John Tan: Helping Teachers Triple Their Superpowers
Hello! My name is Spiffy, I’m an Interplanetary Journalist. I’ve been speaking with innovators from around the world who are working on UN SDG 4: Quality Education. Teachers are key to creating a conducive learning environment and today’s guest is motivated to help them become the best teachers they can be! I’m here in Singapore to talk to John Tan, CEO of Doyobi. Are you ready to be inspired?
Spiffy: Welcome, John, I’m excited to talk to you today! Can you start by telling me what challenge you are addressing?
John: Hey Spiffy! Doyobi empowers teachers. We help them become the best teachers they can be. Everyone remembers their favorite teacher. The teacher who made learning fun. The teacher who believed in us. The teacher who inspired us to become the person we are today. Doyobi wants to help every teacher become that teacher. We help teachers learn new skills, provide them with tools and resources to make the classroom fun, and find other teachers they can connect with and learn from.
Spiffy: That sounds stellar, John! What motivated you want to work with teachers in this way?
John: Because there are too many SDGs to work on! We think the way to address SDGs at scale is through education, and unfortunately, the education system is broken. We need more young changemakers in the world. And to have more changemakers in the world, we need better teachers. Teachers who inspire, mentor, and coach. Teachers who prepare kids for jobs that don't yet exist.
Spiffy: Now that sounds like an amazing job! How would you say you’re working to create a more equitable world?
John: We help teachers triple their superpower! We provide teachers with professional development opportunities, teaching resources, and a peer-support community. The simple idea is to find every way possible to help teachers become much better at what they do. Quality education for all can only be fixed if we solve the problem of teacher shortages and attrition.
Spiffy: Can you tell me about a recent milestone and the kind of impact it’s had?
John: I wrote a thread on Twitter about why the education system is broken and that went viral. It made me realize that so many people out there are frustrated with the way mainstream education works, which makes me all the more motivated to try to fix it.
Spiffy: I’m always curious about how entrepreneurs deal with failure. What about you, John? Can you share about a time when you faced failure and didn't give up? What did you learn?
John: Before Doyobi I was running Saturday Kids, a curiosity school for kids. While Saturday Kids is not a failure (we're still a team of 20 in Singapore and Tokyo), I realized that running offline programs and operating physical learning centers is always going to limit the number of kids we impact. So I spun out Doyobi to work with schools—and go where the students are. While Doyobi is still in its early stages, I'm hopeful we can help teachers transform millions of kids into changemakers.
Spiffy: Before we sign off, John, is there anything inspiring you’ve learned that you would like to share with our audience?
John: Ana Fabrega, aka Miss Fab, has this great tweet about the Vuja De Mindset—it’s the ability to see what everyone else takes for granted as new and ripe with opportunity. She said it's about adopting the mindset of a child, and I realized that's what's missing in most adults. Kids observe, don’t take no for an answer, keep asking why, and are not satisfied until they get what they want. Curiosity, resilience, and grit go a long way in life.
Spiffy: I couldn’t agree more, John! Thanks for bringing that curiosity to life. It’s been a pleasure talking to you. Over and out!
John Tan, CEO of Doyobi, is deep in the future of work and learning. He is a fellow @Transcendnet Investor @Padlet Leader @ObamaFoundation Founder @Doyobi_ed @SaturdayKidsSG Scout @Monkshillvc (Nominated by Pathway Ventures. First published on the Ladderworks website on October 1, 2021.)
© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jill Landis Jha. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s interviews of founders building a more equitable world here.