The Key to Scaling Up is Knowing Your Own Strengths – Got It’s Hung Tran
Hung Tran: Founder and CTO of Got It
Hung Tran (Trần Việt Hùng) is the Founder and CTO of Got It Inc, the leader in the Knowledge-as-a-Service market. Got It TUDY is their first app. It offers students immediate help with a STEM problem in their homework. Snap a picture of the problem with the app and an expert will help you solve it in less than ten minutes via an interactive chat session.
Knowledge-as-a-Service: Traction in Education
Got It's Knowledge-as-a-Service vision has found great traction in the education space. It is part of the top 10 education apps in the AppStore and has already solved million STEM problems. What is more: the app has cracked the elusive code of getting students to pay for something!
I meet with Hung on a sunny afternoon. The terrace of the restaurant we chat at offers great views of the Foster City lagoons. It is a public holiday—a rare break from the relentless schedule that scaleup founders tend to keep.
We have been in the Bay Area since 2013, moving over from Iowa. That is where I got my PhD in Computer Science and founded my first startup, Tutor Universe.
Pivot from Web to Mobile
Tutor Universe was a marketplace for tutoring worldwide college students online. It solved the imbalance between tutors' availability and where students needed them. We enjoyed good traction and reached critical mass, but Growth is slow toward the end of 2013. When our competitor sold out for little money, we felt it would be better to pursue a more valuable market.
Student habits were changing fast because of the smartphone revolution. Apps that tied into new habits such as snapping pictures made the user experience a breeze. When we combined that with guaranteed fast answers, we hit on a service of real value to students.
Excellent Answers in Guaranteed Time
The result is Got It STUDY. The app is still a regular among the top five education apps in the Apple store. Students stumped by a homework question just snap a picture of the problem. We then guarantee a qualified study expert to help the student solve the problem within 10 minutes. This is so valuable to our students that we are able to charge for the chat session with the expert.
Abundant Students, Abundant Tutors
Like many other exponential organizations, Got It STUDY solves a "problem of abundance", not a "problem of scarcity".
There are so many STEM experts passionate about teaching students their subjects. And they appreciate earning a buck on the side when they are not otherwise productive. Like when commuting or waiting in the checkout line. With our time limit of ten minutes, our experts too feel like they are in control."
Growing 12 x in Three Years
We spend more than an hour discussing the scaling up journey Got It has experienced. Just three people in a dorm in 2013, the company now employs more than 50. I ask Hung what has changed the most in that 10X journey.
The key to scaling up is knowing your own strengths. These also tell you the areas where you could use some help. In the beginning, you do everything yourself. Before product-market-fit everything iterates so quickly. At that stage, only tight teams of 2-3 people can follow.
Stop Second-Guessing Your People
"But the world changes completely once you have reached product-market fit. Your product starts scaling quicker than you can remain on top of things in person. The only reason why we could solve close to three million problems is because of the great talent we have attracted.
From engineering to support and from growth hacking to management. It is crucial that you realize what skills you employed these people for. And that these skills are better than yours in their fields. You have to learn to trust other people to do their part of the company's work better than you could have. Or you will never scale.
Knowing if You Want to be the CEO
or example, as the company grew, we needed more experienced leadership. In how to grow a team, how to attract more funding, how to set a vision, how to execute a strategy, etc. As CEO, I was eager to learn. But I also realized that my true passion is in the product and the engineering, not in running a business.
I was fortunate to have Peter Relan as one of my investors, with the wealth of experience he provides. So much so, that I was happy to recruit him as the CEO of Got It. Like Eric Schmidt at Google or Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook, Peter covers the business side. The knowledge that would make take too much time for me as a Computer Science PhD to build up. Recruiting Peter enables me to realize the vision and build the product that people love.
The Tree and Branches Serving the Leaves
ur philosophy of empowering employees is clear in how we draw the organization. We do not draw a traditional organization chart with me and Peter at the top. Instead, we draw a tree.
The vision and strategy are the roots
Peter and I are doing our best to provide resources to the rest of the tree
Each team is a brand and one team lead there to support the branch
Everyone is provided with enough resources to do photosynthesis to keep the business going
"We may have three offices but we only have one tree. Our employees love seeing their place in the tree. It shows that managers and leaders are only there to support the frontline employees. Not managers but employees are running the business day by day. So that Peter and I can spend more time thinking about the future. We are already preparing for the next level.
Extending Initial Success to New Markets
We have secured a strong star position in education, as leaders in a market growing over 10% a year. The proceeds from that market now let us extend Knowledge-as-a-Service into new segments. Such as knowledge workers in the business that need help with a problem.
There is no end to the potential of Knowledge-as-a-Service. It will provide instant help with the problems people face. Thus making everybody more productive. Just like Software-as-a-Service and Platform-as-a-Service, Knowledge-as-a-Service is slated to change the world.
Roland Siebelink speaks and writes about companies that keep growing while also keeping their culture.