Alumnus-created app helps connect students and tutors

With the last week of midterms season fast approaching, students may be using USC alumnus Randy Horowitz’s app Toot, which provides in-person tutors to students who need extra help.

The app connects students with the nearest available tutors within 24 hours. All of the tutors are tested, background-checked and interviewed to ensure the quality of tutoring services. Students can easily pay for the service through cashless, secure payment system similar to Uber’s payment system.

“We got obsessed with the idea of being able to quickly connect students with in-person teachers, because there was nothing else like that.” Horowitz said. “Everything else in the industry was very fragmented — there wasn’t a centralized plate to help students find the tutors, especially one in the form of phone application.”

The mobile app was launched in April 2015, and Toot already has held more than 1,000 tutoring sessions and has more than 1,200 tutors available. Toot is planning on expanding to new topics, such as cooking, music and art, in addition to the currently offered traditional academic subjects.

Any USC student can be part of it — either to apply to become a tutor or to get help from the tutors. Tutors are not only limited to tutoring college-level courses, but can also help with high school classes and standardized testing preparation.

“USC undergraduate students, graduate students or recent alumni make up the group of tutors near USC,” Horowitz said.

Students can also set the price for the tutoring services they offer, depending on the type of class they are requesting help for.

The company started from a personal experience. According to Horowitz, Sophia Parsa, CEO of Toot, was a student at Loyola Marymount University and her tutor canceled on her session on the eve of her final exam as the his wife went into labor. She then found a tutor at 11 p.m., studied for four hours, and was able to pass the exam.

“She realized that students need an easier way of accessing and connecting with qualified tutors face-to-face,” Horowitz said.

Parsa found Horowitz when she needed someone who had the financial and business background to turn the idea into a business. Shakib Zahibian also joined as a CTO. Currently, Horowitz serves his role as CFO of the company.

Students have found the app appealing. Jared Thomas, a graduate student in public administration, said he was satisfied with his experience using Toot.

“My experience using Toot and finding a tutor has been extremely convenient and user-friendly,” Thomas said in an email to the Daily Trojan. “Especially, when compared to the amount of footwork and networking I had to do to find the Ph.D. student.”

According to Thomas, Toot was an affordable option for him to get prepared for the courses he needed help in. He was capable of finding a tutor who is both familiar with graduate level statistics and with the Price program.

“I have a master’s in English, knowing very well that math is my Achilles [heel], and with that said, I can easily see myself using Toot once a week,” Thomas said.

Thomas said there are differences between Toot and other available services on the market. He found that all the publicly available tutoring options are both inconvenient and unaffordable.

“In about a week, I quickly learned that the Ph.D. student, a master of the subject, was simply too far removed from my level of understanding,” Thomas said. “I couldn’t keep up with someone who quite literally calculated decimal numbers in his head.”

According to Thomas, with the prior service he used, he was capable of getting the help he wanted for $50 an hour. Toot helped him maintain his schedule and took away the stress of finding a qualified tutor.

“Simply find the class you need help in, when you need it, and where to meet and Toot finds a tutor that fits your request,” Thomas said.