CourseHorse, a New York City-based startup that runs a platform that curates the best classes from local education providers along with a centralized booking engine for prospective students, has raised $500,000 in a seed funding round led by a group of investors including New York Angels, NYC Seed, Pinterest’s first investor Brian Cohen, and others.
The new money will come in handy as CourseHorse has just started to expand beyond its hometown of New York and into other metropolitan regions. It’s first move out of the Big Apple is through a new partnership with Time Out Magazine, which this month will start running a CourseHorse-powered class discovery platform on its sites in both NYC and Los Angeles.
CourseHorse was co-founded by NYU grads Katie Kapler and Nihal Parthasarathi, who won the 2011 New Venture Business Plan Competition held at the NYU Stern School of Business for their original idea and business plan. Since then, the company has expanded significantly in New York, and it now boasts more than 20,000 classes from more than 500 class providers from non-profits such as the 92nd Street YMCA, brands such as Le Pain Quotiidian, universities such as the City University of New York, and small businesses.
CourseHorse takes a commission on each class booked through its engine, and it is seeing steady growth on all fronts — traffic growth is growing 40 percent month-over-month, Kapler told me in an interview this week, with enrollment and revenue growing around 50 percent monthly.
CourseHorse isn’t just a standard college class finder — although it does have many of those types of courses on its platform. It spans everything from recreational classes such as salsa dancing, workshops such as wine tasting, and semester-long courses such as computer programming.The company, which counts Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley as an adviser, has six full-time employees and a handful of contractors. With the new funding, Kepler says CourseHorse will continue to expand its product to new metro areas and add new features. “Up until now we’ve purposely been bootstrapped and lean. This capital will help us to launch the next version of CourseHorse, which will have a stronger recommendation engine to suggest classes that might be most interesting to each user,” Kepler said. “We also plan to expand to two or three additional cities in the next year, after launching in Los Angeles later this month.”
In terms of the competitive landscape, SkillShare is probably the most buzzed-about new startup in the web-enabled continuing education space. But its peer-to-peer marketplace enabling individuals to provide lessons to other another is quite different from CourseHorse’s engine, for finding classes from professional institutional providers. Kepler says that she sees these peer-to-peer marketplaces as well as how-to guides such as Snapguide as more complementary to CourseHorse than they are competitive.
“We don’t allow individuals to list classes on CourseHorse. Our value-add is that these are interesting programs from professional providers,” she said. “And how-to guides have an important role in helping people start to get interested in a topic, so they’re great partners for us. We want to be the next step — it’s like getting a gym membership when you’re really ready to get fit.”