Superprof is a marketplace that places any person who wants to learn something in contact with a tutor, coach or artist close by. Around the world, Superprof relies on Google Maps Platform products to geographically locate students and tutors, and create geographically close pairs.
- Extremely precise mapping in 28 countries
- Geolocation of millions of tutors and students
- Automatic correction of data entry errors
- Geolocation at the heart of the Superprof’s search engine
The Superprof concept was created in August 2013, based on a discussion between two young engineers, Wilfried Granier and Yann Leguillon. In the beginning, their aim was to make the lives of students who were looking for a tutor for specific courses easier by creating a dedicated platform. “To find a tutor, students had the option of either going to look at adverts at the bakery or search the notice board between the washing machines and fridges.”, said Camille Lemardeley, Director of Operations at Superprof. The project, which was designed for the global market, started in France before being extended to Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg. Superprof currently has 10 million tutors in 28 countries, from India to Argentina, including Nigeria, who share their knowledge about more than 1,000 academic and extracurricular disciplines.
The French startup employs more than 100 people and is expanding at breakneck speed. Everything is controlled from France, but the Superprof approach sees itself as local. So as soon as you open the platform in a new country, new recruits are invited to the Parisian offices. “It’s a bit like a multicultural smorgasbord in the offices. We speak 8 languages and represent 35 nationalities”, says Camille.
Superprof’s business model is both simple and unusual. As opposed to the usual systems where the tutor pays a commission, here the student pays a subscription enabling them to contact tutors over a period of 30 days. Superprof takes care of placing the two parties in contact, ensuring security and trust. Year on year, the French startup has developed its product to become a true marketplace: each tutor sets their own prices, and the students can pay for the lessons directly via the platform.
Superprof: taking over the world
In some countries, such as the United States or the United Kingdom, large companies offering private lessons have been established for a while and offer various packages. However, they are limited to highly academic sectors such as academic support. Superprof has carved out a place for itself by not only offering hourly rates, which are much more competitive, but also by offering a wide range of extracurricular activities, from music to sport, including drama, pottery or chess.
Before setting up in a new country, Superprof’s teams study government policies. “India, for example, is very open to private lessons, we are expanding there at a very fast pace”, explains the Director of Operations. Elsewhere, in South America, for example, Superprof has almost no competitors. On the other hand, should the opportunity arise, the French startup will not hesitate to absorb small competitors. Around fifteen sites have been bought out in seven years.
Around the world, Superprof relies on Google Maps Platform products to geographically locate students and tutors, and create geographically close pairs. Obviously, this is necessary for face-to-face lessons, but just as important for webcam lessons: students are reassured and motivated by the fact of knowing that they are in the same town or region as their tutor.
Several major challenges for a fast-growing startup
Superprof has been profitable since its creation, and in 2020, the company achieved a turnover of 12 million euros. Close to 400 customers renew their subscription every day in France and about 1200 abroad, and the directors clearly intend on continuing international expansion, in particular in Austria, Ireland and Malaysia in the very near future. However, such success is not achieved without overcoming a certain number of challenges.
Firstly, there is the issue of the in-house structure. The Director of Operations sums up the situation: “Superprof is experiencing incredible growth: every year, we are doubling in size. This is fantastic, but this means that we need to restructure almost continuously, recruit increasingly senior profiles and adapt how we use our tools“.
Then, there is the issue of controlling the budget. The company is self-financing (by bootstrapping), which is fairly rare for a startup because the directors chose not to raise funds. This means that although growing rapidly, expenses need to be monitored. “An error that could be made five years ago would cost us dearly today,” says Camille Lemardeley.
Before the beginning of the health crisis in spring 2020, nearly 80% of the lessons given via Superprof were face-to-face. With the first lockdown, everything changed from one day to the next. Luckily, the young company demonstrated agility and provided tutors with the tools to give their lessons online, and gave advice on best practices. Superprof’s teams adapted to the situation in record time reducing the impact of the crisis on their activities. “After the first lockdown, 60% of lessons continued to be by webcam, not so much out of fear of Covid but for simplicity and because this has become the norm, like teleconsultations for doctors,” says Camille.
A search engine based on geolocation
As Superprof’s aim is to bring together a tutor and a student, who are geographically close, geolocation is critical for its search engine. From the very first day, the French startup chose Google Maps Platform, geolocation services for two key reasons. Firstly, because users recognise Google Maps and feel reassured, but also because it is the only service that offers mapping that is just as precise in so many different countries. And as it happens, Superprof aims to expand worldwide.
Google Maps also offers features that no other platform offers. As soon as the user arrives on the site’s homepage, the interface asks them to enter a town, a district or an address in order to list the closest tutors on a map. This feature is provided by Maps Places API. Thanks to Maps Geocoding API, these addresses are converted into points on a map, and vice versa. Place Autocomplete API makes it easy to enter data for streamline and almost instantaneous results. The platform also uses Reverse Geocoding API to locate the student by converting geographical coordinates into postal addresses so that a tutor can know how far away the student is and decide on whether or not to accept the lesson.
” For us, using Web Geo Services was a good way of obtaining discounts on volumes and saving Google Maps credits by optimising lots of little things, for example, the number of characters sent via Place Autocomplete API. “
— Camille Lemardeley, Director of Operations at Superprof
In order to optimise the use of Google Maps Platform, the Director of Operations contacted Google who directed them to their official partner in France: Web Geo Services. “For us, using Web Geo Services was a good way of obtaining discounts on volumes and saving Google Maps credits by optimising lots of little things, for example, the number of characters sent via Place Autocomplete API”, says Camille Lemardeley.
Superprof also uses Maps Places API in house to display data and facilitate the work of the support teams who sometimes have to put forward an alternative tutor for a student. Superprof’s teams and all of the platform’s users are extremely satisfied with Google Maps Platform. “We could use other services, but this would not work so well“, insists the Director of Operations.
Superprof is constantly improving its product, explains Camille Lemardeley: “A huge number of people want to offer lessons to a friend, or to a family member who wants to learn new things, so we are going to set up a gift card and kitty system.“ The French startup is also working on a more efficient and local payment system, according to each country. A mobile application is also being developed to offer users an even more streamline solution, obviously with the Google Maps APIs for anything concerning geolocation.