Oct 1, 2020 - Technology

Scoop: Online class startup Course Studio raises $1M seed round

Illustration of a hand inserting a coin into a piggy bank slot in a computer

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Course Studio, a new online class startup that launched as the coronavirus pandemic hit, has raised $1 million, the company tells Axios.

Why it matters: Course Studio is aiming to create professionally produced online learning experiences at a time when internet classes are the only way many people are able to learn new things or reach their audiences.

Details: The $1 million fundraise was lead by longtime educational technology investors and operators, Tonner Jackson, one of Course Studio's founders, told Axios.

Context: The e-learning industry will grow to a $375 billion market by 2026, according to a May report from Global Market Insights.

  • Yes, but: People often don't see online courses through, with completion rates of about 3.3%, according to a January 2019 MIT study.

Background: Course Studio's team was working on building out a "MasterClass for Sports" startup concept featuring athletes in early 2020 (one employee had previously worked on courses for Malcolm Gladwell, Steph Curry and others at MasterClass) when the project fell through. That resulted in the pivot to online learning for a variety of topics, Jackson said.

  • Course Studio, headquartered in Vancouver with team members in New York, San Francisco and Toronto, got started this spring in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic, incorporating in May.
  • "We were very much a reaction to coronavirus," Jackson said. "We wouldn't have a business without it. The way we’re producing is very expensive, highly-produced content, and there are some novel ways of doing that remotely which a lot of people are asking for right now."

How it works: Course Studio wants to focus on producing a few comprehensive courses per year that will be offered online for a price, with the aim of bringing in $1 million in revenue per class each year, Jackson said.

  • Course Studio will handle production and building the curriculum for the classes, and is looking to work with people who already have a large audience to create an online platform around.

Reality check: Many businesses are moving their operations online right now due to the pandemic, attempting to re-create the in-person experience, such as gyms, online rental sites and concerts. Sometimes it doesn't translate well, with technical glitches or a lack of engaging content.

  • Course Studio wants to make online experiences as in-depth, technically sophisticated and retentive as possible, Jackson said.

What's next: Part of the new financing will go to hiring more engineers and building an analytics engine that will track time spent in classes and other user behavior. Course Studio could be cash flow positive next year and hopes to next raise a Series A fundraising round on the tailwinds of the need for online learning right now, Jackson said.

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