“Corporate education rapidly evolves with AI” – CEO Q&A with Matteo Penzo of zick learn

By Business & Finance
24 January 2024
Matteo Penzo, CEO of zick learn, exemplifying leadership in integrating AI with corporate education.
Pictured: Matteo Penzo, CEO and Co-Founder of zick learn

Matteo Penzo is CEO and Co-Founder of zick learn, offering an advanced creation suite for learning designers to compose text based courses.

What are your main priorities and goals in your role?

As a young startup, my role is to accelerate our growth in terms of product, team and market. This translates frequently to me being a jack-of-all-trades, moving from finance and accounting to investor relations, and from product to marketing and sales. Overall, my goal is to make everybody proud: our clients, investors, team, my co-founders, and ultimately, myself.

What are your biggest challenges as CEO?

My challenges are pretty common in this role: How best to maximise return on spending, while quickly growing our product and market. I’m lucky to have a super strong co-founding team, with amazing investors and executive counsellors that constantly inspire, push, and help me grow.

How do you keep your team/ staff motivated?

External actions alone won’t keep a team motivated. Building a relationship based on trust and respect has motivation as a byproduct. We are tackling an enormous challenge – changing how the corporate world learns. This can’t be done with just my ideas and approaches. It’s a task for a team, and that’s a powerful motivator for everybody.

What are the challenges facing the industry going forward?

Corporate education faces the challenge of transitioning from extensive but impersonal “Netflix-style” learning to engaging, skill-focused methods, while adapting to evolving technologies and balancing innovation with accessibility.

What new trends are emerging in your industry?

Corporate education rapidly evolves with AI and adaptive learning, tailoring personalised experiences. These technologies identify skill gaps, support upskilling, and align with microlearning and mobile trends for flexible, accessible content.

Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?

Corporate education will transform with AI-driven, personalised learning experiences, fostering a culture of continuous learning to enhance employee skills and keep organisations competitive in a dynamic landscape.

As an employer are you finding any skill gaps in the market?

Facing proficiency gaps in AI, data analytics, and soft skills, we invest in programmes, collaborate with institutions, and promote continuous learning. This bridges gaps and prepares for future demands.

How did your strategy develop in the context of the cost of living crisis?

Prioritising affordability, we adapted pricing, offering flexible payments, budget-friendly packages, while maintaining quality. Streamlining processes and embracing technology, we absorbed costs and enhanced customer support.

How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?

Success, for me, is moving my ideas into the world. When I see people enjoying the product of these ideas, I’ve succeeded. Ultimately, I’m on a mission to improve the world for future generations. I’ve focused a large part of my career on the knowledge economy. Developing smarter and more efficient ways for workers to gather knowledge, as we do in zick learn, that’s success.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?

Interestingly, the best advice came from my worst employer. As a young manager, I focused on my own growth. My employer made it clear that you cannot have real career advancements if your ambition is detached from your team’s growth. Focus on the team, and your progression will come automatically.

What have been your highlights in business over the past year?

We transitioned our product from the MVP stage to market, boldly driving commercial growth, and acquiring large-scale clients in Europe, US, and Asia. We closed our pre-seed funding round with a 30% overachievement, accelerating our expansion into new markets. Most importantly, our clients love the product. Many new features we’ve implemented are directly inspired by feedback from companies using our product.

Where do you want your organisation to be this time next year?

We believe zick learn can be a billion-dollar company by 2033, and we have a clear set of KPIs to achieve this. Our seed round opens in Spring 2024 and we will use this to fuel our growth in terms of organisation (we just tripled our Irish team) and repetitive business. This will be one of the best years.

What is the best book you’ve ever read (non-business) and why?

I read a lot of sci-fi as a kid, and the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov keeps inspiring me. It’s about a scientist who changes an entire universe – the way people live, business, politics – and he does it all with the power of his ideas.

What is your favourite hobby and why?

My hobbies change constantly. I love hiking long distances. A few years ago, I brought my then 14-year-old daughter on a 135km pilgrimage Via Francigena. I love sports – I train a lot, try to play golf, and ski off-piste. With my wife, I love to travel. We’ve just returned from a tour of Southeast Asia – somewhere I never had the chance to visit, but has brought us much inspiration.

What is your mantra for life?

Believe in serendipity. The universe is on a mission to make you succeed. You just need to trust your gut, be open to good, and make bold decisions. Serendipity is a powerful force and impacts your business, your love, and your personal relationships in a constantly improving positive loop.


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