Where Penji Began


Way back in early 2015, Penji cofounders Ben Holmquist (me) and Ben Morrison had a fateful coffee shop meeting, full of countless terrible ideas and one good one. I was completing my engineering degree and had noticed something interesting: I learned the hardest material from my peers, in nearly every class. It turns out this is true for many - if you have a friend who's taken the class, they make an extremely effective teacher. The mission of Penji has remained simple to this day: give every student access to the talented peers around them. To do this, we'd need an app!

But we couldn't code, a classic entrepreneurial dilemma (PS, if you have an idea you're passionate about, that is a fantastic opportunity to learn coding). We didn't have time to code it ourselves - but that's when we met Penji's third co-founder, the legendary Ricardo Matsui, full-stack extraordinaire, another UC Davis student in the class of '15.

Long story short, Penji released it's first product at UC Davis in 2016... and the peer tutors were killing it. They taught from the student perspective, providing emotional support as well as academic help. 

It was great to see this success, but a big issue is that not everyone can afford a 1-on-1 tutor. We want Penji to be available for every student, and at $20/hr it wasn't. Through the last year, we've been working on a big step in our service, the addition of groups. At $7/hr, groups will be affordable to a whole new crop of students while also helping students build relationships. One day, we hope to integrate a free option

Today, we're close to releasing Penji groups and are growing at CU Boulder and Ohio State. Penji promises a big step for higher education, adding a system for peer support that simply doesn't exist. From the start, Penji has been fueled by people - the students, tutors, mentors, and team members that make up the Penji community. We'd love to welcome you to that community. Reach out any time to ben.h@penjiapp.com, and thanks for reading.