Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Skillshare Raises $3.1 Million to Turn Everyone Into Teachers


A Skillshare class on baking scones. 
SkillshareA Skillshare class on baking scones.
Would-be bed-and-breakfast owners can turn to Airbnb to get their operations off the ground, and basement inventors have Kickstarter to test the waters and see if their creations have a market.
Now, Skillshare is hoping to turn the average person with a bit of know-how into a teacher. The service, based in New York, lets people sign up to teach and attend short classes that touch on subjects as diverse as beer tasting, photography, programming and making baby food from scratch.
On Tuesday, the company is announcing that it has raised $3.1 million in a Series A round of venture financing, led by Union Square Ventures and Spark Capital, to extend its offerings. Previously the company raised a $550,000 round of seed funding from Founder Collective and SV Angel, among others.
Mike Karnjanaprakorn, one of the founders of the company and its chief executive, said he hoped Skillshare would broaden access to classroom learning and education, much as Airbnb expanded the accommodations market for adventurous travelers.
“We can use the Web to democratize learning and make it affordable and accessible to anyone,” he said.
The company, which got off the ground in early April, has been heavily focused on expanding its community of teachers and students. The service now has 2,700 teachers signed up to offer classes. Recently the service introduced a review-based system so people can leave comments on teachers and classes. In addition, the site now has social features that let people “follow” teachers and subjects they like to stay abreast of when new seminars are added.
The average class costs around $20. To make money, Skillshare shaves a 15 percent fee from the cost of the class. Even so, Mr. Karnjanaprakorn says that some teachers are able to make upward of $1,000 per class that they teach through the site.
“It’s possible to use Skillshare to make residual income on the side, much like Airbnb,” he said.
Mr. Karnjanaprakorn said the company planned to use the funds for “talent and expansion” and opening offices in other cities. Right now, Skillshare is available only in New York, but it will soon have offices in San Francisco and Philadelphia, and hopes to expand to Boston, New Orleans, Portland, Seattle and Los Angeles by the end of the year.

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