Launch HN: Edlyft (YC W20) – Paid Support Program for CS College Students

ehairston | 55 points

I studied CS at Duke. If students in your program can ask the mentor questions about their problem sets, I highly doubt Duke CS department will allow this. Our program was hyperaware of cheating. Most problem sets were supposed to be done individually. They were using software to audit our submissions to catch cheating.

I think students would pay to get help on their problem sets. I knew many students that paid for Chegg. I don't know many students will pay for general tutoring.

Also, keep in mind, a lot of people try CS and don't end up liking it. Most people I know would not want to be a programmer even if they were guaranteed to get A+s in all their college CS classes. It takes a certain type of person to love staring at code on a computer screen 8 hours a day. It's not for everyone.

austinkyker | 2 months ago

Congratulations on launching. Getting my CS major was one of the hardest things I did. Not because the knowledge (it's hard, but not thaaat hard), but because of the perseverance you need to have in an enviroment as toxic as a college, with sometimes bad professor (and sometimes the best you could ask for), or bad colleagues / students (and also the best friends you could get).

101008 | 2 months ago

I'm surprised you launched at Cal given your world-view of incentive alignment. I was there right when the department got slammed. Clearly, it wasn't an ideal situation but there was a ton of innovation in the department to meet demand. Additionally, Cal makes it very clear that Profs are expected to teach, and many who teach lower division classes certainly make it their top priority when teaching (thinking of mainly of DeNero, Hug, Garcia, Fox but would also include Babak, Sahai, Vazarani in this group as well).

DeNero led a ton of software development to help 61A scale (fuzz testing projects, automated hints, autograding). Cal recognized that lot of people taking 61A were actually business or biology majors who wanted to know how to code for their own industries, so they added an entirely new major, complete with new courses and its own building, to relieve pressure on the CS department.

A now-standard company (Gradescope) was launched to help TAs grade faster, often returning graded midterms just a day later. Not to mention Piazza, which became standard in all CS classes within one or two semesters.

And not only that, but tons of tutoring resources were available for lower-division classes from other student groups like HKN/UPE (spoiler alert -- most of these tutors were current or former TAs so you got the same level of knowledge without the waits) and ASUC.

I'm sure a lot of people who've given blood, sweat, and tears to scale this program in a resource-dearth environment _because_ they love CS so much would be upset with your characterization of the department's stance.

sbuccini | 2 months ago

"At schools like Berkeley, more than half of the students who attempt the intro computer science course will not meet the average grade required to actually declare the major. Without previous experience, it’s incredibly hard to make it on the right side of that curve."

I don't think this is true, and find this wording to be _more_ intimidating to potential CS students, as it gives the false pretense that it is "incredibly difficult" to pass CS classes with no prior experience.

mcgingras | 2 months ago

Interesting idea. As a somewhat non-traditional CS student, I could definitely see this as a tool I would have turned to when I was starting out.

One of the most frustrating aspects of studying CS is that my professors would come up with problem sets and assignments on their own and their solution would require something not found in online resources. There were quite a few times where I could only find tangentially related information in very obscure places. Hopefully your service can address this issue effectively.

Also, it seems like the folks here on hn aren't your target demographic so the pain may not resonate here, but i think it exists in a deep way, none the less.

hi_its_trevor | 2 months ago

I came in to my undergrad institution (Georgia Tech) as a CS major but switched out after the first year for reasons similar to what you've described.

A lot of my classmates had been programming for a while before coming to Tech for their undergrad and compared to my peers I was having trouble keeping my head above water with my CS classes and was struggling to access support.

Sometimes I wonder if I should have just stuck to the program but in retrospect I didn't really have the resources/guidance/support (in more ways than just academically) at that time.

I wish you guys success!

sgpl | 2 months ago

I think the idea of building a community is valuable, and reduces the risk of disintermediation if you were just a tutor-matching service. You might want to look into the idea of separate pricing for the tutoring component vs just being part of a community.

ghufran_syed | 2 months ago

This sounds overly specific, there are lots of places to find private tutors, so building one aimed specifically at undergrad first 2 years in a specific field - isn’t it a bit too specific? I’m trying to count how many unicorns are there in the tutoring marketplace, and nothing comes to mind. I mean if there was a Tinder and you would be the tinder for pets, I get it, the main category is saturated so you find a niche, but what is the poster child of tutor finding? I used some app in the past and it tried to convince me to use the app to pay the tutor, it ended up just being a way for me to get their phone number, I pay them directly (tutor for my kids). I think you either go with care.com approach where you pay a fee, or mask sending emails / numbers, otherwise, tutors will figure they can cut the middleman and get paid directly once you start scaling and can’t hire them directly. I wish you all the best and lots of good ideas get a lot of “it won’t work” naysayers but I’m curious how you got YC to invest in this, what evidence you have that people will want to pay for it, and that they will use your service vs any of the other “find a tutor” places out there. Last question, how do you make sure it doesn’t turn into a “do my homework for me” thing like course hero etc.

All the best, I’m just curious on how the business of this will work, and how you convinced YC to believe in it too.

eranation | 2 months ago

I had a very similar startup idea, it was less based on a niche though but the rationale is the same. I have startup ideas about education quite often because my vision on it is quite strong. If you want to chat about education, drop me a line (email is in the profile).

I created doodledocs.com for fun also to aid education as a side project. It's a purely frontend P2P app. I have ideas on education quite often and sometimes I tend to prototype them out.

melvinroest | 2 months ago

I am thrilled now to see such a service now exist! I am always want to learn CS myself, but always felt hard to dive into cuz I have 0 STEM background,I always think group learning is one the the best way to learn CS, let alone now it also provides us a mentor, really interesting and hope this service become popular, I will definitely try it in the future, bookmarked.

terrycody | 2 months ago

Very interesting. Have you had any pushback from school administrators who may be concerned with wealthy students gaining an unfair advantage? Although I guess this is no different than private tutoring, which most schools are okay with as far as I know.

TechBro8615 | 2 months ago