The Future of Teachable (P.S. We raised some dollars)
Three years ago, we created a small side project with a bold mission — to make it possible for anyone to make a living teaching what they know online.
As course creators ourselves, we hated the inelegance of every existing solution. We wanted a fresh start on a platform that didn’t control our students, and we built Teachable as a small side project for ourselves.
I remember the specific moment when we sent an email to our list inviting them to buy our course on our new platform. That feeling of “no one is ever going to buy this.” And then, approximately 32 minutes later, the exhilaration of getting our very first sale.
It was such a rush that I set my phone to ping me every time anyone on the platform had a sale. For anything.
As we saw random Internet people start to buy OUR course, we thought holy @#!$%^@ — if this solved a meaningful problem for us, other people will find this useful too. Cue our first customers.
By the spring of 2014, we were ready to start adulting and doing real business things, like incorporating and setting up a bank account.
We even had a stellar (yet cringeworthy-in-retrospect) marketing site featuring our only three customers at the time:
Over the next year, we grew from a handful of teachers to hundreds of active teachers. People were making real money selling courses on everything under the sun — from playing the handpan to preparing for bank exams in India, from cake decorating to intermediate blacksmithing to yoga specifically for bros.
By the start of 2016, our team grew to 15 people and we were on track to make $1m in revenue (!!!). Our course creators had made over $5 million selling courses in 2015 and things were getting good.
Turns out that was only the beginning — the last 12 months have exceeded all of our expectations. Over the course of last year, we have grown 5x to a $5million+ run rate. But more importantly, our teachers sold almost $30,000,000 in courses last year.
And this trickled all the way down: 1 person made over $1m last year, 5 people made over $750,000, 43 people made over $100,000, 420 people over $10,000 and 1414 people made over $1,000 last year.
We always believed this internally, but the data is now out there — making a living teaching courses online is officially a movement, and we are in at the ground floor.
With this momentum, we decided to raise a $4m Series A round of funding to truly double down on our vision and enable entrepreneurs and creators to make a living teaching online.
Mo’ Money, Fewer Problems (theoretically)
Outside of wild quarterly parties at Teachable HQ and custom tank tops in time for the New York summer situation, what are we gonna do with all this money?
We’re a product-driven company, and we believe the only way we can be successful in the long term is by making the strongest product in the market. No amount of sales and marketing will allow an inferior product to win in the long term.
Consequently, almost all the money will be invested back into hiring talented people and building the team that can carry our product forward in three important ways:
1) Platform: We want you to build on top of our technology.
We have spent a large amount of time in the last 24 months on the building blocks to enable developers to extend Teachable’s functionality beyond what the platform natively offers.
(Warning: Technical speak) We now have a robust webhook system allowing you to hook into third-party providers we don’t integrate with, a Liquid-enabled Power Editor that allows you to completely change up the front-end, and an API endpoint to let you enroll people in courses if you use a third-party payment provider.
The next step in our evolution is bringing a layer of simplicity to all this power in the engine. How can we make it absurdly simple for people without any technical background to leverage all this power?
We have solutions coming in that regard. The first step was a Zapier application to allow you a nicer frontend to play with our webhooks interface. And we’re planning a theme gallery that will allow you to point and click for deep customization of the frontend, and an app store that allows you to install “apps” to extend Teachable’s functionality.
2) Network: We want you to tap into our 3 million+ Teachable students.
Until 2017, the value of our product has been our technology. We have built an elegant and powerful platform for selling information online, and that’s worked out nicely for all involved.
Starting this year, we want to become more than just a technology — by enabling our instructors to tap into our network of 3 million students (and growing by almost 500k monthly) and make more money. We want to use the powerful data we will acquire by processing over $100m+ in course sales to make the experience better (and more profitable) for everyone.
The first step in this process was rolling out unified myTeachable accounts that allow potential students to sign up for an account on your school with only a single click. With 100,000+ accounts already created, the simplified process for enrolling new students is already paying off.
The next step is payments. If someone has paid for a course *anywhere* on Teachable, they will be able to buy a course on your website with a single click. With the network growing as fast as it is, that means hundreds of thousands of potential students can now buy from you in a matter of seconds.
The final step to tie it all together is using both the myTeachable network and our data to build a course purchase flow that has the highest conversion rates in the industry. Once we have the network in place for 1-click checkout, we intend to add more customizability to checkout pages including the ability to add trust signals and testimonials that we continually A/B test to ensure we build the most powerful checkout flow on the Internet. In other words, Teachable will be the most optimized platform for selling courses online.
At the end of the year when we have a few million people with myTeachable accounts, we will also experiment with driving you additional discovery from within the Teachable network, opening your course up to a brand new audience.
3) Customer Care and Community: The best product deserves the best customer care and community.
With the growth we experienced in 2016, scaling our Customer Care (CC) organization was undoubtedly our largest challenge of the year. Despite growing our customer base 5x, we ended the year with only twice as many people on the CC team — and that’s something we are looking to rectify in the coming year.
In addition to aggressively growing the size of Customer Care & Community teams (wanna join us?), we are investing in building powerful self-serve tools to solve a lot of frequent issues. Training and hiring amazing team members is as important as always with every representative being a part of our local office in New York.
Once we start getting this in place, we want to experiment with ways we can provide instructors with help not just reactively — but also proactively. While email support is great, we want to experiment with real-time channels to ensure you always have us to lean on.
And where we can’t be there, we’ll be looking at empowering our community (now over 10,000 strong!) to be a safe place for getting support and camaraderie from your peers, not just online, but also out in the real world. Stay tuned for more there!
Join the movement (I promise we’re not a cult)
We are looking to help our creators sell over $120 million in courses in 2017. That is four times as much as last year, and there is no way we are going to get there without your help.
Our team size will likely double as we look to grow from 30 to 60 people over the year… and we would love for you to be one of them.
There are a lot of reasons to work here:
The Trajectory: We are one of the fastest growing companies in New York right now. Nothing against subscription boxes for your chinchilla or machine learning to help people click more ads, but we’re working on a problem that matters. Allowing people to achieve freedom in their life by sharing their expertise is a cause we can all get behind.
The Culture: I could add pictures of our office space or talk about how we’re chill (af) and let people do their own thing as long as they get their work done. Or share pictures from our many internal parties, our retreat and our hackathon and all that good stuff. I could — and guess what? — I will:
But ultimately, none of that really matters. All of that pales in comparison to the single most valuable reason for working here:
We have built an incredibly smart and talented team here, people that have achieved great things before Teachable and people that will go on to start some of the biggest and most successful companies of the future.
Moreover, every single person that works here truly, deeply gives a 💩.
Nothing we can offer you in compensation and benefits could compare to the improvement in the quality of your life that you will derive from the people you will spend over a third of your waking hours with. We are not a remote company and intend to make full use of it.
Intrigued? Have a look at our open jobs — or even if nothing is a fit, subscribe to find out about future openings at Teachable.
I want to hear from you. We are humbled to have you along for our journey thus far. What can we be doing to serve you better in 2017? Leave a response in the comments below.