Alumnus launches online tutoring platform for academic student mentorship

January 14, 2019
John Failla, '15, has always had an entrepreneurial spirit

From a car washer in third grade and homemade wallet salesman in middle school to social media consultant in college, John Failla has always been an entrepreneur.

“I always had a new venture in mind,” John said. So, when he found he had some time during his senior year at University of Richmond, John was onto his next idea. Through an entrepreneurship course, John reflected on his experiences with tutors throughout the years.

As a middle and high school student athlete, academics had not been his priority. “Traditional tutors my mom arranged for me never worked out,” he shared. But, when he was paired with a fellow student who excelled in subjects in which John struggled, he saw him more as a mentor than a tutor.

“My motivation to succeed became intrinsic, because I didn’t want to let him down,” he said.

Using his history with mentors as a guide, conversations with a faculty member during an entrepreneurship course turned into inspiration for Trilogy Mentors, an online academic mentorship that focused on a relationship-based holistic approach to tutoring.

John didn’t plan on pursuing Trilogy Mentors fulltime after his 2015 graduation; he had career opportunities with financial firms back in his home state of New York. However, he was facing an internal struggle of deciding between the startup venture or the banking job.

During a flight delay while returning from an interview in N.Y., John had a chance encounter that changed the trajectory of his future. “There were only three of us at the gate, so I asked if they wanted to grab a drink. After a bit of talking, I shared my dilemma, and found out one of the individuals was a venture capitalist. He told me that if I followed my startup dream, I wouldn’t be wishing I had been a banker. But if I didn’t, there would always be that unknown path,” John said. “This conversation encouraged me to pursue Trilogy Mentors.”

John’s parents were supportive, but realistic. Together they defined a three-month timeline of goals that would determine if the venture was worthwhile. In the first month, John achieved all of them. “That’s when I clarity that I was actually going to make this happen.”

Throughout the first two years, Trilogy Mentors went from 200 hours of service to over 1,000, and last year logged 2,500 hours. Along the way, they have received feedback from students and parents, and adjusted their model accordingly. In 2016, they implemented an online mentor service, which now constitutes their whole business.

“It feels good to find success,” John said. “But there’s always another growth hurdle. You always need to be hungry. Our product is adapting to the market and looking for larger opportunities.”

One of those opportunities has been collaborating with schools to sponsor tutoring programs for students. To make this a reality, Trilogy Mentors brought in new talent, upgraded their platform, and made personal employee investments in the company. To date, the organization supports students from 15 different schools across the country.

John hopes to help further support educational organizations to launch and scale personal online tutoring programs. “Forty percent of students in the U.S. receive tutoring, but a large group out there still needs that service. We hope to pair those students with an academic mentor so everyone can reach their full potential,” he said.

“If you can get people to invest in who you are and your mission, people are willing to move mountains for you.”

Trilogy Mentors already has 7,000 hours of contracted tutoring through June 2019. To learn more about the company, visit their website.