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Search for Tutor Leads to Innovative Start-Up

By Karen Mahy

His unassuming demeanour and gentle nature belies the passion and determination of his entrepreneurial spirit…Michael Husbands is a dedicated parent and husband whose search for a tutor for his 14-year-old daughter started a whirlwind process that led to the creation of an ambitious start-up – Global Tutoring Hub (GTH) and Podium.

Michael explains: “It all began with a search for a tutor for my daughter. She was having some learning challenges, and as her parents we wanted to provide her with some help. When I searched online I found that what was available online, plus onsite tutoring offerings, were not well suited. With a computer science background, I decided that we could do better.”

The former Technician and Quality Assurance Specialist who was employed with Cable and Wireless Barbados for 15 years, further revealed that what began as a tutoring platform soon morphed into a global education services delivery podium.

“Key to this transition was the discovery that none of the existing platforms sought to deliver content in the different ways various users actually learn. They did not provide a unique experience that would adapt to the user and did not use the tools my daughter and the young people of today use every day for interaction with their peers. None of this could be found on a single platform.” Michael mused.

It was this light bulb moment that generated his vision to redefine online learning to be a more responsive educational experience that caters to the way various students learn. It was his belief that a more effective, unique and easy to navigate tool could be created, availing each student to the best suited approach to achieve their educational goals as part of a lifelong learning process.

Design by Lynn Saghir

Michael and his team further investigated the challenges and found that globally only ten percent of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC’s) users completed their courses and 25% did not even begin the course.

He added: “We set out to create a global learning platform leveraging current and emerging technologies, that facilitates a rich and engaging experience between each learner and the content provider, to truly achieve the goal of effective and adaptive knowledge delivery. This is Podium.”

Not able to contain his pride and enthusiasm, Michael explained that Podium is a cloud based learning platform leveraging current and emerging digital technologies (social media, mobile, analytics, cloud and exponential technologies) to deliver personalised education effectively that best fits with today’s students.

Further pointing out that: “Podium delivers learning content to mobile and web channels through a mixture of online narrative, short videos, group chats and podcasts. It leverages frequent assessments and adaptive learning with facilitated group projects, online group collaboration and innovative tools designed specifically to drive participation.”

The bourgeoning businessman is the first to admit that once he was bitten by the entrepreneurship bug, it was ‘fait accompli’. “I practically stumbled into entrepreneurship. After leaving LIME, I launched several small businesses with varying degrees of success. The largest was a company called Blue Apple which expanded from Barbados into St. Lucia, Grenada and Orlando in the USA. Regrettably, Blue Apple eventually failed and I am in the process of starting over with Podium and GTH.”

He, however, delivered a frank assessment on the state of entrepreneurship in Barbados while lauding the TEN Habitat program for its dedication to developing local entrepreneurs. “Barbados lacks the supportive structures for entrepreneurship. Having failed after building an international business, it has been a difficult road to start-up again. From basic support for start-ups to funding; the provision of supporting infrastructure for start-ups and entrepreneurship in general is a perennial problem in Barbados.”

Expressing abundant gratitude to the TEN Habitat program, Michael disclosed: “We started our TEN Habitat journey by attending the Caribbean Start-up Summit, joined the boot camp and were selected to join the TEN Habitat Hybrid Accelerator, all with a focus on building a successful global business.

We were also fortunate to be selected as a finalist for the Caribbean Innovation Competition held in Mexico in April and were also a semi-finalist at Pitch It Caribbean in St. Kitts. These competitions have provided opportunities to meet new people, grow our network, learn and help other entrepreneurs with similar challenges to ours.”

He concluded: “To say TEN Habitat has been life changing would be an understatement. It has caused us to pivot and truly start to structure our business to be the global brand we want to be. From the weekly meetings, the wonderful guest speakers, the comradery, the sharing among the entrepreneurs and the focus on seeing us succeed has literally been a God send. The TEN Habitat team is truly committed to seeing entrepreneurs succeed and we are glad to be part of the TEN Habitat community and family.”

The future is bright for GTH and Podium as Michael and his team forge ahead building and capitalising on lessons learnt from past experiences. “We are currently building our platform and look forward to launching it later this year. We want to become the primary hub for global online learning, starting with Barbados and the Caribbean, expanding to the Americas, Asia, Europe and Africa as we seek to make true knowledge transfer available to all, globally.”

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