Bitpaper Offers Secure, Reliable Online Collaborative Education with Help from Vonage

A collaborative online whiteboard used by teachers and tutors worldwide. Unlimited whiteboard, audio, video, chat, screen share, document imports and exports, supported by Vonage Video API.

Bitpaper video education

Vonage Solutions and Features

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Challenge

Bitpaper’s whiteboard tool used an unreliable and unstable video solution that was harming the company’s reputation. They needed a much better provider for their video component
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Solution

Vonage Video API
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Results

A much more reliable video solution; more effective communications between Bitpaper and Vonage (vs. former vendor); valuable guidance and support from Vonage regarding how Bitpaper could commercialize and monetize their product

Not too long ago, Dr. Leo Evans, co-founder of Bitpaper,  was a financial engineer with a Ph.D. in Finance, working at JP Morgan in London. Despite spending many years to achieve those goals, in 2013, he left it all behind.  “I was out of a job, living on a beach and trying to work out what to do with the rest of my life; a bit of an existential crisis,” said Evans.  

Out of the ashes of that existential crisis, rose several entrepreneurial ventures in education and online tutoring, most notably Bitpaper. Leo’s journey began through the creation of a tutoring “agency” called The Profs that matched students with teachers in-person in the London area. Nowadays it has a more global focus. Bitpaper was created originally as a tool for his tutors to move to an online model that allowed them to tutor from anywhere and virtually share their academic expertise with students anywhere in the world via the internet. Having grown beyond their 1000 tutors, Bitpaper currently has 100,000 active users predominantly from the U.S. (~40%), the U.K. ( ~40%), and Canada ( ~15%).

The Benefits of Online Learning and Tutoring

Although Evans, himself, initially questioned the efficacy of online teaching and learning, after years spent honing the Bitpaper model, his team has determined multiple benefits of the online learning paradigm for both teachers and students.  For instance, students have access to much more specialized learning content and many more tutors and enjoy the interactivity of classes more.

Bitpaper allows students to save class content such as PDFs and to record videos of classes. They are also able to easily reschedule and participate in classes outside of traditional “school” hours.

For tutors, Bitpaper allows them to teach from the comfort of their homes and work during the hours most convenient to them.  In addition, Bitpaper provides teachers with cutting-edge technology to offer high-quality, reusable teaching materials.  That’s where the Vonage Video API comes in.

Communication Between Students and Teachers via Vonage Video API

As Leo’s tutoring companies grew, they realized that they needed technology that allowed tutors and students to write and draw collaboratively in a shared application.  After testing out various whiteboard technologies, Bitpaper ended up being their own “whiteboard in a browser." It allows teachers and students to share a URL, use digital pens, write together, drag and drop content, create PDFs, and more. What was needed to complete the whiteboard collaboration was a reliable, scalable way for participants to see and speak with each other.  Said Evans, “It's a content creation tool with the audio-video built-in and Vonage Video API provides that perfect complement to the whiteboard.” Now Bitpaper has Audio, Video, Screensharing and chat built-into it.

“At first we used a competitor,” said Evans. “They shall remain nameless, but they were rubbish compared to Vonage. We worked with that company for about a year and a half and it was an unmitigated disaster. We were starting to get a reputation for having horrible audio-video because of it.  We needed to do something to fix the situation.”  

After some research, Bitpaper decided to upgrade to what was considered the market leader for video at the time. That was TokBox and soon after, TokBox became the Vonage Video API. Fast forward three years;  Bitpaper is now a commercially viable venture and Evans is very confident in their application’s video component. 

“We chose Vonage because we needed that stability and reliability; it was an absolute requirement for us to be able to offer a premium product.”
Dr. Leo Evans, co-founder, Bitpaper

The Impact of COVID-19 on Bitpaper Usage

Evans explained that originally they built the tool for his tutor’s to easily communicate and collaborate at no extra charge.  “We considered it a worthwhile business expense in the grand scheme of things,” said Evans.  Then COVID-19 hit. The need for online tutoring exploded and Evans and his team began to question the sustainability of their “free” offering. 

“Usage rose by 20-30 times what we had experienced before, in a matter of weeks. Our free app suddenly was no longer being used by 10,000;  it was being used by a quarter of a million people and we were footing a much larger bill.”

Understandably, Bitpaper needed to figure out a more financially viable way of offering the product.  Evans and team began conversations with Vonage regarding how they could commercialize and monetize the product. “The support we got from Vonage was extremely valuable. We worked long and hard with our rep from Vonage to negotiate a deal between our companies that allowed us to keep the lights on but at the same time, effectively scale to our rapidly increased demand.”  

Ultimately, after changing their model to a more commercially viable offering, Bitpaper was able to retain most of its users. “Today, we have thousands of paying users. There are still lots of people willing to pay a bit more to offer high quality online tutoring,”  said Evans.

Putting Vonage to the Test

What does Evans look for in a video solution?  “Stability is everything. Real-time communication technology needs to really work in real time. It's that simple. If it doesn't work in real time you're really screwed from a commercial point of view.” Evans emphasized that the main reason Bitpaper switched over to Vonage was that their former video solution was not stable and reliable. 

Their previous vendor also didn’t offer the level of responsiveness needed in terms of support. “We chose Vonage because we needed that stability and reliability; it was an absolute requirement for us to be able to offer a premium product.  We also became a Vonage Enterprise customer and that was a very positive step toward getting to be where we needed to be. When we raise an issue, Vonage support is on it straight away. They find a solution, they communicate very well, very effectively, and that has been great.”

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