We are running a number of events in Greece this week, so it’s an appropriate time to connect with young Founders from the Greek startup scene. This week I spoke to Dimitris Mantoulidis, Founder of EduTailors, an e-learning platform for students to connect with top, publicly rated, tutors and receive personalised test preparation courses, to hear his interesting startup story.
The inspiration behind the idea
Dimitris comes from a family of 5 who own a private school in Greece and he was the only one in the family who has not become an educator. Whilst studying in the US, Dimitris met many talented Greeks and was reflecting on how so many others that were equally qualified, would have been there too if they had had the right education and guidance.
His family background gave Dimitris a good understanding of the issues of the Greek education system. Greece is a very centralised country with 40% of its citizens living in 1 city (a world record) and 25% of its GDP is produced in Athens. This poses territorial issues and a challenging demographic problem – Greek students living in the islands and in rural areas do not have the same options as students in Athens. Greeks living in the diaspora do not have access to native Greek teachers who can teach them proper Greek. Dimitris was inspired to start a venture to address all of these issues and to help Greeks both throughout Greece and in the Diaspora to develop critical thinking and improve their education.
As Dimitris states “Most Greeks abroad come from the upper middle class. The same problem exists in elite colleges so education ends up increasing the gap and inequality, instead of narrowing it. Talent is universal while opportunity is not. The growth of China and India makes it super competitive to be admitted in a top school. So, while guidance is necessary, students need to get top education too. These are 2 supplementary must haves in this journey.”
According to the OECD, only 45% of Greeks are happy with the education system, this is the lowest among OECD member states. The education system is struggling because the resources are not properly allocated. The low performance is not linked to the economic crisis, it has been evident for almost 30 years. Since 2000, the OECD PISA assessments prove this point. Critical thinking is completely absent while rote memorisation is the norm. 77% of high school students and 99% of 12th graders seek outside help. As a result, Greece spends about $4.4B / 2% of its GDP on supplementary education. The US is spending only $15B which shows that education in Greece is very expensive. Only 6% of Greek students attend Private schools, a number that is about 20% in the EU and the OECD and private schools, by law, have to follow the spendthrift Public-school system. As Dimitris states, “the need for change is imminent.”
The EduTailors solution
Dimitris saw that the Internet addresses Greece’s geographical barriers. He states “Online distribution of star teachers will expand education access. Increased transparency will improve learning materials. Furthermore, teachers’ average salaries will go up. There will be an increased focus on the talent in education: teachers. Online education will inevitably increase the average salary of teachers and respect for the profession and teachers can live locally and work globally.”
In terms of the benefits for students of hiring a tutor through their platform, Dimitris believes that, as has happened in other countries already, virtual learning will evolve and become more popular in Greece, as online learning platforms offer more choice, more savings for the students, more flexibility as students can choose a tutor on demand, 24/7, better understanding as students can see the content and the session again and again and more free time as students and parents save time from travelling to tutors.
Opportunities for Greek startups
I asked Dimitris whether he had found the people and the finance readily available to get the operation up and running in Greece and what his thoughts were on the opportunities available to startups in Greece now, he said:
“Angel and VCs fill in the financing gap. VCs received ample funding from the EIF so funding is no longer an issue. The Angel culture is slowly improving too. The key problem in Greece is lack of talent. Most driven Greeks live abroad. Finding hard working and ambitious people is a big challenge. A start-up is not a lifestyle company. It requires tons of sacrifice. Weekends do not exist. You are on call 24/7. This is something that most Greeks living in Greece fail to understand even if they are given stock options etc. and they are often lacking in international experience.”
Expanding to the UK
Edutailors have plans to expand to the UK and initially they plan to offer their service to the Greeks of London. They are also thinking of moving their offices to the UK to gain access to driven talent but as Dimitris points out, there are challenges facing a Greek company expanding to the UK such as “higher corporate expenses and no one can predict how the UK will handle the Brexit process.”
When asked about their plans for the future Dimitris said that the team needs to hire good talent in 2 key functions, software development and marketing, saying “we definitely need to hire Greeks for marketing” so if you’re interested in joining the team, do contact them to find out more.
Here at Reload Greece we have been supporting startups through our accelerator programmes and events but we are always keen to know how we and our community can best support the plans of young startups. When I asked Dimitris what support the Edutailors team needed, he highlighted the need for support in:
- identifying talent that has experience abroad while also understanding the Greek mentality
- better understanding of the pros of moving to London vs. the US or Berlin
- help to promote their offering and the Edutailors corporate program, which grants a discount to corporate employees who wish to enrol their children in the platform, to the Greek diaspora
- connecting to investors
If you’re interested in hearing more about the Edutailors Platform, see their recently launched website here and if you have founded a startup and you would like to share your entrepreneurial story, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.