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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Going Global

You don't start a web site or a web business without some level of international ambition. That's the web, it's global and you can't control it.

For many web businesses, it's a no-brainer on day 1 -- a visitor/reader/customer from Belgium or Japan is just as good or better as one from Kansas or California. The more happy visitors spreading the word about your products across the globe, the better. If you sell lots of advertising for every page served, or if your customers pay for shipping for your products, you're happy to have a global audience the minute you launch.

For Tutor.com, it's a bit more complicated. National and regional curriculum standards, language and cultural issues, educational systems and buying habits, legal and education regulations, all require a deep understanding of local education markets and very likely matching students with local tutors. Serving a student in London or Jakarta one minute and Kansas the next is not technologically harder than just sticking to the US, but will the student in Jakarta get the help she needs consistently?

The answer to that question, of course, depends on how focused the company is on going global and how much hard work, resources, and smarts you put into making sure the customer will be happy. Because delivering a high-quality educational experience is more complicated than delivering a web page or a package in the mail, Tutor.com's answer is Go Global, but Go Cautiously, and go when we have the management bandwidth to do it well.

Even if you follow the company closely, you may not be aware that YourTutor.com (aka Tutoring Australasia), found at http://yourtutor.com.au/, is a company founded and operated in partnership with Tutor.com. This was our first international experiment, now about 3 years old, thriving, and serving thousands of students in Australia with live one-to-one on demand tutoring using the technologies and operational know-how created and developed at Tutor.com.

International demand for on-demand one-to-one high quality education is, not surprisingly, very high. One sign of that demand is the dozen requests for calls/meetings I've taken in the past month from smart business people and educators who want to bring Tutor.com to their country, and in a few cases to many other countries.

Going global is another exciting opportunity and challenge for us, and one that we will rise to in a way that ensures that students coming to us for help are connected to tutors who provide an excellent educational experience.

George Cigale, gcigale@tutor.com