Be open to pivoting when you need to

Talaera: Personalized Business English Coaching on Demand

Please introduce yourself and your startup Talaera to our readers!
I am the CEO and co-founder of Talaera, an online platform that offers personalized and flexible Business English coaching one-on-one to non-native English-speaking professionals in the international workforce. I am originally from Germany and have been working in New York for going on 13 years. The rest of our team is very international as well. They all live in the US but hail originally from Germany, Ireland, Israel and Serbia. Most of us have encountered the problems we are working to solve.

How did you get the idea for Talaera?
When I first got to the US I found that there was quite a mismatch between the English I had learned in school and the English that was required in the professional workplace. My professional English level wasn’t enough but I also didn’t really feel that I needed to take English classes. I had to get a better understanding of the language intricacies and the cultural differences in professional settings. I sought help at the time but it was hard to find what I wanted.

Throughout my professional career, I kept seeing that language gap with many other talented international professionals. They were very skilled at their jobs but had trouble expressing themselves in English clearly or fast enough, thus sometimes losing out on professional opportunities for themselves and their company.

I couldn’t let go of the issue. So, my co-founder Mel and I started doing research and we realized that so many people in the workforce, even in places outside of English-speaking countries, in Germany, for example, have the same problems. Employees everywhere are increasingly asked to communicate in English in real time as teams have become very international. Increasing cross-border collaboration is happening all around us and the ones that understand the ins-and-outs of the language, especially in business settings, have a competitive edge.

We decided to build something that reaches professionals directly where they need English, on the job. English is key to excelling in the global business world and it’s in every company’s best social and economic interest to invest in advanced English education for those employees that didn’t grow up speaking it. Employers should be able to hire who is best for the job and not who comes in with the best English. There is surprisingly little conversation taking place around these issues. We want employees to truly shine in their job.

How difficult was it to start and what challenges did you have to overcome?
Starting up initially wasn’t too difficult because everyone who ended up joining the team was very passionate about the need for our product. We stayed focused on hiring great teachers and building out our software platform- still young, so in many ways we are still at the start. We are currently conducting all sessions with our customers on Skype and will launch our own platform for web and mobile in late September, which we are quite excited about.

What was hard was getting our first customer pre-launch and getting our first investment but we managed to accomplish both earlier than we expected. It was fortunate but I don’t anticipate either of those two getting any easier any time soon. So, I choose to focus on how to solve the challenges rather than on the challenges themselves.

Who is your target audience?
We target professionals that need to communicate in English on the job. Most of our current customers work in tech, sales, HR and marketing for midsize companies that operate internationally. We target HR and Learning & Development decision makers and team leaders at companies that believe that their company will have better output if their employees’ communication skills are up to par.

What is the USP of your startup?
Where we see our USP is that our professional English coaching is aligned with the employee’s daily workflow. With each student, we aim to create a very customized experience that ties directly into their day-to-day work life. We are not interested in providing them with a one-size-fits-all Business English solution.

Instead, when they start with us, we want to know what their day-to-day on the job looks like, when it is that they use English the most and where they feel they struggle the most. We then make sure to match them with a teacher that caters to that. We encourage students to apply everything they learn the very next day, in the next negotiation or in the next email to their manager. As a result, our students are very engaged. Secondly, the flexibility we offer allows the employee to learn whenever and wherever they want, even when they are on business trips.

Can you describe a typical workday of you?
Currently it feels like 24 hours are never enough. I usually get up around 6:15am, check my emails right away as we have teachers, students and team members in a bunch of different time zones. Doing that first thing in them am is bad, I know, but I am not at a point, yet, where I can help it. I usually work from home for about an hour in the morning and then get to our office in Soho around 8:45am. Just enough time to grab a coffee before the first meeting of the day.

Every day is very different, depending on what’s most important, but as we are so small still I deal with all parts of the company, product, marketing, sales, fundraising, customer relations, bringing on new teachers and anything else that comes up. Our team is split between New York, Seattle and Brisbane so we check in frequently. I usually leave the office between 6-7pm and then usually work another hour or so from home.

Where do you see yourself and your startup Talaera in five years?
We have many ideas for Talaera for the future as far as the platform and the technology go that I am super excited about. On a grander level, what I hope we will have accomplished in five years is that we will have changed the conversation around the needs of non-native English speakers in the workforce and have given them a true seat at the table. Right now, a lot of amazing potential goes untapped or unnoticed in companies because of language barriers and we hope we can change that.

What 3 tips would you give other Start-up founders on the way?
1.) If you have a great idea, really understand the market in-and-out and spend proper time researching to make sure there is a real need for your product. Be open to pivoting when you need to. We pivoted slightly early on and I am very glad we did.
2.) Understand what you don’t know. Ask for help. Lots of help. Find other founders who have done it, advisers and mentors whom you trust, then listen to them, really listen. There is so much happening that you don’t know how to do and you can’t possibly do it alone.
3.) Stick with your vision. A lot of people will tell you many different things about what your business should or shouldn’t be. Listen and learn, keep an open mind but stay true to your vision.

More information you will find here

Thank you Anita Anthonj for the Interview

Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.

Sabine Elsässer

Sabine Elsässer is founder and chief editor of the StartupValleyNews Magazine. She started her career at several international direct sale companys. Since 2007 she works main time as a journalist. While that time she learned more about the Startup Scene, what made her start her own Startup Magazine the StartupValleyNews.

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