TomYo’s Role in a Mobile Future — Cohort 13 Founder Spotlight

Blue Startups
6 min readSep 18, 2021

Today Blue Startups chats with the founders of TomYo, Eja and Erkhem, who join Blue Startups Cohort 13 all the way from Mongolia. TomYo is an edtech platform that offers white label solutions to instructors and content creators in the form of drag-and-drop mobile apps.

L: CEO and founder, Eja Batbold R: CTO and Co-founder, Erkhembayar Gantulga

What is the story behind TomYo?

All of our co-founders had the opportunity to study and work abroad. When we got back to Mongolia two years ago, a lot of people were asking us how we studied abroad and wanting to know more. We believed that everyone should have the same opportunities to study abroad, so we created a mobile app platform and on-boarded ourselves as mentors. We were answering questions like how to learn English, and later we on-boarded language institutions who were teaching the languages in a video format. We did Q&A’s and videos, and eventually added discussion forums, live streaming, and other learning features. The initial vision was to provide this opportunity to everybody — and why we started as a mobile app rather than a website. Not a lot of people in Mongolia have access to a laptop or PC, but everybody has a smart phone. I think that’s where the trend is going in the world — in a lot of the developing counties you see high Facebook use and smartphone penetration. A lot of content consumption and even learning is happening on mobile devices.

Where did you study abroad before starting TomYo?

Erkhem: I studied in The Czech Republic at the University of Hradec Králové, where I got a Master’s degree in computer science. I had the government scholarship so I was really happy.

Prior to Tomyo, I was working for AND Systems, one of the first Mongolian startups. I worked as an Agile coach with a team of engineers to develop Agile practices and automation like continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD). I worked as a back end engineer at a French startup, La Ruche qui dit Oui!, one of the fastest startups in France; at IBM doing automation projects for DHL; and at one of the first versions of Linked In in Mongolia, BizNetwork.

Eja: I studied at the University of Miami in Florida. It was a very fun experience. I worked in the States and worked in Europe for a while. For people trying to study abroad, the first thing to always do is to learn the language before you go. Everybody postpones it until after they are already there because they think once they’ve arrived they will be in the right environment to learn. But you should seize and optimize the time you have.

How did TomYo evolve from a language learning platform to designing mobile apps for content creators?

We created the language learning apps ourselves. We on-boarded 800+ tutors, mentors, and language institutions. Now we have 350 thousand users. A year ago, many big language institutions asked about our white label solutions to create their own language apps with branded logos. A lot of other institutions started coming to us to use our white label solutions. We did more and more white labels and we thought, hey — we should make this very easy for people because there seems to be a need to create a mobile app for a brand or institution. It initially took three to four months to deploy; now it takes two weeks. Our goal is to make it completely automated so creators can self-build a mobile app service in less than a day or two.

TomYo’s team in Mongolia

Has your customer focus changed working outside of Mongolia?

Our assumptions about customers here were different than what we actually discovered. We thought that everybody relied on their apps but we talked to twenty or thirty people and heard that not everybody needs an app. We’re narrowing our target audience down more and more and refining it. It’s a very helpful process. I would say we’re noticing the impact on speed and acceleration because we were always delaying and focusing on our product rather than focusing on the client and working with the client to learn what they need. It makes a big difference.

For content creators, what is a unique or popular feature in the app design?

We are working with a client who has ten thousand subscribers on YouTube and her biggest need is to make the payment easy. She has to go to another platform to monetize because YouTube doesn’t have a monetization tool. She runs into issues like making a calendar and discussion forum because she uses another tool to schedule her calendar and goes to Zoom to send out Zoom links to people. So there are a lot of steps and separate platforms needed to interact with her users. The key value she’s getting out of having her own app is the analytics and notifications — being able to send out whatever is happening to her followers. A lot of the social media platforms people don’t have control over those things.

Now that you’re a part of Blue Startups, what are you most excited for in Hawaii?

Erkhem: Pearl Harbor. I watched the movie and I imagined it to be somewhere on the West Coast. When I arrived, I realized Pearl Harbor is here. I would like to visit. And also try surfing.

Eja: Surfing. I crushed it! It’s a surfing heaven here.

What can we expect to see from TomYo in the future?

We’ve started with the Edtech focus — focusing on people who teach. The world is also shifting towards peer-to-peer learning, not so much instructor-to-student. If you open a platform and have a book club for example, instead of the author talking about his opinion, if people who like the book are talking about another book, that’s more valuable to the end users. The community feels more empowered and engaged together. That’s the other aspect of building this community-oriented platform.

At some point we want to open the app up to everybody so anyone who has a need to build an app can engage with the community. If you have a hundred people in your class or surf group, you can engage and communicate on an app rather than being on a Facebook group or whatever group you’re on. A lot of people are decentralizing apps… moving away from big platforms because they can one day shut down because of regulation or they can lose user data. It’s not very private, you feel exposed, and there are not many ways you feel like you can engage.

Website building is really easy and app building should be too. It is progressively getting easier. There are a lot of movements around no-code, plug-in tools that are popping up so that’s going to help people create apps easier and faster and the cost should decrease on the Play Store and App Store side. Shifting to mobile is real and that’s the trend we’re seeing. We are very excited to be at the beginning of this phase and tackling this interesting problem. Mobile is the future. We want to start with an e-learning space and open up the doors for a lot of people later on.

To learn more about TomYo, visit: www.tomyo.io

--

--

Blue Startups

We are a startup accelerator based in Honolulu, Hawaii where east meets west! Proud member of the Global Accelerator Network (GAN) #StartupParadise