priority is always quality education. We won’t compromise that to grow aggressively, ” Natnael told Shega.
In addition, Haleta was one of the winners of the 2022 edition of Ethiopia’s Startupper of the Year Challenge by the oil giant TotalEnergies.
The Challenge, which aimed to identify and reward the best innovative and sustainable projects developed by young entrepreneurs, recognized Haleta, awarding it 370,000 birr and giving them a chance to compete for the Challenge at the continental level.
The three youngsters aim to be the biggest and most reliable tutor platform in the coming years. They are also ambitious about expanding across Africa.
They have a vision of creating an online tutoring platform, too, as their long-term milestone. The next milestone they aim to reach is the release of the application of Haleta tutors, which is expected to be released by September of this year with additional features to be included in the mobile application platform.