It’s not rare to come across an impressive startup story these days; stories that start with the spark of an idea, sleepless nights, the struggle to get a product, and often ending with a crash and burn.
While the LearnX story is less cliche, it certainly has the spark, sleepless nights, and product struggles. The founders from India, America, Germany, and Poland connected around an idea and opportunity to make a difference. They did this knowing that startups are risky, but with the hope of making a big impact in the lives of many. Their choice of impact is in EdTech.
The team of international founders created the world’s first social learning network.
Their mission is to create a timeless, universal learning ecosystem. While their mission is grand, they do the groundwork every day working towards their goals. The LearnX mobile app connects people from around the world to learn academic subjects, languages, skills, and more.
One of the founders of LearnX is Sourabh Soni, from India. He has achieved academic success, professional success, and is now striving for entrepreneurial success. However, he was not always successful. Growing up, he struggled academically, that is, until he began receiving tutoring. He has deep first-hand knowledge and experience in India’s secondary education market as a Learner (student) as well as a Knower (teacher).
Let’s get to know a bit of Sourabh’s story.
Indian founder, Sourabh Soni, grew up in Punjab. His father, Janak Raj Soni, came from humble beginnings. He made a living selling garments, utensils, and other small products. Sourabh helped him when he could, preparing products and picking up shipments. Needless to say, he comes from a middle-class family that has worked hard day in and day out.
Janak’s goal was to earn enough money to pay for a decent education for his children without taking out any loans. Sourabh and his siblings attended public school, where he was a very average student – scoring in the middle of his class at best. This continued until K10, the time he came to realize how the world works, what it takes to be successful, and especially how hard his father worked to give him an education. After that, Sourabh changed. From K10 on, he would end up being a top performer in class.
A key driver of his academic improvement was thanks to the private tutoring he received. Luckily, Sourabh attended private classes to improve his grades which put him on track to become a high performing professional. He had weekly classes in two subjects with dozens of other students. Despite the lack of personalization (not to mention technology), it was enough to make a difference.
His academic performance led him to have the knowledge and ability to teach other Learners. He would deliver lessons to groups of 20 students, 6 days a week. This became a passion of his and he would continue to tutor Learners through university, and professional training. His time teaching others greatly improved his understanding of the course content and helped him get top scores. He credits this as the biggest reason for his academic success. Giving and receiving tutoring would continue for years of his life.
During his professional training courses, he received private tutoring for his Chartered Accountancy degree. He received a word of mouth reference from a classmate about an excellent teacher in town. For the next three years, Sourabh attended four subject courses, three days a week, for five months each year. His classes were packed with 50-100 other Learners, costing him more than $50-$60 a month, which is not cheap for a young Indian student.
The young entrepreneur paid for all his university tuition, living expenses, and tutoring expenses with the money he earned from his small sunglasses business and providing tutoring. Again, despite the little personalization and digitization, he was able to succeed in his professional degrees.
Sourabh went on to earn three professional degrees – 1. Chartered Accountant (CA); 2. Company Secretary (CS); 3. Institute of Cost & Works Accountants of India (ICWAI) Intermediate, Cost Accounting. These are the highest degrees in the Legal, Finance, and, Accounting fields in India.
After starting his professional career at Infosys, India’s largest tech company, Sourabh would soon be transferred to Germany as an IT consultant. With limited digital literacy and knowledge of management information systems, he would have his work cut out for him preparing for his new role.
Thanks to a foundation of learning, Sourabh quickly picked up what he didn’t know and excelled in his position. He consulted the two largest companies in Germany over four years on different IT projects. However, as his corporate career progressed, so did his desire to make a difference outside of the corporate world.
Unfortunately, he was not fulfilled with his career and wanted to do something that would have a large and direct impact on the lives of the people that needed it. Sourabh, like many others, knows that education can bring people a long way. He came a long way thanks to the education he received.
After reflecting on his time as a student and tutor, he thought of the problems he and millions of other students faced. The secondary education market in India lacks convenient access to tutors, little personalization, and low digital adoption. After sighting this problem, he decided to do something about it. Sourabh presented the LearnX concept with another Co-Founder at a Startup Weekend in Frankfurt, Germany. This was one of the crucial steps taken to bring LearnX to life.
Upon clarifying the problem, identifying a solution, and selecting the business model, Sourabh knew he had to go back to his home country and make an impact in the lives of millions of Indians.
That is what he is doing today.