Former Westlake Boys High school student Jonathan Wrait is having a busy January with meetings with potential business partners in New York, Boston and Los Angeles.
Twenty-one year old Wrait was the winner of last year’s New Zealand finals of the Global Entrepreneur Awards and took part in the global finals at the New York Stock Exchange. He didn’t win but made the contacts that led to this month’s meetings.
His business is Virtuoso Tutoring, which began life as a Westlake Boys High school company, created to compete in the Young Enterprise Scheme (YES). The company facilitates tutoring of juniors by top senior students who are approved by the Heads of Department at a school. Parents book, pay and monitor progress online.
“The judges said Virtuoso is a fantastic idea that has the potential to be scaled overseas,” Wrait says. “They told me to catch up with them when I am back if the US, and they will introduce me to some useful people.”
Wrait began as a tutor for the Virtuoso YES team while he was a student. He and his business partner, Jonathan Lawry, took over Virtuoso when the school year ended, saving the company from being wound up when YES finished for the year.
Smale’s Farm boss Bill Smale, who mentored the fledging company and is now chairman, says Virtuoso has real commercial potential.
“The concept is extremely practical,” he says. “Virtuoso ensures students are taught the material the way the school wants them to learn it, using tutors approved by the school’s heads of department. It’s a brilliant system.”
“People think booking systems are simple – they’re not,” says Wrait.
Virtuoso needed an online booking system with payments functionality.
A student assured Wrait he would be able to write a program that would take only two weeks and a few hundred dollars. The weeks turned into months.
Wrait says Virtuoso had since signed Westlake Girls High school as a customer, so it needed the system up and running. A line was drawn under the failed development project, and the company went to tender.
After receiving five quotes, a developer was chosen but this project again failed. The partners went back to their quotes and selected a company that provides booking systems. An online product called Easy Book that runs on the .NET platform was chosen. It was customised to suit Virtuoso’s needs.
“We learned some lessons,” Wrait says.
“First, don’t try to get a solution with everything. Start with something that can do most of it. Second, go to experts in their field.”