Chicago-based self-improvement startup Betterfly has been connecting teachers and students in real life for music lessons, relationship coaching, juggling instruction and just about anything you can imagine. But the startup is finally bringing its model online thanks to a live video platform launch today. Betterfly LIVE connects students and teachers for real-time video chat, with a platform built specifically for coaching and teaching.
Co-founder and CTO Kris Petersen and co-founder and CEO Todd Sullivan found in their experience running Betterfly that a lot of their members were already using third-party video tools to connect online, rather than just meeting up on the web.
“We want to take our 50,000 instructors on Betterfly and turn them into online teachers, and to help create a platform to do that,” Sullivan said. “So we launched that live video platform in May in beta, and we’ve been training our community on how to use it, on how to get new customers around the world and how to use that platform to best teach. And now that we have our main categories working well over video, now we’re launching to the public.”
“The history of bringing these clients together with their students locally was that, really, there had been a turn in the community on its own where the top professionals were actually leveraging online communications independent of what we were offering them,” Petersen added. “So we were tuning into what we were seeing on the site, talking to those professionals and finding out what they were doing to understand how to teach these things over video.”
Skype has been used by Betterfly and its instructors before, but there’s good reason to bring native video tech to the platform, both the founders said, and part of that is timing. WebRTC makes it much easier to accomplish than ever before. In fact, Petersen says that what they’ve built likely wouldn’t have been possible a year ago. It also means fewer moving parts for both instructors and students, who now don’t even have to have Skype installed to connect. For Betterfly, it keeps students on the site, instead of funneling them to other methods where they might be tempted to just go it alone, depriving Betterfly of that key relationship.
Betterfly is already offering video communication tailored toward online instruction, and plans to do more, including building in new features and workarounds to get beyond tech limitations like laggy video or less-than-stellar connections. Since it has the experts and the experience to build something designed to make it better for one person to teach something to another, it says this is where it will differentiate its platform. Talks are under way with organizations about broader licensing possibilities for the platform, too.
This is essentially a pivot for Betterfly, helped by a new $1 million investment led by Lightbank and others from its existing investor pool, away from its original focus primarily on in-person interactions. Online video instruction is not a new concept, and there are lots of startups focusing on particular niches. Building a platform that suits each will be a big challenge, but could pay off if it becomes the underlying platform for wider adoption of this kind of thing.