Paul Graham says, “A startup is a company designed to grow fast.”
And, it is possible to build a company that grows fast by teaching a skill.
The idea is simple, pick a skill that has demand in the market, now and for the foreseeable future. Then train people in that skill. Make sure that anyone without any professional qualifications, and decent intelligence, can use the skills you teach to get a job.
Ask yourself if you could charge any amount then what and how will you teach? Plan and prepare to teach that way.
If you think about this kind of learning cannot be mass. It has to be personalized with 1-on-1 interactions.
Then offer that learning for free. How can you do that and still make money? You can. If you are not charging upfront it does not mean you won’t get paid. Get paid once the person you taught gets a job, by getting a small percentage of their first and second year’s salary.
Don’t stop at teaching, get the people placed. If you think about this kind of learning cannot be mass. It has to be personalized with 1-on-1 interactions. That is how you will be able to charge a premium. Because the outcome for the customer is super valuable, without any risk for them, they will happily pay.
What is your risk?
People can take you for a ride if you offer a no upfront program. That’s not an issue because you’ll have an agreement. Another risk may be not getting trainable people. For that create an application and a brief interview. Don’t make these tough. Use them to make sure that those who are keen to join are ready to invest time and work hard. Then have monthly check-ins and reviews so that the progress is ensured.
I will take effort. But not so much if the product (the person you trained is good). That is the business model – teaching and getting people a job instead of just offering an online course for a low fee and not having any responsibility for the outcome.
Business schools follow the same model. They build a program around a set of 30-50 books. Then they add classroom learning and networking to the mix and charge an unreasonable amount when compared to the cost of the books. Most of the learning is diluted and not focused on one outcome. That is getting a job.
If you can pick a skill that allows for geo arbitrage, then your gains and those of your customer’s will be huge. For example, train people in markets like India and the Philippines and get them a ‘remote’ job in markets like the USA.
You don’t need a lot of capital to start this way. You can become big without starting big. If you are low on capital then charge money upfront for first 3-4 learning cohorts. Later go to no upfront payment model.
The beauty of this idea is that is human-intensive but capital-efficient, and scalable.
Teaching is nothing new, but how you deliver it can make a lot of difference.
Entrepreneurs have tried the marketplace or multiple skills-focused model for teaching. There have been several failures, and also some successes like Udemy and Lynda (which LinkedIn bought for more than a billion dollars).
That model is good for those startups but no so much for the learners. More than 90% invest money but don’t complete the course because they don’t get personal attention.
Startups like Lambda School are already taking advantage of this situation. And, there is space for more startups focused on different industries and skillsets.
Does this idea excite you?