Marco Santonocito’s edtech app was in the right place when the pandemic hit: ranking high on the Apple App Store.
As learning transitioned online, his user base increased for Ammesso.it, which helped users prepare for medical school admissions tests. The app eventually hit 70,000 users — and was acquired by Testbusters in 2021 for a mid-6-figure price.
He’d launched the app in 2016 at home in Italy after being inspired to become an entrepreneur during a three-month stint in Silicon Valley. Yet even as its popularity grew, it was never more than a side project. At the time of the Ammesso.it exit, Santonocito was working as Chief Technology Officer at Vitesy, a startup that produces air purifiers.
“Ammesso.it was a side project,” Santonocito told They Got Acquired. “I designed and developed the app during my free time,” with help from co-founders Eugenio Bancaro, a software developer who helped build the platform, and Paolo Ganis, who served as a mentor.
Ammesso.it becomes a top-ranked app on the App Store
It wasn’t long before Ammeso.it began gaining traction, especially with the help of an Italian accelerator program, Graffiti SRL, where Santonocito had worked as a Digital Product Manager for emerging startups in 2015. While working at Graffiti, Santonocito also co-founded his first business, a coworking space called Talent Garden Pordenone, as a branch of an Italian network of office spaces.
During Ammesso.it’s early stages in 2016, hundreds of users registered to use the app, Santonocito explained in a Medium article. In 2017, on the recommendation of Ganis and Graffiti SRL, he formalized the venture by founding a company and focusing on growth. Soon, “one out of four medical students was preparing [for] the medical school admission test with Ammesso.it,” Santonocito wrote.
By 2018, Ammesso.it made the Apple App Store’s “School Essentials” category, where it would remain for three consecutive years. At one point, Ammesso.it was the 44th most downloaded app in Italy and reached #1 in the Education category, Santonocito wrote on Medium.
The pandemic spurred interest in online learning
When the first COVID-19 lockdown in Italy began in March 2020 and the world transitioned to online learning, Santonocito noticed increased interest in Ammesso.it from other players in the education field.
“They asked for partnerships, advertising, sharing, acquisition,” Santonocito told The Got Acquired. While he hadn’t built the app with an exit in mind, he started to consider the possibility when the CEO of Talent Garden introduced him to the CEO of Testbusters.
Testbusters, an Italian education startup, aims to help students pass entrance tests for admission to medical school, dental school, nursing programs and other health profession training, along with offering advice for students to improve their test-taking skills. To Santonocito, the company was “young, active, fast, and passionate about its product.”
It took a few months and a sharp learning curve for Santonocito to reach a mid-6-figure exit with Testbusters. At the time of the exit in June 2021, Ammesso.it had nearly 70,000 users, Santonocito told They Got Acquired.
“Dealing with the buyer was the moment I went out of my comfort zone. I had to deal with an unknown world,” Santonocito told us. “It was not easy, [but] luckily I had the support of an excellent accountant and of Testbusters’ CFO.”
Santonocito is now working on a new edtech startup to create a product for the business-to-business market. His co-founders Bancaro and Ganis were no longer involved in Ammesso.it at the time of the exit.