October 23, 2023 Interviews

Interview with Antonio Salvo, Founder & CEO of Becoming Education, the Italian brand of high-quality schools

Antonio Salvo is the Founder & CEO of Becoming Education, the Italian brand of high-quality schools.
Antonio started his career in finance, working as an Analyst at UBS Investment Bank and as M&A and Corporate Development Director at Comdata Group.
Since 2021, he has managed Becoming Education, a brand born through a club deal of high-profile investors that bets on the education sector, from nursery to secondary school.
Antonio graduated in Economics and Business at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore.

In 2021, you founded Becoming Education, a brand that brings together educational institutions characterised by high-quality standards, a common pedagogical approach, the widespread presence of Italian-English bilingualism, and a style of relations with families marked by participation, transparency, and co-responsibility. What prompted you to establish Becoming Education?

Antonio: I have always worked in finance and business. My experience at UBS Investment Bank exposed me to the education sector at the European level, which served as my initial source of inspiration.
In 2018, I became a father for the first time. When I started exploring nurseries for personal reasons, I noticed the widespread disorganisation in the sector in Italy. Unlike other countries, where proper corporations manage educational services, in Italy, many “mom-and-pop” schools are operated by ex-teachers. This observation sparked the idea: why not establish a company dedicated to owning and managing schools in Italy? Despite the declining Italian demography, I sensed that the sector was still significantly underdeveloped, both in terms of content and organisation. Despite demographic challenges, schools are local businesses that can thrive if they offer higher quality than competitors and are located in areas with strong microeconomic fundamentals.
I strongly believe that providing high-quality service is crucial. As suggested by one of the first investors who believed in this initiative (whom I am deeply grateful to), I invited Cinzia D’Alessandro to join the project. Cinzia, a pedagogue, trainer, and outdoor education expert with 25 years of experience in managing two 0-6 year schools in Milan, became my co-founder.

So, Becoming Education operates and manages a network of 10 bilingual schools in the 0-13 years range (also known as K-8) between Milan, Monza, the province of Varese, and Modena. Can you tell us more about the business model of the company? What other results have you achieved until now?

Antonio: Becoming Education is a group of schools that we founded two years ago based on a pedagogical project focused on outdoor education and the holistic development of the human being.
In particular, for our nurseries (ages 0 to 3 years), we follow the model of Locomotiva di Momo, established in Milan by Cinzia more than 26 years ago. The pedagogical project is currently being studied as an innovative methodology by the Ministry of Education in Italy (e.g., MIUR).
From kindergarten to secondary school (ages 3 to 13 years), we adhere to the pedagogical manifesto “Una Scuola,” written by Prof. Monica Guerra and Prof. Francesca Antonacci from the Bicocca University of Milan, Department of Scienze della Formazione (ages 6-11 years). These two professors have extensively studied innovative examples worldwide and developed an experiential educational project that nurtures students’ talents, focusing on STEAM and creativity subjects, fostering genuine curiosity through the observation of nature (plants and animals).
Furthermore, we are committed to providing pedagogical support to families and children, even between ages 6 to 13, to prevent common issues in the development of boys and girls, such as bullying and eating disorders.
At Becoming Education, we believe that teachers need to be well-versed in different teaching methodologies to (i) keep all our students motivated and (ii) identify and possibly diagnose learning difficulties in advance, which, unfortunately, are increasingly common among children. For this reason, we have also established an internal scientific committee composed of various experts to address these issues.
Currently, our group manages ten schools: 8 in the Milan and Brianza area, 1 in the province of Varese, and 1 in Modena. Two schools cater to children aged 6-13 years.
We have an enrollment capacity of 850 children, with approximately 135 staff members working in the schools and about 15 in the central administrative team.

You recently announced a € 10 million fundraising round involving investors such as FG2 Capital, Paolo Colonna, the Saraval family, Viris, Lorenzo Pellicioli and Paolo Ceretti. What are the development plans of Becoming Education for the near future?

Antonio: The project is highly ambitious. We plan to pursue further acquisitions, aiming to establish a network of at least 30 schools.
Our strategy involves expanding into neighbouring areas of our existing schools, focusing on completing the 0-13-year educational path. This aligns with the demands of families who recognise the quality of our services and increasingly request a comprehensive educational journey for their children.
This extensive initiative also includes plans to encompass all major cities in Northern Italy, and we have been assessing the market in Rome for quite some time now.
Additionally, we are firm believers in creating a group of private schools that offer accessibility to economically disadvantaged families. We intend to achieve this through dedicated scholarships funded by non-profit organisations and foundations.
We strongly advocate for inclusion, recognising its positive impact on children’s growth and development.

What are the main challenges you experienced in creating and scaling Becoming Education? What are your next steps?

Antonio: To date, our most significant challenges have been (i) expanding the team with the right skill set and (ii) effectively communicating the values and qualities of our educational project while preserving the local brands of the acquired schools.
Building a strong team of motivated individuals is always challenging, especially with a limited budget. Striking the right balance between skillset, salary, and engagement is not always easy. Fortunately, we have been fortunate to hire employees who have embraced the initiative as much as the founders. However, as the company continues to grow, we require even more talent to handle increasing complexities, necessitating appropriate salary levels.
Regarding branding, we have opted to establish an umbrella brand – Becoming Education – representing our holding company and serving as the name of our Pedagogic Project while retaining the original names of the acquired schools. This approach is currently under review by the management team, and we may decide to transition to a single brand for the developed schools.
In terms of communication, we are working on conveying the added value of our group and the pedagogical aspects with tangible facts more effectively. Education’s impact is challenging to measure in the short term; the effects of a good or bad school often become apparent after years. Consequently, parents often choose schools based on easily identifiable elements such as facilities, quality, logistics, parking, and bilingualism. We strongly believe in our uniqueness, which includes critical intangible aspects that are challenging to communicate or simplify to parents. Therefore, word of mouth remains the most effective form of advertising for our schools, with parents serving as our primary advocates.

One last question. What is your vision for the education industry in Italy in the near future?

Antonio: Public schools are losing appeal among the upper middle class, a trend that was already underway during the COVID-19 pandemic, favouring private institutions (as seen in examples such as  THIS ARTICLE).
It is crucial to recognise that we are operating a “social” business where the focus is on children, families, and the development of young individuals who represent the future of our country. Therefore, ethics are fundamental to our daily operations.
This is why we are making significant investments in sustainability. This involves not only reducing plastic usage but also consistently utilising recycled materials in our activities and creating environments that foster connections with nature. We are shaping the next generation of adults, and climate, nature, and environmental sustainability must be central to our curriculum. Our schools are adorned with trees, and our gardens are abundant with natural herbs that promote biodiversity and ecological care.
Furthermore, it is essential to consider the future development of cities. For instance, the city centre of Milan is becoming increasingly economically unsustainable, leading to a migration of new families from the city to the suburbs and neighbouring towns.
Consequently, it is possible that we will focus our presence in the suburbs in the future.


For more info on Becoming Education, visit: https://becoming-education.com/