What started out as a college side hustle connecting students to student tutors has turned into a full-fledged business venture for Lance Ding. A 2019 San Clemente High graduate and sophomore at UCLA, Ding is stepping away from school for a few quarters to focus on building his tutoring site, Penzils, into a bona fide, nationwide tech platform.
“I want to build a marketplace for users to connect to local, affordable student tutors to learn anything from math and all areas of academia, to music, sports and art,” said Ding, 20, who is an Engineering major. While currently featuring 70 tutors in Southern California, he hopes to grow the marketplace nationally.
The Penzils website offers an easy-to-use platform where prospective parents and students can find appropriate tutors at the click of a button by selecting a particular profile that identifies the fields in which they tutor.
The parent or student can message the tutor with their request, and the tutor and student work out the fee (usually around $25 per hour). Currently, Penzils is not taking a cut, but in the future, it is looking to have paid features and optional subscriptions for users.
“Penzils is made by students for students,” said Ding, who lives in San Clemente and has two sisters; his parents are both doctors. “Penzils is different since we provide a platform that sources learning opportunities beyond academics, and by reserving our platform for student tutors, we can keep prices affordable.”
Last December, Ding made the decision to go “all in” with his concept. He presented his idea to student groups at UCLA and other universities and started a nationwide search to find a partner who could help him build the technology. He partnered with Bryce Moral, now his chief technology officer, and he also has formed an advisory board.
“Finding knowledgeable people and building a great team is crucial for business,” Ding said. “So, I spent months finding others who could help me with this venture.”
Currently, Ding is seeking more tutors to join his platform. Interested individuals should visit the website and click on “Sign up to Tutor.”
“Today’s youth is more talented and multifaceted than ever before,” said Ding. “I want to empower students to serve their community by sharing what they know.”