Jack Tai of OneClass: “Alignment, consistency, and speed”

Alignment, consistency, and speed. These are the three key areas of focus here at OneClass as we strongly believe in order to advance, we need to work as a single unit, and that’s driven by alignment, consistency, and speed. As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, […]

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Alignment, consistency, and speed. These are the three key areas of focus here at OneClass as we strongly believe in order to advance, we need to work as a single unit, and that’s driven by alignment, consistency, and speed.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jack Tai.

Jack is the CEO and co-founder of OneClass, an online learning platform that is reinventing the pathways to student success. Online learning tools allow students to crowdsource class notes, get on-demand help from subject matter experts, and use AI-powered class modules to support learning. The innovative platform caught the attention of Forbes which named Jack and the OneClass co-founders to the 30 Under 30 list of top young entrepreneurs.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

When I was a college student, I had a study group with a few other classmates. We found that by working together, we were all able to get better grades in our classes. We pooled our class notes and study guides to help each other learn difficult topics and better understand professor explanations. This concept prompted the business venture of an online platform where students could share learning resources with each other to improve their grades.

Our EduTech platform, OneClass, has already helped millions of college students, and more than 90 percent have improved by at least one letter grade.

Since founding the business 10 years ago, we have continued to support student success, adding more learning resources as we discover more about the challenges that students are facing in the classroom.

For example, our on-demand Homework Help app is a comprehensive collection of 3.6 million step-by-step answers that functions as a searchable FAQ for students. Information found through a Google search can be questionable, but OneClass verified answers are peer-reviewed for accuracy. If an answer isn’t available, students can submit their questions and a subject matter expert will reply within 24 hours or less.

As students face significant learning challenges during COVID-19, learning platforms like OneClass are becoming a critical resource for students who want to avoid falling behind or have their grades slip.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

The OneClass platform is providing tools that rethink the education status quo. With a digital-first approach, our tools focus on optimizing learning. The crowd-sharing platform has been called “Netflix for class notes,” and on-demand tools provide instant access, one of today’s standards for information and knowledge.

Plus, we offer ways for all types of students to participate. For example, top students in the most in-demand courses have found that OneClass can be a lucrative side gig. Rather than driving for Uber, students are paid to take class notes. One math major at the University of California-Davis told Reader’s Digest she made 1,500 dollars as an OneClass notetaker.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I don’t recall any funny mistakes that I have made, but I do recall serious mistakes that were very costly. Always do your own due diligence on investors because early on in my startup career, I get easily excited whenever an investor says they love what we are working on, and this could be a great fit for their fund. This could go down two ways, they are either looking for companies to pitch back to their limited partners to close their own fund (which means they currently don’t have the capital to invest yet) or they really like what you are working on. Therefore, it’s always good to get clarity upfront.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I have been very fortunate to have amazing mentors, which include my co-founders, employees, and early investors. Being resilient is what they all have taught me throughout my startup journey, and it’s something that I will cherish forever. Many startups take years or even decades to succeed especially in education, so you need to be ready both physically and mentally if you have decided to take on the startup journey.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Disruptions solve problems that were baked into industry standards. Disruption isn’t ‘change for the sake of change.’ Instead, it’s about pushing an industry forward with better ways to support the consumer and better value products.

In the EduTech sector, apps that help students learn are a positive disruption. At OneClass, our learning tools have the same high educational standards as an accredited college or university. This provides the value and academic rigor that can have the most impact on a student’s grades. However, a seemingly negative disruption could be something that lowers educational standards.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Alignment, consistency, and speed. These are the three key areas of focus here at OneClass as we strongly believe in order to advance, we need to work as a single unit, and that’s driven by alignment, consistency, and speed.

Alignment drives impact because everyone will be working towards the same goal. Consistency drives result because we continue to improve each and every day. Speed drives market leaders, especially in this competitive industry.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

OneClass has had some exciting new developments. We just launched an innovative new online tool that is set to become a game-changer for student success.

OneClass Booster Classes are fully contained online classes that students can use as a standalone learning tool or as a companion to a class they’re taking in school. Our initial launch is supporting STEM students in Calculus and Chemistry, two of the most difficult classes that students take.

Each module is designed to support students with different learning styles. It uses a digital-first approach to helping students learn more effectively and efficiently. For example, if a student is struggling with one topic, the app automatically encourages them to spend more time reviewing and practicing that material. Students can also get personalized support if they’re struggling or connect with a tutor for a one-on-one session.

A lot is changing in education now. Colleges and high schools are switching to remote learning and hybrid models. Students could begin falling behind because of disjointed lessons or reduced access to the professor. However, OneClass Booster Classes can help students to stay on track with their learning.

Having a high GPA is an important achievement for students. Grades can alter a student’s pathway after college, making it possible to get accepted for an internship or get hired for a job. OneClass Booster Classes are helping students achieve their goals by combining advanced learning technology with cognitive science.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

Yes! Trailblazer by Marc Benioff has been one of my top favorites. I never really understood what were the underlying principals in driving amazing company culture until I read this book. This book gave me so much insight into how company culture is created from the ground up, and how employees are motivated to share their company values with each other.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“You only live once so dream big.” This quote really resonates with me especially when running a startup because you always want to stay ahead and be innovative. Be bold and take calculated risks to advance.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Knowledge. No matter what you do or the type of person you wish to become, knowledge is the compass to make sure you stay on track.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can connect with me on Linkedin at I’m also a part of the Forbes Young Entrepreneur Council, and my Forbes articles dig into some of the big questions about the intersection of education, technology, and startups.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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