I interviewed the founder of TeachPitch, Aldo de Pape, to kick off our mini interview series with the founders of Edspace’s startups. Aldo told us about his company and why he chose to be based at Edspace.
Megan: Hi Aldo, can you tell me what exactly TeachPitch is about?
Aldo: Teachpitch is a web based learning platform that helps teachers and schools identify the best online resources available. There’s an abundance of learning resources due to the rapid growth of the internet and technology. So it’s no longer about access to resources, but finding the most relevant ones, at the right moment in time. That’s what TeachPitch tries to help teachers and schools with.
Megan: And what is the focus for TeachPitch at the moment?
Aldo: TeachPitch has been making a lot of progress with helping individual teachers with their issues - which is helping them find the right resources through our platforms. In the tens of thousands of teachers have already joined TeachPitch from over 100 countries and we’re growing rapidly on a daily basis.
Now the focus is on helping schools. TeachPitch’s repository technology helps schools not only to discover, but also to manage, these resources internally. By manage I mean that you can use resources once but then reusing it, revising it, redistributing it so that it really becomes something useful for all teachers in the school, not only the teachers today, but the teachers tomorrow.
Megan: So have you been forming partnerships with schools?
Aldo: Yes, we’re working with a growing number of schools in a development partnership and as we go further down the line it will be a client-vendor relationship and it’s a very exciting process to be a part of.
Megan: What exactly inspired you to start TeachPitch?
Aldo: It was two fold. I used to be a teacher myself - I taught for two years so I do know about all the little fires that a teacher is required to put out while doing his or her job. And that putting out those little fires takes a lot of energy, takes a lot of focus from the teacher.
Working with students and then dealing with a problem like finding the right resources is not something that is very obvious, even though from the outside world it might look like a giveaway, I don’t think it is for many teachers. When I was a teacher, I was an economics teacher at a high school for special needs kids in the Netherlands, I had struggled with finding the right resources - I needed lots of help - I was very inexperienced and it was on three levels.
So for instance - grading tests for the students, I recall that that was a very difficult thing so I felt that to be a major responsibility and I wanted to know more about how exactly do I do this. Then I was dealing with special needs students - from mild depression up to dyslexia and aspergers - so I wanted to really catch up on my reading on what the condition actually was that they were dealing with. Thirdly, was the fact that they were adolescents so they weren’t the most motivated bunch. So I remember that the stress of putting out these little fires and wanting the pupils to do well - that combined and the fact that I was looking for resources - that’s what got me to start TeachPitch from a practical angle.
The second aspect is the fact I used to work in technology as well. Until very recently I worked for a venture capital fund here in the UK that invested in tech solutions and that’s what got me hooked on working in technology - but for my own enterprise not necessarily being part of a bigger chain. That’s what drove me to start TeachPitch.
Megan: So is the focus on new teachers or across the whole scale?
Aldo: It goes across the whole scale - we have teachers that are starting but we also have very senior teachers who are curious to find out about it. So there’s no real focus on one kind of teacher - secondary schools mainly but then again, it’s anyone that has an interest in finding the right learning resources.
Megan: What would you say has been your biggest challenge so far?
Aldo: Starting up is an interesting process, it’s a challenge. I like to look at it as an adventure, something from zero to one and when there is zero, there is really zero, so I think that’s something that requires lots of thinking, lots of energy, lots of talks. It’s talking to investors, as it is to people in the team, as it is finding the team, as it is defining the product, and getting people to get hooked on the product so I would say that has been the biggest challenge.
I now like to think that we are at the next level with teachpitch because we have some validation, we are growing but I recall - I started in July 2014 - I recall that being a bit of a hassle. It’s a greenfield coming from a job, a 9-5 job, you are very used to getting emails, people asking you questions and all those things because you’re in something that is on a path that’s already there - when you start out there are just no emails - so you should imagine that you sit behind your computer and there’s just nothing and I think that’s starting up and that’s the biggest challenge.
Megan: When you started out was it very much you working by yourself, doing everything?
Aldo: Very much. You start with something - of course I was working with some developers that I had asked to be involved - but it was my idea and you take it to the next one and the next one.
Megan: Why did you choose to be based at Edspace and how has it been beneficial being based here?
Aldo: I was introduced to Edspace fairly early on when I started TeachPitch, I think you guys also started out in July 2014. I took a look but there was nothing in Camden yet, just space, and I liked very much what I saw but I thought it was a bit too early for me to commit to renting a desk as there were too many things going on in my head and I didn’t know if I wanted to spend money on a desk, I didn’t really know what was going to happen and so forth. But I did keep it in mind and I like the idea of having all educational start ups together so I kept that in mind and then fast forward to May this year when we got investment, March maybe, our team was in gear and we knew what we were doing, I thought it’s time for me not to spend any more time at home or in coffee shops or wherever I was working and take it to the next level. And also to attract people here in London and then I got in contact with Jan Matern first, of Emerge, who I had met at a conference previously to meet up and talk to him about his experiences and then Brendan.
So why Edspace? I really like the idea of being among other educational startups, I think that’s a big plus that you can exchange ideas and do things in the market - there are plenty of ideas and experience already that grew from this. For example, the introduction to the Somaliland people, to the ladies of Yes Futures looking at our new video and saying whether they like it, whether we should change anything, like that. So from small to big things. And secondly it just professionalises yourself a bit more. You have a 9-5, you have your coffee, you have your desk, everyone is disciplined working and you have a bit more structure. And the fact that it is in a school I think also adds to our proposition, the fact that you can talk to the teachers, the students, a lot more in education.
Megan: Thanks very much Aldo, it’s been really interesting to hear about TeachPitch.
If you want to find out more, visit their website at teachpitch.com