Start-up

Students stumped by homework questions? Get answers with peer-tutoring app Queri

Mr Ng (standing) and Mr Tan are co-founders of Lightem Up Technology, the start-up behind Queri. The app has been downloaded about 1,000 times sinceits debutlast month.
Mr Ng (standing) and Mr Tan are co-founders of Lightem Up Technology, the start-up behind Queri. The app has been downloaded about 1,000 times sinceits debutlast month.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Peer tutoring app enables users to post difficult homework questions for solutions

Yet another industry is bitten by the peer-to-peer bug.

Students stumped by a homework question can now crowdsource the answer via an on-demand peer tutoring app.

Queri debuted last week, although a beta version has been available since last month.

Its co-developer Dexter Tan, 31, said: "A lot of peer-to-peer solutions have come up like Airbnb and Uber. We thought, why not education? That is a space that is lacking a good solution."

Queri allows users to post homework questions they are having difficulty with, either by typing the stumper into a text box or snapping a picture of the worksheet.

Those who have questions buy credits for between $1.50 and $2 through the app store.

The first user who gives the answer, in text or a photograph, will earn the credits offered, at $1 for each credit, which can be withdrawn to a PayPal account .

The difference in rates is what local app maker Lightem Up Technology earns. The start-up is co-founded by Mr Tan and Mr Jason Ng, 34. The two, who first met during a reservist training stint, began their start-up with a "five-figure sum".

The app allows users to list questions under 22 categories, including mathematics, chemistry and psychology. The most popular category is mathematics at the upper primary and secondary level.

Mr Ng, who used to work in a bank, said of the app: "The idea harks back to the time when we were school students, and needed help with homework. We had teachers, tutors and friends who could help, but they were not always available when you needed them."

With Queri, most questions posted are answered within five minutes to half an hour.

The app has been downloaded about 1,000 times since its debut - Mr Tan said there are about 100 downloads a day. From next month, the start-up will also be holding roadshows in schools such as the National University of Singapore and Singapore Management University.

But trying to crack the education market comes with its own set of challenges. For example, their target demographic - students - has limited spending power.

Mr Tan said: "One of the challenges we face is to convince the parents that the platform is viable.

"They are already spending money on tuition and extra-curricular classes, so our challenge is to show them that our platform is cheaper, faster and more efficient."

There is also the risk of users paying for answers which are incorrect, or incomplete. To curb that, the app has a rating system.

"Even when selecting a tutor, you have to rely on word of mouth, and, even then, there are no guarantees that the tutor is good," said Mr Tan.

"We have simplified the entire process with ratings, and if you are still not convinced, you can ask them a question and it'll only cost a credit."

Although the app provides on- demand access to academic advice, both co-founders insist that it is not meant to replace tutors, but to reduce the amount of tuition.

Said Mr Tan: "We find that most tuition sessions are spent going through homework questions. With Queri, you get the same help at your own time and pace, and for less money."

In the next few years, they also hope to expand beyond Singapore.

"We're going to hit the local market hard, and then we're going to go beyond our borders," Mr Tan said.

"We hope to spread the Singapore brand of academic excellence beyond our shores."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2016, with the headline 'Don't get stumped, get answers with Queri'. Print Edition | Subscribe