Daily Markup #663: John Tan of Saturday Kids & Doyobi on why education today is ‘absurd’ and the lessons he learned as an angel investor

Credit: John Tan

On learning & unlearning

  • Did you know that John Tan, founder of 500-backed edtech company Saturday Kids has also been an angel investor for over a decade? He has invested in close to 100 startups so far, including recognizable names in tech such as Ninja Van and Chope.
  • Some of you may also know his other company, Doyobi. Doyobi (Saturday in Japanese) was founded in 2017 as a spin-off of Saturday Kids – when Google came knocking on his door to invite the team to run Code In The Community, the largest free coding program in Singapore.
  • “Doyobi’s mission is to equip every child with the skills to thrive in a rapidly changing world,” John explained. “The entire education system is built on the premise that the average student exists. That kids know the same things, learn the same way, at the same age. It’s completely absurd. Why do we persist with a one-size-fits-all system?”
  • “I believe the purpose of education is to instill the joy of learning and help young people make their way in the world,” he added. “Education as it is today does quite the opposite. Kids hate learning (some even have a phobia of learning) and come out of college completely unprepared for what life throws at them.”
  • After a few, shall we say, rather interesting experiences with founders, John picked up an important lesson: “These days, I hardly invest in founders I don’t know. They may be brilliant, but if they don’t know how to inspire the team, manage people, and do right by investors, I’m not getting my money back.”
  • His advice for his younger self? “Decide for yourself what is important to you and what makes you excited about getting out of bed every morning. Or, as we like to say at Doyobi, be an original thinker with a sense of purpose.”
  • Read the full interview here. A subscription may be required.


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