From tech noob to CEO of online marketplace

National Day Special: TODAY talks to Elisha Tan, CEO of Learnemy
Thanks to the Internet, the young today are making a difference, proving they are apathetic no more. TODAY talks to Elisha Tan, the CEO of Learnemy, an online training portal which links people looking to learn, with people looking to teach them.
An epiphany was all it took for Elisha Tan to break out of the routine and start Learnemy
Published: 4:02 AM, August 9, 2013
Updated: 4:00 AM, August 10, 2013
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SINGAPORE — Six years ago, a moment of self-realisation struck Elisha Tan as she made her way home from class. “It’s quite morbid ... Suddenly, I realised that everyone in the train was going to die (some day), and all their memories and beliefs will fade,” she says.

That made her resolve to “break out of the routine of studying, getting a job and having kids and then die; and I am going to help people break out of this cycle”.

The entrepreneurial mindset is directly clashing with the whole paper chase mindset. There are a lot of such programmes in school, but it will be just child’s play until the day people truly give up the chase ... I think fear is something you impose on yourself — if you were taught to fear (venturing into the unknown), you will.

Ms Elisha Tan

Chief executive office of Learnemy
Three things she hopes to change in S’pore
- Change the mindset of “not enough”, into the mindset of wanting to take risks. Take advantage of what we have now; there are already tools available for you to make it big, and there is a good safety net here so do not be afraid to use them your advantage
- Don’t harp on the paper chase. Some people centre their entire lives on the paper chase, and I think it is taking previous time away from skills development
- Stop complaining so much – whether it is the haze or Hello Kitty. There’s more to life than complaining and blaming the authorities. Be adaptable to whatever situations may come your way. Also, I would like to see more action, less talk when such incidents strike.

The 25-year-old is now the proud Chief Executive Officer of Learnemy, an online marketplace where users can take or give classes to people in their communities. Anyone with skills to share and teach can post an offer on the site — from guitar lessons to HTML coding — and interested students can sign up.

Thanks to that “epiphany moment”, the psychology major also went from “just (being) a cog in the wheel, to wanting to help people make a living doing what they like to do”.

After graduating from the National University of Singapore some two years ago, Ms Tan found herself back to class again — this time at a four-month programme at The Founder Institute, an American-based company helping to train tech start-ups. Lessons at the course included branding and fund-raising.

It was intensive and gruelling — “by the second lesson, I was the youngest and the only female student left. Imagine the pressure I faced!” she exclaims.

As part of the course requirements, students were required to incorporate a business, and thus, Learnemy was born.

Today, Learnemy sees 3,600 monthly visitors, with almost 100 instructors posting lesson offers. Learnemy will help match the users to their respective instructors.

Ms Tan admits that the website is not profitable yet, and while she did not want to disclose how much the website takes in monthly, she said recent earnings have been looking hopeful.

To date, Learnemy has seen some 420 users, or “learners”, matched to their respective courses. Not bad for the girl who had zero knowledge of anything tech.

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