With COVID- 19 sending everyone inside, many people are devoting their extra time to learning new skills, talents and languages.
In San Diego, one technology company built a platform to connect experts with students offline and online. It has seen a surge in its user growth by 93 percent in April alone.
Founded in 2006, by tech executive and founder Steven Cox, the ed-tech company serves a trusted online marketplace for finding group classes and private instructors.
Started in Home
In the early days, Cox said he started in a spare bedroom overlooking Mission Beach after wanting to help his friend pursue his passion as a music instructor. Fast forward to over a decade later, TakeLessons has since expanded its mission helping all teachers make a living doing what they love.
In total, the company has completed over 154 million minutes worth of lessons and now offers over 313 topic categories ranging from performance arts, math, computing skills, academic tutoring, among others.
TakeLessons has received significant capital from San Diego-based Moore Venture Partners, Bay Area-based Crosslink Capital, SoftTech and several others. To date, the startup has raised roughly $20 million. Revenue numbers were not disclosed.
TakeLessons Live, its online group solution, was a huge contributor to its recent growth activity, especially as people are searching for new avenues to stay connected with friends and family from their homes.
So how does it work? Think of it similar to “FaceTiming” with up to 10 of your closest friends, for $20 a month its customers receive exclusive access to live experts across the globe, gaining knowledge in wide range of topics.
“For $20 a month, you get access to any live instructor,” Cox said. “As an example, you could study French from someone living underneath the Eiffel Tower or you can take guitar classes, language classes whatever you’d like. Our sign language is doing really well right now and it’s only 20 bucks a month for all the classes that you can consume. It’s a cost effective way for parents to continue to build and continue their kids’ education while we’re all going through all of this together.”
Launched TakeLessons TV
In response to COVID-19, the team decided to release a new product called TakeLessons TV, in support of those who lost their jobs or can no longer afford the service’s monthly subscription rate.
In particular, the platform offers a free live class each day throughout the week, designed for both parents and kids to find quick and accessible lessons such as job related-skills and K-6 educational topics.
A TakeLesson instructor, Daniel Chan is a master magician who is educating kids through virtual lessons and performances on TakeLessons TV, said he found the experience to be very rewarding.
“I absolutely loved the TakeLessons TV experience. In fact, I’m doing another free class very soon. As a magic teacher, it has allowed me to give back to young magicians. It’s a fun interactive platform that revolutionizes the lesson experience. As a Silicon Valley thought leader, I’m excited as it allows teachers to scale and reach students globally,” Chan said.
Playing the Long Game
TakeLessons was predominantly an in-person tutoring platform with teachers in over 4,000 cities, helping 20 million students annually.
Interestingly enough, the education market is a high-growth market and tops over hundreds of billions. The English language and academic learning category alone is worth around $40 billion, The company said it aims to play the long game as it has multiple lifelong learning categories.
In 2019, a record-breaking number of over 24 million unique visitors came to TakeLessons site. The goal is to keep increasing that number while helping instructors make a better living and providing value to its users.
Cox said he thinks the company will see continued growth of its online platform, although he suspects when all this is over, people may be hesitant in returning back to in-person lessons.
“We think there’s is a fundamental shift that’s happening right now in how people think about their lives and education. We hope that there is a virus cure soon but even if things went back to normal, I think people are going to be a little bit gun shy to go back out and take in-person lessons,” Cox said.
In terms of its business model, Cox said its split in a democratic way, “the instructor that teaches the most classes and keeps students engaged the longest during the class will make the most money.”
The idea is to reward teachers to develop long-term relationships with students, in total teachers have been paid out over $100 million for their lessons. Also, TakeLessons has also partnered with several charter schools to allow them to run their classes online on its platform.
Headquartered in Little Italy, the startups employs 46 local employees.
“We’re excited about being able to offer kind of free classes through TakeLessons TV and excited about just online, in general. We think that we’ve barely scraped the surface in this and there’s a bright future and in this space. Our plan is continue on that growth and help a ton of people every single year,” Cox said.