LONDON — In 2012, Ismail Jeilani was faced with a choice. The North Londoner had been accepted to King’s College London, but university fees had just tripled. He could go — but doing so would mean paying £9,000 a year for his education, and taking out a loan he wasn’t comfortable with.
“It’s to do wih my own values, combined with my attitudes towards debt alongside dealing with interest,” he told Business Insider. “I didn’t think it was fair that I had to choose between what I held closely to myself, and my right to education, and I felt that anybody who’s in that position should definitely be able to do both.”
And that’s exactly what Jeilani did.
He went to King’s, paying the nine grand a year — but he didn’t take out a student loan. Instead, he moonlighted as a personal tutor, teaching Arabic grammar and economics for between 15 and 20 hours a week alongside his studies.
It left little room for anything else — “I wasn’t able to commit to extracurricular activities … I did Taekwondo for around two months and I couldn’t physically carry on because the time wasn’t there any more” — but it paid off, and he left university completely debt-free.
After a stint working for Google, the entrepreneur is now using his experience to build an app with two friends to help others do similar — it’s called Scoodle.
It’s built by three old friends
Scoodle is an app that connects tutors to students. Students can search for tutors, book and pay for lessons, and message them, all through the app, while it gives the tutors control over how they manage their students and create group lessons.
Let’s say you want to learn French. You download the app, enter your subject and location, and can then browse tutors signed up on the platform. It displays their qualifications, an introduction, and how much you charge. If you like, you can drop them a message, or book a lesson through the app.
The company was founded in August 2016, and after a private beta, it launched on May 1, 2017. “We expected students to focus mainly on academic learning,” Jieliani said. “However, non-conventional learning is picking up a lot. For example, a lot of students are learning foreign languages and getting tutors to help them get into medicine. This means medical entrance exams and personal statements.”
Jeilani has two cofounders who are old friends. “We’ve known each other for a long time, probably 10-15 years now. We went to the same supplementary school, on weekends played games with each other back in the PSP days.” They’re now working together.
Jeilani declined to provide hard numbers, but said the app is currently growing the number of tutors by 30% week-on-week, and “nearly half of our sign ups return every two weeks.”
To date, Scoodle has been self-funded, but the team is is currently trying to close a seed funding round of between three and five hundred thousand pounds. (Jeilani also declined to name the investors the company is talking to.) It has previously been self-funded, with none of the founders drawing a salary — but they believe the trade-off of equity for capital to help scale is worth it.
“For us it’s a question of timing because when we first spoke about the product and the industry and the idea it was relatively young, but now we’re seeing I guess more and more people beginning to work within the industry. So for us it’s a question of: What’s a bigger priority, is [it] just to be able to say ‘hey, we own 100%,’ or is it better to maybe own something slightly smaller but more impactful on the society?”
‘My values and faith are a lot of who I am’
After Ismail Jeilani graduated, he went to work for Google, working as an account strategist in Ireland.
It’s a role that gave him access to a powerful network of ex-Googlers — or “Xooglers” — that he is leveraging as he grows the company. In early June, he attended a pitch day at Google’s offices in London, where he and a dozen other startups founded by Xooglers pitched their startups to 80 assembled European investors.
“The network from the ex-Googlers network is amazing, it’s genuinely incredible,” he said at the time. “Not just because of the calibre of the people who are here, but also the support network that they provide in the buildup to this.”
He also led the product launch of QardHasan, a platform that helps provide an “interest-free alternative to traditional student loans” for Muslim students in Britain.
“My values and faith are a lot of who I am,” he wrote in a follow-up email. “It teaches me to work with excellence, no matter what I do. It also teaches me that life is short, and that we only have so long to make a meaningful difference in the world. I want to make that difference.”