Sunday, 12 June 2016

Thoughts

I've been working as a project manager on an interesting project named "Dadafish" for quite some time. The intention is to create a sharing economy platform for lifestyle teaching/learning. Put in a more straightforward way, an Airbnb for classes.



There is one assumption:  People are willing to pay to learn skills from amateur or semi-pros at a lower price.

Quite some ongoing arts classes in meetups are taught in cafe shops at 15-50SGD/session. It's an indirect validation of our assumption. There are also many free language classes in meetups and facebook groups. We did an experiment to validate the assumption by introducing a Japanese friend who's organizing a free meetup to teach Japanese. She doesn't have a certificate and she's currently teaching Japanese in meetups for free. The experiment class was charged at 15 SGD/h per person for a 3-4 pax group class. We posted the class and teacher info in a NUS student/alumni SNS group and three people signed up. One student who intends to travel to Japan with her parents, one working adult who's currently working in a Japanese company and one fresh graduate who's interested in Japanese culture. The class turned out to be really good despite the fact that the teacher is not a pro.



There were two local companies who tried the experiment before: Learnemy(C2C) and LessonsGoWhere(B2C). Both of them failed. Learnemy's lady went to Facebook to work. LessonsGoWhere just sold the company this year after a big loss with the introduction of SkillFuture program by the Singapore government.

In the states, there are also some companies tried that. One of them is SkillShare. They initially tried offline teaching but they failed to solve the location issue. Then they become a purely online learning platform.

The problem statement wasn't strong enough if we are simply another marketplace for people to find cool things to learn. That'll end up to be a supplementary platform of SkillFuture.

While meeting up with the founder of LessonsGoWhere, he's proposing the followings:
  • There are normally two models to work things out. Saas model and the marketplace model. For learning/education, Saas model makes more sense. It can be a platform to empower the teachers/organisations to manage their classes. Marketplace model can work for lifestyle things, but not tuition.
  • For the two kinds of classes: fixed class(one-off classes) and recurring classes. The marketplace model is very unlikely to work for recurring classes as people will stay with the teacher and not stay with your platform any longer. For fixed classes, it works.
  • Focus on one vertical, not everything. As a startup, resources are very limited. We've got to be very strong in one domain before spreading to other domains. He gave a very good example of their growth story. Early the second year, they are getting better in acquiring new classes. However, the sales don't get grow. With 25% growth in the bookable classes in all categories, only 5% of growth in the total sales. Then they changed the strategy to focus more on cooking/baking classes(the strongest domain they have). It paid off.

My partner Otto and I also met Bastian, a cool growth hacker based in Singapore.

  • The problem statement for our platform is not clear. Is it still teaching/learning app or a social meetup app? The answer is still learning centric lifestyle app. The later one will have a better possibility to scale and go viral.
  • People do not want to be the first buyer. Thus for every Groupon, it always shows someone already bought the class.
  • Groupon has nothing to do with group indeed. People buy the products/services because they themselves want.
  • For marketplace chicken&egg problem, a common practise is to gather one side(either demands or supplies) to create the awarenesses even with fake posts.

For far, we are still trying very hard to find the product market fit. After visiting many space owners, lesson providers and students, we realised the biggest pain points for hosts in the learning platform are:

  1. Location. As individuals, hosts have little ideas on how to find proper locations to teach for private classes. Top priorities are condo function rooms, followed by public cafes. 
  2. Marketing&Branding. Personal branding are mostly built through word of mouth. However, that's not scalable. They should be a more powerful and useful tool for them to build the networks. So far, meetups and personal connections are the best.

Used to think in the line that we can turn under-utilized spaces into a teaching hub. Another startup in NYC is currently working on that. That sounds interesting. Let's work things out.