As COVID-19 moves much of life online and policy-makers and educators look to the fall, for many, distance learning will be largely incorporated into the academic year. The traditional classroom format is familiar to most, but one Richmond alumnus has been working for years to support students and educators online in an engaging, interactive platform. 

John Failla, ’15, founder and CEO of Trilogy Mentors, and his team began as an in-person tutoring company, logging 1,000 hours of instruction in the first year. However, they quickly recognized the demand for digitization as schools explored online education, and tutoring companies were forced to match these efficiencies.

In 2017, the first year Trilogy Mentors offered online services, users logged 2,5000 hours of instruction. In the second year, instructional hours increased to 6,000. “We were using a fragmented system—different resources for billing, video capabilities, chat functionality,” Failla shared. “This didn’t offer the best student experience, so we decided to explore our own proprietary platform.”

Shortly after development, Trilogy Mentors was invited to participate in StartED, a renowned education and workforce tech accelerator in New York. There, they pitched an entirely new software-as-service business model, enabling tutoring services of all sizes to license its technology platform to provide instruction. 

The beta version launched in August 2019. By February, roughly 700 users were participating in 16,000 minutes of online instruction. By May, users were logging 160,000 minutes.

“We are a relationship-based learning company. Relationships are critical to the success of students,” Failla said. “Teaching online and teaching in person are two very different things. Because we began by providing an in-person experience, we were able to leverage our knowledge to create meaningful relationships online.”

Along with individual freelance tutors who are building their business, Trilogy Mentors guides larger organizations through the online platform to ensure success for both student and educator. “We are able to support some truly life-changing programs,” Failla shared. One program, ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation, is based here in Richmond. Children who are unable to attend in-person school because of illness continue to receive quality education delivered through the platform.

Trilogy Mentors began a successful capital raise in January. But when COVID-19 forced the education sector online, Failla recognized a larger opportunity and increased their total commitments to $1.1 million. “We are educators first,” Failla said. “We intentionally focus our business development with these relationships in mind, and design technology to best serve them.”

Failla brings this relationship-minded approach to his role as the Robins School’s inaugural Founder in Residence. Failla will work with students to provide guidance and mentorship, and lend his specialized knowledge and experience as a successful entrepreneur. Along with serving as an example of the great lengths students can go as recent graduates, Failla plans to leverage his own extensive network in the entrepreneurial community to assist students in building their own to accelerate business opportunities.

“Rarely does the first idea work,” he said. “There are many pathways to entrepreneurship. But large gaps exist between the idea and the next step. I want to help students get pen to paper and move on it, not waste ten years pursuing an idea that doesn’t work.”

“Richmond’s population is built for entrepreneurship. I am excited to bring my expertise to campus and help students see their ideas come to life.”

*Students are encouraged to reach out to Failla at john@trilogymentors.com.