Education keeps being one of Austria’s hot topics in the media. This week I would like to introduce you to talentify.me, an online platform for tutoring that is beneficial to everyone involved.
Our February startup: talentify.me
talentify.me is a project initiated by the social startup talent 2 talent GmbH that provides an online platform where pupils can easily offer and find private tutoring lessons. The tutoring is only done by pupils for pupils and one hour costs a maximum of € 10,-. This system does not only work to the advantage of the child who is seeking help with studying. The pupils offering private lessons collect points that they can redeem for free participation in various workshops or for other rewards.
Where the idea came from
The idea of talentify.me was born during a project founder Bernhard Hofer did during his time at school. Already at this time (around 2003) one hour of private tutoring cost on average € 30,-. With his colleagues Bernhard developed a concept where older pupils became social buddies of younger ones and offered them tutoring sessions. Those who could not afford to pay for these lessons got them for free. Now, 10+ years later Bernhard made this idea into a social business.
Peer-to-peer-learning with benefits for both sides
Pupils learn best from other pupils. Studies show that children produce 50% less stress hormones when learning with peers. The lower level of stress leads to better results and ultimately to successful learning outcomes. “We are convinced of the high potential of peer-to-peer learning.”, says Bernhard. The platform also connects young people that would otherwise not necessarily meet. New friendships and role models are not rare.
Those who offer their help to the younger ones benefit as well. In focus groups and personal interviews pupils expressed the feeling that they are not educated enough at school when it comes to key competencies for their future lives such as communication and social skills, creativity or legal matters. Tutoring younger kids requires a different way of communicating and the tutors need the social skills to deal with the situation. With each session the tutors earn points that can be redeemed for workshops on various topics (e.g. job application training, design thinking workshop etc) offered by talentify.me and their partners.
The circle is complete when children who seek help with studying offer tutoring sessions themselves in areas where they are talented in. The students agree on the price of the tutoring session themselves. talentify.me only interferes by setting the maximum amount to € 10,- per hour. Bernhard: “On average the students charge € 5,- per hour. If they charge € 5,- or less they earn double the amount of bonus points. The market is regulating itself. For the students it’s a way to increase their pocket money.”
We all know the statistics related to education in Austria from the media: There is a big difference between the different school types (for secondary schools there are “Neue Mittelschulen”, “Gymnasien” and private schools) and also between schools in the major cities and the countryside. 26% of Austria’s 15-year-olds don’t understand what they are reading and have troubles making sense of it (i.e. the rate of alphabetization is now lower than 100 years ago). Nearly 80% of the children attending a “Gymnasium” have parents with an academic background. At “Neue Mittelschule” in Vienna on the other hand you will find more than 80% children from poorly educated or educationally disadvantaged families. All these numbers encourage Bernhard and his team in doing what they do. “Education is the key to everything. This is why every child should have the same opportunities.” Many families can’t afford to pay for private tutoring outside school, especially when one hour costs € 30,- on average. talentify.me aims at providing every child with the possibility to receive help with studying.
The people behind talentify.me
Founder Bernhard Hofer studied Business Informatics, worked in online marketing and managed a software company. After having received a lot of positive feedback about his ideas in focus groups and interviews he quit his job and concentrated fully on his project. Bernhard: “I really liked my job but this venture is something totally different. It is a lot of fun, I am 200% committed and I have the feeling that I can really contribute positively to society!” Bernhard’s wife Doris Hofer came on board early on. She is focused on organizing interesting workshops for the participating students.
Since August 2014 former teach for austria fellow Clarissa Böck is part of the talentify.me team. A master student is supporting the team voluntarily once or twice per week while also researching for her thesis about educational policies. Further support is coming from a finance specialist, a graphic designer, a marketing specialist and a developer. The startup’s advisory board includes the CEO of WIFI Tirol, a strategy consultant from BCG, a mentor from SAP, a headmaster and teachers. In total 15 people contribute to talentify.me.
Where does the money come from?
In the beginning Bernhard Hofer used his savings to start his project. After establishing the limited liability company the startup received funding and was selected for the technology incubator of accent in Lower Austria. A social business aims at maintaining itself, which is why the startup is establishing partnerships and cooperations with various companies.
Today’s students are tomorrow’s workforces. For companies it is hard to target the right young people when it comes to recruitment and subsequently to get them enthusiastic about certain jobs or apprenticeships. talentify. me works with these companies in different areas:
- Partner companies offer workshops to the students who collect and redeem their bonus points. Experts in HR coach the young people on how to apply for a job, SAP introduces them to the concept of Design Thinking etc. This way the students get to know the company from a different perspective.
- Once a student has collected a certain amount of bonus points, he/she can redeem them for an internship at one of the partner companies.
- Other enterprises reward the tutoring students by offering tickets to concerts, their own products or vouchers in exchange for the collected points.
Besides these cooperations the team offers business consulting to help companies get ready for a younger workforce and rethink their company culture.
And what about the future?
The online platform is continuously developed further by including the feedback and suggestions coming from the students directly. The team is constantly testing new functions with its users. The private beta version of talentify.me is available online since October 2014 and was offered to 16 schools from which around 200 kids are actively using the platform. This March the startup will launch a public beta version for all schools in Vienna, Lower Austria, Burgenland and Tyrol. The variety of workshops offered is increased the support of managers, private persons, companies and coaches who focus on adult education.