Ich bin ein Berliner! eduFire Offers Language Tutoring over Video Chat

Jason Kincaid
TechCrunch.com
Wednesday, May 28, 2008; 8:09 PM

Looking to get tutored in a language by an actual native speaker? New startup eduFire offers one-on-one sessions from hundreds of experienced tutors around the world. The site soft launched earlier this year, and has just enabled "On-demand" tutoring, allowing users to hook up with teachers on a whim.

Instead of hiring a force of professional teachers, eduFire lets anyone become a tutor, and relies on the community to identify the most qualified members. Each tutor creates a personal profile that lists their credentials, their hourly rate, and the languages they teach (they can also optionally leave a brief introductory video). They can also establish a standard schedule, or they can classify themselves as "available", meaning a member can contact them and initiate a lesson immediately.

The lesson is conducted through the site's flash-based chat app, after which the student pays the teacher through credit card or PayPal. Students can leave reviews for each tutor, which helps the site weed out the hacks just looking to make a quick buck. The site also tallies the number of lessons a teacher has given as a measure of credibility, and lists the most credible teachers on a language's main page.

The whole site is intuitive and well thought-out, but there does seem to be one potential problem with the system. The eduFire software is very basic - it's a text chat window sitting alongside live video (you could accomplish the same thing with any major chat program). After using eduFire to establish contact with a student, a tutor could easily run their lessons from outside of the site, forgoing any fee. eduFire's CEO Jon Bischke recognizes this, but points out that these teachers will lose out on students because they will appear to have less experience on the site. He also says that the site has a number of improvements in the works for the Flash app, which should make it more appealing.

eduFire's business model is simple: Let tutors name their price, and take small cut of the action. The site currently takes 15% of tutoring fees, which appear to range from around $10-$30 per hour, depending on the language. For now eduFire is concentrating only on the language space, but intends to branch out later this summer. The concept is solid, and will provide a great outlet for teachers looking to make a bit of extra cash.

eduFire has received $500k in angel funding, and is currently raising a Series A Round. There are a number of other competitors in this space, including Myngle which uses Skype instead of an integrated Flash app.


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