A former teacher himself, de Pape struggled to find information that was relevant to what he was teaching in the classroom. He was also finding it difficult to provide help and support to his students quickly and easily. The information was out there, he realised, but, as is so often the case with the internet, there was just too much of it and there was no way of evaluating it.
For example, a teacher searching on Google for information about Pythagoras’ theorem will find around 700,000 references. If they type in “English key stage two plan” they’ll come up with an amazing 28m. So what should they choose?
TeachPitch narrows down this search. Teachers can use it to find information about Pythagoras’ theorem, for instance, by category: training, online tutoring, lesson plans and downloads. They can also specify the information that they’re looking for by age of pupil, course length and source of information. Members of TeachPitch can share and rate the information they’ve found. They can follow colleagues who they trust and admire and can identify new experts through the site, thereby developing a network whose suggestions for content and whose links they can rely on.
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Members of the site now come from over 100 countries and TeachPitch has a geographical spread that covers developing countries, Europe and the US.
De Pape was a teacher of economics, English and Dutch in the Netherlands. “Even though I only taught for two years it did give me a sense of how difficult the job was and how many fires an educator is required to put out during the day,” he said. “There are simply not enough hours in a day and most certainly no time to search the Web for the best learning material.”
He also spent time with large publishing companies such as Springer and Macmillan. Most recently he worked for a corporate venture capital fund, which gave him an introduction to technology and how to build and grow a company. He shadowed two early stage startups as well, which, he believed, provided very useful experience.
Investment for TeachPitch has come from a small group of investors, and its received a grant from Accenture via an educational charity called As We Grow.
“We’re solving a very real and actual problem,” said de Pape. “It’s really great to see so many educators from all over the world signing up to our platform and continuously searching for great material. Another thing I’m very happy with is that we have managed to solve this problem for a group of teachers within our schools. It’s very good to see that our repository technology and online library are helping a growing number of schools on multiple levels.”
The company, which is based in south west London, currently has a team of 12 – seven of whom are women. De Pape advised other SME owners: “Your idea is only as good as its execution. Running a business is a lot about ‘doing’, so make sure you don’t stay too long in ‘theory’ and take things into practice as soon as you can. This is the only way to find out if something will actually work.”
De Pape has ambitions for his fast growing company. “We’re really eager to help as many teachers and schools as possible and I would love for TeachPitch to become a household name when it comes to the discovery and management of the best resources,” he said. “At the moment we are focusing on scaling up and working with as many headteachers and IT directors as possible to grow our product.”
As teachers look for technology to help them, TeachPitch is doing what startups do best – solving a problem and filling a gap in the market. It’s a lesson that other entrepreneurs can learn.
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