Startup Spotlight: Orgo Made Easy

Oct 14, 2018

 

Startup Spotlight: Orgo Made Easy

Oct 14, 2018

Meet Frank Wong, Founder and CEO of Orgo Made Easy, the EdTech startup changing the way students approach complex subjects like Organic Chemistry!

GH: What is Orgo Made Easy?

Orgo Made Easy is a YouTube Channel and Private Tutoring Service that caters to college students who are studying Organic Chemistry and are pursuing a career in the health and medicine field. Our specialty is that we are former students of the courses and struggled through the courses so we know the ins and outs and what the roadblocks that future generations of students have to navigate around. From our tutoring sessions we then create YouTube Tutorial Walkthrough videos for topics and we name them “XYZ Made Easy” for example Alkene Reactions Made Easy.

GH: What was your Eureka moment: how did Orgo Made Easy get started?

Orgo Made Easy started in the Fall of 2012 at Boston University Educational Resource Center. I was working as a Peer Tutor at the time for Organic Chemistry and there was a huge demand for tutors but at the time there was only about 4-6 of us for a class of about 600 students. As I worked with student after student I noticed two things. 1). I really loved the content and problems, the same problems that I had dreaded as a student just a year previously. It was as if a missing piece of the puzzle had fallen into place in my head and clicked! 2). I was repeating the same “Orgo Made Easy” explanations over and over in all my sessions and that’s when I realized! “Hey why don’t I just record myself and bring myself to all the students via a YouTube video?”

GH: How did you build your team?

From the beginning I always saw so much potential in undergrads. I saw what a difference an undergrad at the Peer Tutoring Center could make in their students’ lives. I wanted to build my team from either great tutors who worked with me or former students of mine who I know have great work ethic, personality, and most importantly, struggled through the class as well. It was very important to me that I did not hire the students who cruised through the class without struggling much at all because I had felt that they wouldn’t be able to relate with the majority of struggling students nor would be able to explain as well as the students who had a tough time.
I currently have 3 former students working with me on my team. 🙂

GH: What is your company philosophy driving your company culture?

Our philosophy is that Organic Chemistry is actually a very interesting and fun (I know crazy right?) class when taught properly. We believe in showing our students how fun, interesting, Easy Organic Chemistry can be – hence Orgo Made Easy!

GH: Startup life is full of failures and ‘make it work’ moments – can you identify how you bounced back from one of yours?

One of the biggest struggles I went through was the academic year of 2016-2017. In the Fall it was looking like a good year, I already had 2 Skype tutors (former students of mine) who had worked with me for a year continuing and a newly hired promising tutor to help me with the Physics end of Orgo Made Easy. But it ended I quickly ended up extremely stressed out and overworked trying to do so many things at once. I was tutoring both Orgo and Physics, training and overseeing the new physics tutor, and trying to make YouTube videos for both subjects.
I  was extremely burnt out by the first month of the Fall semester. Between all of us we had about 11 Orgo students and 8 Physics students. It didn’t help that the students we had working in a group session had very serious issues with zoning out and not being able to focus when the other person was talking or giving input.
It felt like I was getting the tutoring part done but struggling with the video aspect. Without the video producing aspect of my job to capture my explanations, it felt like all my tutoring (although good) were not making a long lasting impact. At the end of the semester I felt so burnt out and unaccomplished with my work. Creating videos was a huge part of how I measured my progress with Orgo Made Easy. Videos were concrete and almost clones of myself with my peak explanation of each topic I was tutoring at that moment in time. As I transition from topic to topic I am still able to explain the earlier topics but I lose that optimal explanation I have at that moment in the past. But at the end of the semester it had almost felt like I was just doing the work for the sake of just the money earned. Personally it felt like I compromised my morals and was not prioritizing helping my students as the top priority.
Spring semester came and I felt a bit lost and aimless at several moments. All 3 of my tutors were not able to help me out that Spring and I was alone. One tutor found a full-time job. The second was very emotionally upset and was going through a tough time but she said it was personal and had to take a leave of absence. The new promising tutor who I had spent all that time training and overseeing chose to focus on classes and didn’t have time to tutor. I ended up following my feelings and decided to focus on just creating videos again and helping students. I went back to my former Physics Professor’s class (Professor Duffy) and offered to volunteer my time as a Learning Assistant with the other two Learning and two Teaching Assistants that Professor Duffy already had. Even though it was volunteering I felt so pumped and inspired from the job.
It helped immensely with reminding me the struggles that students have to face at science classes at BU. I was able to be in the shoes of the students and see so many of the flaws in our college science education. That spark was reignited in me and I was determined to make as many Physics videos as I could and get to as many students in the class in-person while volunteer LA-ing to show them my point of view for how to think through the concepts! It was such a refreshing and driving feeling that I hadn’t felt in a long time when I was just tutoring and overworked. This recharging experience drove me to make a difference in these students’ lives and money was less of a priority to me. After that Spring semester I was able to better find a middle ground in between the two semesters and have been able to work a good amount to make a decent profit but also continue being inspired but not overwork to the point of burnout.

GH: What did you learn from your first customers?

  1. Orgo Professors were not connecting with many of their students and the students did not feel motivated nor interested in the content. Many student did not even believe they could do well and get a grade better than a B in the class.
  2. Once the excitement is revived in the students, they get so energized and almost come into our sessions ready to get the material and like it!
  3. The demand is definitely there and this problem in education is big and unaddressed!

GH: What has the Boston ecosystem provided you?

Boston, more specifically Boston University and the neighboring schools, have provided me with a huge target population for my services. BU specifically has given me the opportunities to work with so many amazing and talented students. Many of which I had hoped to hire to build Orgo Made Easy but I have been lucky a few times and were able to hire a few for a few years.

GH: What is the Boston ecosystem lacking from your perspective?

I think the Boston ecosystem is definitely still lacking a little in a public workspaces. I think if there were more spaces like the BUild Lab for people to brainstorm and develop ideas with their own space that would be super helpful. Boston also tends to have a high turnover rate in terms of people coming and going due to the nature of people coming here for school and then going somewhere else.

GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?

Trust yourself and just go out of your comfort zone. Not everything is always going to work out but it’s ok.

GH: What was the best thing that happened to you last year?

The best thing that happened to me last year is probably a combination of two things. The students who I met and worked with were some of the best group that I’ve worked with in a long time. They were all mostly very proactive about studying, cared a lot about their grades, work hard and were diligent.
The BUild Lab opening up actually was a great moment as well because I finally was able to have my own space to tutor and I didn’t have to constantly run around all the study lounges over campus and rotate through depending on crowdedness and other factors. I finally felt like I had a place where I belonged on campus as opposed to constantly skipping around in between spaces in different locations.

GH: What does the future hold for Orgo Made Easy?

I hope that in the future I can complete the OME video library of topics and practice problems. I’ve actually also started a branch off called Physics Made Easy(PME)! And now I have tutors working with students for physics tutoring. We are also slowly developing a video library as well. My plan for picking tutors for both OME and  PME is that I go through my list of OME students as they finish Orgo and I invite some of the best ones for the tutoring position to then help me to teach organic chemistry while I tutor them on physics! I haven’t tried this yet but I want to try having the students them tutor physics next year after they are finished taking it!
I’m going to be looking for somebody who can devote their time and full-time to help me develop both order made easy and physics made easy. it’s a lot of things to do at once and a lot to manage. So it would be great for me to have somebody who can help me split the work and help with developing both sides of the business. I would also like to continue developing the weekly review sessions that I start running last year where we pick one or two of the toughest problems in the home at eight and then we review it on the weekend together in a group of maybe four or five.

Learn more about Orgo Made Easy!

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