Staff interview #04 Kenta Takubo

Encounter with an one-legged boy

There are two incidents in my life that lead me to Quipper and StudySapuri.

Since I was an elementary school student, I liked to help friends with their studies. One day during junior high school a friend who was a dropout came to me for advice. “Kenta, I want to go to high school.” he told me. This planted an idea in my mind of becoming a school teacher to help others and make people happy. When moving on to college, without hesitation, I chose to get a degree that would allow me to acquire a teaching license. This was the first incident.

The second was an encounter with a one-legged boy living in a hostile environment whom I met on an NGO tour in Cambodia. I had participated in the tour after being inspired at a seminar in university. His eyes lit up when I taught him English even though he had not only lost a leg but also a younger brother.

I felt embarrassed that I had lived in peace without knowing what was out there. I felt a strong desire to provide educational opportunities to people who do not have the opportunity to study and those who do not have to die if they had knowledge. This changed my life goal to creating an education system instead of becoming a teacher.

I joined an internet related company, my previous employer, hoping to start up an educational business, but I was not fortunate enough to have that opportunity.

When I got transferred to a position, that would allow me to change careers, I decided to join the Quipper and StudySapuri project where I could directly engage in education and take challenges in the global market. It was January 16, 2017, the next day after the National Center Test for University Admissions that I first came to the office. My previous company was engaged mainly in entertainment so I rarely had had the opportunity to talk about education. But at Quipper, from day one the office was bustling about the test from the previous day. Hearing comments like “The English test was difficult this year” excited me as I had finally made it to the place had been longing for.

The path to “100% Pass Rate”

I joined the company in January 2017 and immediately was assigned to the online coaching service project planned to release in just two months.

The core value of this service is for the user to be accepted to their first-choice university. Thus, we set our product vision as “100% Pass Rate.” In other words, our goal is to offer a service that allows students to enter their desired university from anywhere across the nation and to promote their growth on the way.

While the basic service of StudySapuri and Quipper offer learning opportunities beyond regional and economic boundaries, online coaching additionally provides students with results and achievements that lay ahead. I want to face up to our vision, each day, with sincerity.

If I may digress for a moment, to pursue this difficult project, I have been particular about the simplicity and persuasiveness in the verbalization of our vision. The ideal wording of a vision is to use simple and easy-to-understand terms so that it could be understood by anyone. I think our current vision “100% Pass Rate” is recognized by many people who are not directly involved with our service.

I have envisioned an autonomous team that will commit to users’ results and achievements as I continue to voice out “100% Pass Rate.”

The first six months after releasing the service, we had to keep enhancing to operate  without having enough defined methods to lead our students through their entrance examinations. From there, together as a team, we, as a team, investigated knowledge about exams. We are able to give students clear advice and instructions on when, what, and how, by breaking down the steps to success. We have come far, in search for our own strengths while doing what’s expected as expected, and little by little we are nearing the realization of our vision.

The impact of handwritten letters

Our service was released as the forerunner of the coaching business. We spent one year polishing it to something we could call Version 1.0. There are still many things we want to do, and much we could offer for our students, but fortunately we have started to see several good signs through interactions with our 270 college student coaches and 7,000 students.

For example, we hear voices from students that they are able to comfortably seek for advice from coaches because they don’t see their faces. Last spring, we received a letter from a student saying, “I haven’t told my parents or friends because they will make fun of me, but my real first-choice of school is XX. I can only share this with my coach, but I’m serious and I really want to make it.”

Because it is important that the student has a clear, specific goal to provide effective coaching, I want to continue to find more tricks to build such relationships between students and coaches.

There was also a time when of a handwritten message from the coach (sent as an image) grabbed the heart of a student. Despite its simple content, the coach quickly gained trust, which later helped them to motivate the student. We are sharing these tricks we found through interpersonal communication among our 270 coaches, and gradually constructing a methodology.

Another good sign we are seeing is that students’ studying hours and persistency can grow to up to 2.5 times with coaching. Still, it is not sufficient to make every student say, “I reached my goal thanks to Quipper and StudySapuri!” While we have the general framework of educational content, study plan, and the coaches to help students carry through, we still lack a system for peer effects, with which competition pushes students forward. With our current service students cannot even vaguely guess what others are doing nor make friends to promise hanging out after the college entrance exams. I believe it is a major element we must fulfill in the future.

We don’t have “users”

I sometimes feel distant between us, as an organization, and the users of our products, who are junior and senior high school students. These are teenagers whose minds and interests are constantly changing. I do not want to forget that our users are wavering, real humans. We need to understand better what modern day high school students do everyday, where they go, and what their problems are, so that we can create services for them, not us.

We tend to talk about businesses based on the number of users, conversion rates, and unit prices. But what truly lies within are the individuals who are junior high school and high school students. It is common for Internet services to call their customers “users” but the services we offer do not have “users.” They are “students” who come to us with a purpose, and we need to sincerely face them.
For such an awareness, I set up a life-sized panel of high school students in our office the other day. I hope everyone can always remember who they we  working for by looking at this.

Distributors of Wisdom

While job seeking as a college graduate, when I was asked about my ambition in life, I would answer, “I want to conquer the world by providing educational opportunities around the world.” If children born in impoverished areas could only receive education, it might be possible to implement activities to enrich those areas. If education penetrates the globe, I believe that the world will change to a place where those who work hard will receive the reward they deserve. My ambition has not changed even today.

And because online learning and online coaching will greatly contribute in the process, I am confident that joining Quipper/StudySapuri has brought me to the doorstep of the entrance to my ambition.

While there are many pathways, if I steadily move ahead, I think the time will come in the near future that edtech players such as Quipper and StudySapuri will be known as the coolest.
  1. Quipper Career London
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