Three years ago, Michael Jonna was stuck on a homework problem, but it was too late in the evening to call a tutor. After a search on Google, “nothing could really help me,” he says.
That incident spurred Jonna to come up with a business plan for an instant tutoring service. His father, Matt Jonna, co-founder and CEO of Farmington Hills’ Plum Market, invested in the company, and the app for the virtual service went live in 2018.
Michael Jonna, founder of Ruru Technologies and an 18-year-old who just finished his senior year at Detroit Country Day School in Beverly Hills, outsourced the programming for his Ruru Tutor business. Users select the subject, and tutors from across the country can respond.
Tutors are organized into tiers, based on experience. The lowest tier is for high school students. The second is for tutors who have taken college classes in a given subject or have less than five years of teaching experience, and the third is for those who have at least five years of teaching experience and a teaching license. Tutors take competency tests developed by Jonna’s high school teachers and other experts he’s contacted online.
Students can opt to pay as little as $7 for a 15-minute session with a first-tier tutor. Prices max out at a one-hour session with a third-tier tutor for $78. Tutors make 75 percent of the fee, with the remaining 25 percent going to Ruru. With digital instructors living as far from Michigan as the West Coast, students can get help at almost any time of day. Jonna says that when he starts marketing the program to students on the West Coast, he’ll have to find a way to recruit tutors who are available late at night.
Other plans include expanding services to ACT, SAT, and AP test preparation; Jonna says the company must first develop competency tests for tutors in these subjects to establish the offering. He also wants to expand the user base and eventually attract outside investors, and he’s open to any turns the company might take.
“You don’t want to limit yourself in a company, because I don’t even know if tutoring will be the main thing,” Jonna says. “Maybe (it will be) something different.”
In April, the company announced it had hired Terry Brown as president and chief marketing officer. The app is ranked No. 1 in the Google Play Store for on-demand tutoring, and it has been downloaded 6,000 times. About 460 tutors are registered.
In September, Jonna plans to study business at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.