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MIT Sloan alumnus launches online marketplace for teachers

Startup will provide work opportunities in Europe, founder says

By Kathryn M. O'Neill  |  April 28, 2016

2016-TeachTalent

Carlo Battistelli (left) and Alessandro Piccioni, MBA ’15

Alessandro Piccioni, MBA ’15, wants to tackle high levels of youth unemployment in Europe by providing a new way for people to make money teaching subjects ranging from physics to football and from philosophy to French.

His startup, TeachTalents, which launched in Italy in April, is an online marketplace that enables teachers to reach a wide audience of students while setting their own hours and prices. Within 10 days of the launch, 2,500 people had signed up for the site, which is free for students but will eventually charge a subscription fee ranging from $19.99 to $49.90 per year for teachers.

“I am doing this for unemployed and underemployed people, to put their talents to work,” Piccioni said. He added that Europe does not yet have many online services like TeachTalents, even though high school tutoring in Italy is estimated to be a 1 billion euro market.

Five things to know about TeachTalents:

Piccioni began working on the company while at MIT Sloan.

Piccioni came to MIT Sloan planning to leave his job in the financial services industry, but he did not plan to found an education startup.

“I was attending classes on entrepreneurship and studying at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship and got acquainted with the entrepreneurial ecosystem at MIT,” Piccioni said. He said there was already a rich market for tutors in Europe.

Startup capital came from a business competition.

After graduating from MIT, Piccioni entered BrainBack, a startup competition sponsored by the Italian government and the European Union. He won 20,000 euros for TeachTalents. This success spurred Piccioni to team up with Carlo Battistelli, a friend from the London School of Economics and Political Science, to officially launch the company. Battistelli is now CEO.

Piccioni is bootstrapping the business.

Piccioni and Battistelli both have other full-time jobs, and both have invested their own money in TeachTalents, which has 12 employees.

The company is now contacting investors in an effort to raise between $1 million and $1.5 million to expand to the rest of continental Europe and the United Kingdom. They plan to eventually reach the U.S. market.

Teachers are top priority.

Piccioni recognized that TeachTalents had to quickly market its services to a wide range of potential instructors. The company has been working with the Italian education department, private universities, and organizations that represent people with other skills—such as an association of sommeliers—to reach a wide variety of instructors.

The company’s goal is to develop a base of 20,000 to 25,000 teachers and expand further from there by word-of-mouth and further marketing investments.

TeachTalents certifies the identities of all its teachers and utilizes an advanced search platform to help students find good matches. Criteria include location, subject, and teaching style. Teachers and students all create detailed profiles of themselves and the site allows each to rate the other.

Talents can be a currency.

Piccioni hopes teachers on the site also become students, and vice versa. To encourage this behavior, the site employs a virtual currency called “talents.” Talents can be purchased by new users, but they can also be earned by teaching a class. “Teach your talent and learn a new one from someone else.”