Staff interview #08 Takuya Homma

Use the internet to make the world a better place!

Although I entered Tokyo University after finishing high school in Yamagata prefecture, I dropped out because I didn’t find the university interesting, and after that I went to a university in London in the UK. And then I joined Quipper as one of the founding members.

So, why Quipper?

Right after I entered Tokyo University, a book called Web Shinkaron (Theory of Web Evolution) by Mochio Umeda was really popular in Japan, and it made a big impact on me. In fact, I contacted the author directly, and he is still mentor to me even now. The more I learnt, the stronger I came to feel that the internet could make the world a better place, and the more I wanted to do something to make that happen. Actually, before studying in the UK, spending half a year in Silicon Valley and experiencing the excitement and enthusiasm there first hand also contributed to my feelings.

And while I was at university, I took some courses from top US universities online, so I saw that we can experience top quality education from anywhere in the world. And I traveled around the world to places like China, India, Africa, and it pained me to see that there are places that have almost no access to education. For example, in parts of Kenya, it takes children six hours or more just to get to school. And even after they finally get there, exhausted, there is often no teacher for them.

So: I wanted to use the internet to make the world a better place. I experienced that we can access education online. And I saw that there are many places in the world without access to education. Just as these thoughts were bouncing around in my head, I met Masa in London. A person with the exact same vision — with strong determination to do something about it — suddenly appeared right in front of me. So I joined Quipper as a student intern and became one of the founding members.

Building up experience in the Philippines and the US

After I joined Quipper in 2011, for the first three years, it was failure after failure. I lead the US operation in New York, but it didn’t go well. The reason, in a nutshell, was that we didn’t provide what users wanted. We wound up delivering what we thought people wanted based on our own supply-side logic, but it just didn’t stick.

I also took the lead in researching expansion into places like India and Russia, but we found that those countries have very different approaches and systems for education.

Then, in 2014, we expanded to the Philippines. We were running Quipper School from the UK, creating content and moving ahead with hiring, but it wasn’t going very well. Just as we were wondering what to do, we learned of a teacher there who was really positive about using our service. So I jumped on a plane and went to the Philippines to meet her.

When I observed what was happening in the classroom, I saw that it was the students who didn’t usually study at all who were plowing through the content, answering questions like it was a game. And the teacher made a lot of detailed requests, stuff like “it’s hard to see this button,” and “it takes too many clicks to get through all these screens.” Through her introduction, teachers from other areas in the Philippines got involved, and every day we were in meetings and on Facebook Messenger until late at night, coming up with strategies to move things forward.

Once we fixed the things they pointed out, the service really began to take off. This experience was the beginning of my own “user-first” philosophy.

Rapid growth in Indonesia

We rode that wave to Indonesia the following year. Because there aren’t so many universities in Indonesia, there’s a lot of competition to get into them, and so there’s a well-developed exam prep business there. It’s a very promising market, something like Japan twenty or thirty years ago.

Quipper already has very high name recognition in Indonesia, and is the country’s number one EdTech provider. Still, our name recognition is at 48 percent now, and I’d like to get that up to 70 or 80 percent. And we have lots of room to grow the number of students too.

New players have entered the market. To maintain our lead, we need to deepen our relationship with our users. This year, our theme is “firm commitment to student achievement” and we plan to make our content quality truly world class.

Also, in Indonesia, there are a lot of students who don’t actually know much about the universities. So it’s important for us to give them the information they need, and to guide them in how to study for a particular university’s exams. We’re providing very detailed services that competitors can’t easily copy, like giving IT training to teachers and coaching advice to students and so on. We believe that the most successful service will be the one that really takes care of users from start to finish.

We currently have a staff of about five hundred people here in Indonesia. When an organization reaches this scale, it becomes very important to take the time, over and over, to ensure that everyone understands the purpose of our business, our vision and the path to achieving it. And by continuing to have this kind of heart-to-heart communication, I believe that more people will join me in my aim, and we will have an organization where everyone is aligned and working to achieve our shared vision.

Quipper for world peace

I joined Quipper to bring education to all corners of the world, so of course the aim is to be the world’s best educational service provider. There are ONE BILLION people around the world who need our service. I really believe that a year’s delay in bringing Quipper to the world is a serious loss of a whole year for the world, so we have to keep doing our utmost every single day.

But I believe that if we can develop a model that allows us to take the steady profits in one country and reinvest them for expansion, then we can bring our services to more countries much more quickly. I think that’s the general approach Study Sapuri in Japan has been taking, so it would be great if we can build on that model. Of course, we need to make some adjustments to meet the specific needs of each country, though.

If we aim to be the world’s best educational service provider, we have to improve in every aspect of our business. We need to have a world-class organization, world-class content quality, world-class promotion and marketing. And I myself am working hard every day to become a world-class businessperson and visionary. So the Quipper Identity “Growth” must be an ongoing focus both for myself and for our organization as a whole.

As far as our services go, we are currently geared heavily toward education for examinations. I’d like to broaden our offerings more. If people live an average of eighty years or so, while it’s good to improve the efficiency of the crucial three years we now focus on, people still have educational needs throughout the rest of their lives too.

My personal goal for Quipper is world peace. The world is becoming ever more complex, and the speed of social change is increasing all the time. Things are extremely unstable. Given this kind of situation, one of the most important factors in making the world a better place is certainly education itself. So for Quipper, aiming to take a leading role in education on a global scale, the weight of our responsibility for the future of mankind is very big. So it is with that spirit and pride that I would like to continue driving our business forward.

  1. Quipper Career Mexico City
  2. Staff Interview
  3. Takuya Homma

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