Education marketplace startup WeTeachMe had a secret weapon when it came to building trust and a sense of ownership with its virtual team – T-shirts. The startup, which earlier this year was a joint winner of Oxygen Ventures’ The Big Pitch event, is a marketplace for education classes. It allows users to find local cooking classes, painting classes, dancing courses and just about any other informal education course you can think of. Co-founder Demi Markogiannaki says once WeTeachMe reached a point where the team felt they could justify hiring people, they couldn’t afford to hire a team locally. So they looked to the Philippines and built a virtual team, which came with its own challenges. “I’ve never done anything about building teams or anything like that, so that was another learning process,” Markogiannaki told a Pulse Melbourne event last week. “When you’re not talking to someone in person, but you’re seeing them once or twice a day – like through Skype – you need to establish a close relationships, you need to make them part of your team. “You need to make them follow you and believe in your vision. And part of that was really hard.” So the WeTeachMe team purchased its entire staff branded T-shirts, and while Markogiannaki says it’s not the be-all and end-all of team building, it made a difference. “They would wear it of a morning and say, at least I know which company I am working for,” she says with a laugh. “We made sure they had everything they needed, all the resources required, and slowly we scaled the team up.” WeTeachMe was founded following a Launch48 startup event in Melbourne. Markogiannaki says she was involved for no more than a bit of fun. “We started with no funding at all, we didn’t even fund it (ourselves), we all had different skills that allowed us to pretty much bring this product to market,” she says. “We worked from cafés, city libraries, anywhere there was a space to get it up and running. We’d take turns going to each other’s house. “I’m really proud of how far we’ve come so far.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Since launching just over a year ago, learning courses marketplace start-up WeTeachMe has already attracted over 10,000 courses to list on its platform. And co-founder Kym Huynh says the business is on track to list 50,000 by the end of this year with plans to also launch a mobile app around July or August. WeTeachMe came second in StartupSmart’s recent So You Think You Can Start-up pitching competition and we’ll be following its progress for the rest of the year as part of our Follow the Founders series. WeTeachMe helps course providers to grow revenue, save time and reduce costs by automating administration and booking processes. Huynh told StartupSmart one particular course provider, one that teaches cupcake making, has brought down the time it takes to do administration from 14 hours a week to 15 minutes a week since using the platform. Another, a pottery school, had been losing money and was about to close but is now one of the biggest earners on the platform. “We’ve had companies break through the $100,000 barrier through their courses already,” Huynh says. WeTeachMe earns revenue by charging course providers monthly subscription fees and charges a booking fee for tickets bought through the platform. Huynh says the team behind WeTeachMe, Cheng Zhu, Demi Markogiannaki, Martin Kemka and himself, came together through a Launch 48 start-up event. He says he and best friend Markogiannaki had been trying to work out how they could spend time together after finishing university instead of moving into the corporate world and thought of starting a business. They took part in Launch 48 and formed a team with Kemka and Zhu. A team of four is unusual for a start-up, with Huynh saying the typical number of founders was two or three. “The more people you involve in decision-making, the more complexity,” he says. Huynh says they combated that by “really getting to know each other”, comparing it to dating. But it’s worked out and he says people comment on how well they work together and are able to quickly execute on their plans. He adds that if there is any conflict they deal with it by being very direct with each other. “We think if there’s something someone is upset about, communicate it straight away and resolve it straight away. “We think communication is the cornerstone of every team. Everything we do is focused around communication.”
Earlier this year StartupSmart profiled WeTeachMe, an online resource that links people who want to learn a skill with someone who can teach them.