profile
Andy Ng

BSc (CHEM)

 

Co-Founder and CEO

Tutor Circle 

profile
Andy Ng

BSc (CHEM)

 

Co-Founder and CEO

Tutor Circle 

An entrepreneurial education

HKUST is a hotbed of entrepreneurship yet for Andy Ng, Co-founder and CEO of tutor-matching platform Tutor Circle, the journey began over a humble cup of coffee. 

Sitting in a café in 2014 with two classmates, including Tutor Circle co-founder Kit Woo, they decided to fully chase their entrepreneurial dreams. 

To make this succeed, they needed to strike upon their great idea. "We thought about cultural tourism, but lacking experience, turned our gaze elsewhere," says Andy. In many ways, it was fortuitous, given COVID-19 decimated tourism. The duo looked at the private tutoring industry, suffering from a negative reputation with controversies surrounding service quality. 

Breaking into a tough market

To break into the industry, the team started a tutor-matching platform that generated profits by charging commissions. While an entrepreneur dreams of being a unicorn, the reality is the beginning is rather less glamorous. The team had a grand total of HK$10,000 to establish the platform, and built a website, relying on HKUST’s student print budget to print black and white leaflets, which they distributed every weekend in public housing estates and university student lockers.

"In many ways this method was ‘square-one’, primitive but very successful," Andy says with a laugh. “We formed a core customer base, the rock-bed of any start-up”. Now 8 years down the line, the business has been steadily growing, with 1500 new tutors and 2000 to 3000 new students monthly and an annual turnover of almost HKD$8 million.

In times of success, threats arise

"You didn’t think it would be that easy, did you?" Andy says. There were many obstacles along the way. As a young CEO, he struggled to manage employees and deal with people in the company who sought to damage Tutor Circle’s team morale. "I recognized that I could have managed the situation better, and started taking online management courses and joining entrepreneurs’ associations," he says.

Another situation facing Hong Kong is brain drain, with many young people emigrating to different countries. As a result, there is a shortage of IT employees in the local market, and the team has had to hire from Malaysia as a result. "Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) like ourselves struggle to compete with larger corporations in attracting top talent," Andy says.

The next step of evolution

In 2022, Tutor Circle expanded its matching services to include one-to-one online tutoring and extended outside of Hong Kong. The effort is swimmingly, with Singapore's next market to receive the Tutor Circle experience.

It’s been an amazing journey so far, what advice would Andy give to graduates who want to be entrepreneurs? “I think you should work for a company before embarking on the entrepreneurial journey, because you will have more contacts and knowledge to help you. When you start, you will realise being an entrepreneur is much harder than being an employee.”

For Andy, the key to success is being perseverant but also having a strong foundation. “That’s what all HKUST graduates have in common, that wonderful nurturing. I believe that our alma mater will thrive for years to come.”