App for Students – A Youthful Insight

Who Better to Design an App for Students Than Another Student? 

Matias Aviñó was only in fifth grade when he came up with a helpful idea: Create an app for students to schedule tutoring sessions with their peers. The then 11-year-old Gables resident figured an app would benefit everyone. Students wouldn’t have to be embarrassed to ask teachers to arrange the sessions, and teachers wouldn’t have to devote so much time to work out the schedules manually. 

Matias Aviñó - YTeach
Matias Aviñó was an 11-year-old Coral Gables student when he had the idea for the YTeach app.

YTeach, named for Young Teachers, was born. Nearly four years later, the app is being used in some 35 schools in Florida, Kentucky and other states, and with more signing on. Schools typically pay a set-up fee of $1,500 and then a subscription fee of $2-$4 per student per academic year. Revenue is being reinvested to expand the venture, says Matias and his co-founder mom Lourdes Aviñó. 

“My goal for next school year is 60 schools. That would be amazing,” says Matias, now 14 years old and in 9th grade. Spurring growth is support from Gear Up, a federal grant program for schools in high-poverty areas. Credit mom and lawyer Lourdes for planting the seed for Matias’ entrepreneurship. She routinely asks her children after school, “What did you do today to help someone?” Matias made his app proposal to answer her question one afternoon in 2018. Soon, he was working on a business plan. Then, mom and son sought help on software from a fellow parent at his school, Ramon Branger of digital agency Branger Briz. 

YTeach launched in the AppStore in spring 2019 right before Matias pitched his venture at the eMerge Americas Startup Showcase, finishing among the top 10 early-stage companies out of more than 100 entrants. Not yet 12, the 6th grader stood out as the youngest founder at the event. eMerge chief Melissa Medina, a mother of five children, was so impressed that she’s been mentoring Matias since. To roll out YTeach, Matias piloted the app in his own Belen Jesuit Preparatory School, where students earn community service hours for tutoring peers. At least 25 percent of Belen’s 1,400 students now use it, he says. Another big user today: private Catholic school Cardinal Gibbons in Fort Lauderdale, which tested YTeach in early 2021 and subscribed this school year. 

App for Students
Screenshots taken from the YTeach app in the apple App Store.
App for Students Teach

Stephen Louy, who leads Gibbons’ theology department and its peer-tutoring program, says the software platform is “like Uber for tutors,” simplifying interactions for everyone involved. Gibbons requires students in the National Honor Society (and others) to provide at least 10 hours of peer tutoring each semester. Louy used to handle that scheduling solo, matching hundreds of honor students with peers seeking help. “When this came along, it was a dream,” says Louy. 

Still, Matias faces a challenge that many founders don’t: his youth. “I feel like a lot of people undervalue what I’m offering because of my age, and they have a bias,” says Matias. “At eMerge, I was stopped by security from entering the Convention Center, because they had a rule no child was allowed… We had to call Melissa [Medina], and she had to explain that I was participating.” 

Youth was a definite advantage in crafting YTeach, says mom Lourdes. After all, who knows better than students what they need to tutor one another? Adds Matias, “Young people have new and exciting ways to solve problems. And that can really add a lot of value, not just to education but to everything.”