As an entrepreneur, success means being able to achieve a difficult goal or a dream, in face of challenges and despite resistances that can be all around without having to compromise with own norms and values. The previous statement is given by Marina Tognetti, Founder, and CEO of mYngle. The company is one of the leading companies to offer online language classes. Professionals from all around the world can take classes from native teachers in a live virtual classroom. mYngle allows one to teach or receive live one-on-one classes from the convenience of your own home or office.
As a successful entrepreneur, Marina believes that building a business from scratch is always challenging and building a tech start-up disrupting an industry as traditional as that of education is exponentially more challenging. The way to achieve success is by being flexible. Change is an essential part of being an entrepreneur. It is how you deal with uncertainty and change that sets you apart.
The Idea to Ease Learning Foreign Language
The initial idea to starting a virtual classroom came from Marina’s own personal requirements. She describes that like many people back then she was looking at China for opportunities. The first step was learning Chinese. But finding a way to learn the language was not easy for her as a busy manager. She says, “I tried everything: an evening school, CDs/ DVDs, a Dutch teacher trying to teach Chinese, a Chinese student that could not teach. I got quite frustrated. If I were living in China- I thought, I could easily find a good teacher, and that was when the idea hit me.” There are thousands of teachers all over the world, and she just needs to use the power of the internet to connect teachers with students. This is how mYngle was born.
Evolving as Key to Success
According to Marina, the biggest challenge was when the team had to drastically change, ‘pivoting’ from the initial business model to a completely different one, which is the mYngle of now. The company was first launched as a marketplace, something Marina knew very well from her previous eBay experience. She asserts, “We thought we got it all: funding, lots of Awards and PR, a very motivated team. But something in the business model was not functioning as we expected. We listened to our customers, and they gave us the new direction, from an open marketplace to a quality global online school, from B2C to B2B. The key to success was accepting that change was needed and not being afraid to question assumptions, truly listening to our customers.”
mYngle offers customized language training programs through video conferencing in 45 different languages anytime, anywhere. The lessons are one-on-one, with highly qualified native coaches and related to the learner’s job position. The company’s virtual classrooms enable learners to take classes 24/7.
mYngle is the solution for busy professionals who need language training to be successful in their international business, and for Companies that want great learning results and a transparent and controllable learning process to make their investment a success. “Our lessons score is 4.8 out of 5.0. Results speak for themselves,” says Marina.
Innovation Born by Boundless Efforts
Innovation is achieved by stimulating a culture of experimentation and allowing mistakes. Innovation cannot exist in a culture of fear of consequences. At mYngle, the team tries to develop people that think and not only do ‘’jobs’’. The company looks in its staff for entrepreneurs, people who do not keep the status quo but push themselves beyond their comfort zone. Marina says, “If you try ten new things, some will fail, some will be OK, and one will make a difference. We are looking for that ‘special one’.”
Marina describes that even before COVID, the (language) training market was already in the transition from offline to online, the shift accelerating in the past years. This age of quarantines, social distancing, and remote working fast-tracked the trend, and online education become in many cases the only possible way of learning. In response to this increase in demand for online training, many traditional offline players have been rushing to find a quick-fix, moving their existing solutions online. Good remote training, however, is not just a matter of adding a tech solution for the virtual classroom and moving a teacher from a physical classroom to a computer but it requires a whole new set of expertise and capabilities different from those of offline education. The way the training is delivered, the teaching, content, interaction, etc., all need to change in order to provide a good user experience. mYngle instead was already focusing on online education, so now that the whole education industry is at a cross-road due to pandemic, the company can benefit from many years of experience and proven capabilities to deliver successful online training.
Life before Starting as an Entrepreneur
When Marina graduated from University it was an era when entrepreneurship was not very common for academics. She, therefore, built first a successful career with large multinationals, Procter & Gamble, Philips, Sara Lee, The Boston Consulting Group, and eBay; living and working in different countries, and got an MBA from INSEAD. She states that it was when working as a consultant on a project on internet strategy that she first saw the potential of the internet to disrupt entire industries and change forever the way people buy/sell/interact. She saw an opportunity and had to be part of that. That was the driver to start an innovative company as mYngle, as she knew she could make a real difference, putting in practice all she had learned in her career till then.
Before mYngle, Marina already had a long-standing successful career in the corporate world, but starting her own company signed the beginning of a ‘’new’ career, where she had to reinvent herself and develop along the way new skills and capabilities. She knew how to manage large companies, so she thought that running her own start-up would be not much different. Of course, that was definitely not the case. She had to learn many things along the way, and now with her experiences, she understands the say that “entrepreneurship is jumping from a cliff and learning how to fly at the same time.” She says, “Now online language education is setting the standards in terms of quality and flexibility. And we have been part of that. This has been for me the greatest recognition to date.”
Responsibilities at mYngle
At mYngle, Marina’s responsibility is to be a role model for other women in tech, but an accessible one, trying to give a genuine picture of what it takes to be an entrepreneur, the ups and downs that all have but few want to share. The tech world is in fact still particularly male-dominated: only 5% of tech start-ups are owned by women. Technology is revolutionizing every part of life and society, yet women are still not participating in this revolution in sufficient numbers.
Balance is needed to Rest, Work and Live
“I know that the 80 hours’ week cannot hold forever,” says Marina. She finds that is a mistake many entrepreneurs do, especially at the beginning or when they go through difficult periods. She herself learned that it is especially in periods of challenges that one has to find the energy and motivation to keep on pushing forward. To keep the balance, Marina mixes time for mYngle with lots of sports and time for herself. She opines, “I know that me being happy and in balance gives my company the right leader who is able to drive it in the most difficult situations.”
As per Marina, the best motivation, both for her as well as the employees always comes from customer satisfaction. In mYngle, the team nurtures an obsession for customer satisfaction, and this is also one of its key strengths. The management looks to continuously improve its services. The team says, “We do so by constantly listening to users’ feedback and improving accordingly, as well as leveraging new technologies to our advantage.”
Future Plans for mYngle
The future challenge for mYngle will be in keeping innovating and being ahead while the market moves from an early stage to more mature. It is a critical transition phase when it is easy to rest on what is achieved and ignore new signals. For Marina personally, it will also be time for the idealistic voice inside to speak, the voice that believes in giving something back for a better world. She says, “I walked this path and learned a lot. That brought me to a privileged position, where I can act and implement new ideas that can make a difference. I can now use my skills to make the world just a little bit better.”
Improving is a Sign of Strength
Her advice for emerging leaders is that learning is the key to success. In order to learn, one has to recognize and accept that something can be done better. She thinks that admitting that we don’t know something or something you thought was right is not, and needs to be changed, is a sign of strength, not a weakness. And that is what makes the difference between failure and success.