Alon Alperovitz took a business masters degree at London School of Economics because he wanted to switch career. By the time he graduated, in 2018, the former operation and relation- ship manager at the Academic College of Tel Aviv Yaffo had started two new jobs. From Monday to Friday, Mr Alperovitz is the business improvement architect at the London headquarters of Ted Baker, the UK clothes retailer.
On Sundays, he is an entrepreneurship tutor, logging on from his living room sofa to lead a classroom of a dozen students in Tel Aviv.
“I love it,” Mr Alperovitz says about his weekend teaching role. He works for Jolt, an Israeli technology start-up that brings students into physical classrooms to be taught from a screen by experts working remotely.
The gig economy-based business mod- el works for Mr Alperovitz, who took on the job as a way of sharing his knowledge and passion for start-ups. He did not expect to make a living from it.
The set-up is easy. He just needs a high- speed internet connection. “We have a six-month-old baby so my wife takes her to a separate area of the house while I am online,” he says.
Jolt was founded in 2015 in Tel Aviv and has expanded into London and New York. Students attend the classes in person and are taught key workplace skills, such as negotiation techniques, time management and how to solve problems faster.
Jolt aims to “reinvent learning”, according to Roei Deutsch, the company’s co- founder and chief executive. “In the 21st century, learning one subject at university just doesn’t cut it any more,” he says.
“Employees need to be constantly expanding their skills, and Jolt solves this problem with stackable classes that fit around your lifestyle.”
The company raised $7.2m in an equity funding round led by European tech VC Octopus Ventures, mainly to build the London classroom, which opened in January.
Developing each venue is expensive because everything in the teaching rooms, from the central table around which the students sit, to the web conferencing software, has been designed so that the lesson can be run remotely by one person.
“The learning and development market is ripe for disruption,” says Simon King, a principal at Octopus Ventures.
This is what business schools call executive education — and it is worth about $100bn, according to Mr King. Students of Jolt, known as “sojis”, pay a member- ship fee of £100-a-month, for which they receive an allocation of “coins”, Jolt’s currency, to fund four 90-minute classes or buy Jolt stationery and merchandise.
Additional coins can be earned by turning up on time regularly and not cancelling bookings or can be purchased through the Jolt smartphone app.
Any coins left unspent at the end of a month are rolled over. Sophie Mackenzie, assistant digital fundraising manager at the British Red Cross, was an early Jolt member in London.
“Within my sector learning and development is fairly limited, due to the lack of funding for this type of extracurricular activity in non-profits,” she says.
Ms Mackenzie, who moved into her first management role last year, aged 24, was introduced by a friend who was a member and signed up at a taster event near Jolt’s London office in Shoreditch, the centre of east London’s tech start-up community.
“It completely busted all [my] prejudices against networking and panel discussions,” Ms Mackenzie recalls. “I actually really, really enjoyed it.”
Jolt sessions are run in a similar manner to business school seminars, where participants are encouraged to participate as much as possible.
They may seem like networking events but they are actually something different. I meet Ms McKenzie at a public speaking class in the London venue, alongside a dozen other sojis.
For an education start-up that claims to be making learning more accessible, the room is difficult to locate, in a half-finished new office development in a side street around the back of the financial district’s hub station, Liverpool Street.
The only clue to Jolt’s existence is a sheet of A4 paper with ‘Jolt’ on it, stuck to the front door. Once inside, however, the decor is smart. A screen fills one wall of the classroom, from which extends a large curved wooden table.
The dozen or so students sit around this. There are also framed prints of motivational phases, such as “always learning”, and cabinets filled with Jolt merchandise.
Mr Deutsch runs a finger along the teaching table in the room, noting that its curved shape is specifically designed to enable the tutor to see each student.
It is attached to the screen at one end to emphasise the “connection” between the tutor on screen and the people in the room.
“This could be seen as a wasted piece of wood,” he says, measuring with his hands the width of the wood between the presenting screen and the first student’s chair.
“But because it is connected to the screen we have shown that it actually improves the amount of participation of the person sitting here by hundreds of per cent.” Jolt has entered a crowded market.
Taking a slice of the huge executive education market, previously dominated by business schools, has been an aspiration of many technology companies.
Only healthcare is a bigger market globally, according to Beauhurst, a Lon- don-based analyst for young high-growth companies. Out of the 399 “edtech” companies Beauhurst tracks, there are just 54 that are defined as professional development companies such as Jolt.
But these professional development companies have raised higher amounts on average than their peers in edtech, such as online coding clubs, and were more likely to achieve a successful exit in terms of an initial public offering or sale to another company.
Last year was the biggest on record for professional development start-ups in the UK, according to Beauhurst, with £25.4m raised over 15 deals.
Since the beginning of 2019, a further £5.1m has been raised in another four deals. The plan has to be to “go big or go home”, according to Mr Deutsch.
“This is like a military spectacle, an experience,” he says, casting an arm around Jolt’s London room. “We can only do this, however, if we do it at scale.”