Continuing education start-up Skillshare, founded by former Hot Potato head of product Mike Karnjanaprakorn and veteran CTO Malcolm Ong, has been growing slowly since it first started offering classes in New York City in the spring after raising $550,000 from Founder Collective, SV Angel, Collaborative Fund and angel investors including Meetup’s Scott Heiferman and TechStars’s David Tisch. “When we first launched, we got a lot of feedback like ‘why is this closed, why isn’t this open everywhere?’ But for us it was like we really abide by the lean start-up philosophy,” Mr. Karnjanaprakorn told Betabeat last week.
He and Mr. Ong decided to limit Skillshare, which lets users offer small, paid classes in anything from computer programming to making chocolate, viewing New York as a sandbox for the company to work out any bugs and, you know, see if anyone would want to use it.
Turns out they did. “We have teachers that make a lot of money on the platform, thousands of dollars,” he said, citing one teacher who does a class in Ruby on Rails.
Most of the classes on offer are still early-adopter and start-up-oriented–“How to Talk to Investors,” “Creating a Product-Focused Start-Up Culture,” and so on, but the range has broadened a bit, Mr. Karnjanaprakorn.
“We’re starting to see businesses on the site. There’s a jewelry store in Brooklyn teaching a class on how to make bracelets. Ella Lounge in the East Village taught a bartending course… we’re starting to branch out of the tech cool kids community to average people and businesses teaching real tangible skills. We didn’t want to be stuck with just a product for tech people,” he said.
Skillshare has a voting system to determine which city to move into next, but the co-founders decided to pull the trigger and start offering classes in San Francisco. “We’r growing every single month and doing very well so it felt like we should run another experiment in another city and see how that works,” he said. “We don’t really know that many people there… but I think it’ll be even bigger in San Francisco.”
Philadelphia will probably be Skillshare’s next stop; the city only needs 38 votes to get “unlocked,” at which point Skillshare will make sure there have been at least 50 “Pilot Classes,” unscheduled listings to gauge student interest. Once that tips, they’ll go about recruiting power users to serve as volunteer ambassadors for the new city. “We’ll assign a Special Ops team who’ll hit the ground to find teachers, venues, and ensure that you guys kick off with a wicked party,” the site explains.
The company is still running, lean start-up style, off its January seed round. But Skillshare is hiring for a few positions in the Soho office it shares with fellow design-y, hip start-up Svpply.