Archive for the ‘ClasesD’ tag
On March 16, 2012 I attended the first Demo Day for Internet startups funded by the new venture capital firm mexican.vc. I wrote a blog post that night about the very exciting event. I also wrote a separate post about ClasesD, the only one of the seven startups that I missed interviewing on Demo Day. Finally, I wrote a post showing the very impressive demo Manolo Diaz gave me of Trash Chaos, one of the top educational games on the Apple iPhone and iPad App Store.
Today I present what will likely be my final post on this Demo Day.
I captured video at Demo Day of the startup pitches. Prior to the start of the pitches, I had asked for and received permission from mexican.vc General Partner Santiago Zavala to take pictures and blog about the event.
I forgot to explicitly ask for permission to capture video, so I have been reluctant to publish this video.
Thankfully, yesterday, I asked another General Partner, David Weekly, if it would be alright to publish this video, and happily, he gave me permission, with enthusiasm.
On Friday, March 16, 2012, I attended the first ‘graduation’ of the first ‘class’ of companies funded by the new seed stage venture capital firm mexican.vc. mexican.vc is run by four sharp General Partners — David Weekly, Santiago Zavala, Lisa Seeman and César Salazar.
After the presentations, the teams dispersed around the conference room at Microsoft’s office at 835 Market Street in San Francisco, California USA. There were seven teams altogether. Three of the teams were set up along the left wall and three of the teams were set up against the right wall.
I introduced myself to and interviewed all those teams on Friday, and I wrote a long blog post about them that night.
What I didn’t know at the time was that the seventh team had set up their station up front in the room, where there was not a table, but a podium. That arrangement never registered with me that day, even though I had several lengthy conversations with people by that podium after the presentations. I didn’t know a team was there engaging with attendees. So that team, ClasesD, missed out on the commentary I wrote for my Friday blog post.
I was upset that I missed a team, so I wrote in that Friday post that I was willing to meet with the team I overlooked. The team found my blog post and reached out to me via my Facebook page.
I met the team yesterday afternoon, March 18, 2012, and we had an enjoyable meeting at the San Francisco Main Branch library at Civic Center in the City. I signed out one of the glass work rooms on the 4th floor so that we could talk without disturbing others.
Luis Enrique Aguilera and José Eduardo González described their company to me, and I had time to ask questions.
Before I get into my remarks, here is what the website for mexican.vc has to say about ClasesD:
“Interested in learning Spanish? Want to take yoga during your lunch break? You are in the right place! ClasesD is a marketplace for in-person lessons taught by independent professionals. Earlier this year when founder Eduardo was looking for dance lessons for his sister, he realized there must be a better way to advertise classes than flyers tacked on corkboards around town. Now, his team is helping people craving for knowledge find the right tutor in their city.”
Here are my comments about ClasesD:
ClasesD is SkillShare for Mexico. This is my observation, not something I heard from Aguilera or González. SkillShare is based in New York City, USA, and they have raised millions of dollars to pursue their business.
Although comparisons to airbnb have grown somewhat tiresome, such a comparison to ClasesD is inevitable. airbnb turned everyone that’s not homeless into a potential operator of a bed and breakfast. SkillShare and ClasesD turn everyone into a potential operator of a one teacher school.
If you’re a good cook, musician, painter, photographer, writer or mathematician, you can list your qualifications on ClasesD by creating a profile. Potential students can browse listings and read about the widely varied offerings. Of course, classes can be about anything, not just the example subjects I listed in this paragraph. Teachers set their own prices.
Students indicate their interest in a class and then the ClasesD website connects teacher and student together by telephone. This gives the teacher an opportunity to sell themselves to the student to increase the chances that prospects become customers. This highly personalized sales process might be unwieldy at scale, but I think it’s preferable in these early stages where the parties are still getting used to having an online marketplace to find each other in Mexico.
ClasesD makes money by charging a fee, currently 100 pesos (USD $7.93 at today’s exchange rate), to the teacher for providing the lead. Teachers keep all of the fee that they charge to attend their classes.
mexican.vc graduated 7 teams on Friday, including Fontacto. As I wrote in Friday’s post, Fontacto is Ring Central for Mexico. Fontacto helps small organizations appear big by offering a virtualized phone system that in its physical version is generally too costly to purchase and install at the organization. In a bit of portfolio company collaboration that would make any investor proud, ClasesD is a savvy consumer of Fontacto’s impressive telephony services.
One of the many impressive features offered by Fontacto is the ability to set up apparently numerous extensions on one physical telephone number.
ClasesD publishes a Fontacto powered phone number for students to call teachers on. Each teacher has an assigned extension number in the Fontacto system. Student’s calls are routed to the teacher, who can answer on whatever phone is most convenient at the time, including their mobile phone or their Skype connection. All the teacher’s assigned devices ring simultaneously, I presume, since that’s one of the features offered by Fontacto, and it makes sense to enable it for this application, where the students are probably most likely to become paying students if they reach the teacher on the first attempt.
ClasesD has a chicken and egg dilema — they need lots of teachers before they can get lots of students, but it’s tough to get lots of teachers until they have lots of students.
Marketplaces such as SkillShare and ClasesD are compelling to me. The operator of the marketplace does not have to stock and finance inventory. People expect to pay for services delivered through such marketplaces. The margins can be attractive given what needs to be done to operate the marketplace.
Aguilera and González struck me as passionate and determined. They’re learning quickly, and have tested several business models already on their search for the best model for Mexico. Their enthusiasm was evident from the moment they contacted me. I am not running TechCrunch, GigaOm or VentureBeat. I’m writing a personal blog. I will get perhaps 12,000 visitors to this site this month (I had 10,321 visitors in February, 2012). I still haven’t cracked the top million sites on Alexa. This is easy for others to check out. That Aguilera and González tracked me down and patiently explained their business to me to get a tiny amount of press shows to me that they are really trying to make ClasesD a success. They are well spoken and likable guys, and I wish them all the best.
My advice to them is to find a prove a business model that works, and then raise a million or more US dollars immediately to accelerate populating the site with more teachers and students. If you don’t solve the chicken and egg problem, a competitor will spring forth to do it for themselves, using your research to move more quickly.
Here are the biographical introductions for Aguilera and González, again from the mexican.vc website:
“Luis Enrique Aguilera graduated from ITESM Guadalajara with a B.S. in Business Administration. He is an entrepreneur, creative mind, and music aficionado. He is passionate about web marketing and SEO. He previously worked as a marketing and business consultant, which taught him to create powerful and innovative business models that he is eager to apply to his own startup.
José Eduardo González graduated from ITESM with a B.S. in Computer Science. Before founding ClasesD, he worked for 2 years as a Ruby on Rails developer in a startup called Inovaz (now a 500 startups company with their product Ovia), where he got his first taste of entrepreneurship and learned agile development practices.”
Aguilera and González graciously posed for pictures at the end of our meeting. I used the photogenic interior of the San Francisco Main Branch library as the backdrop. It was fun showing Aguilera and González around the library as this was their first visit. I attended the grand opening of the library on April 18, 1996, which featured a dramatic special delivery of the door key by skydiver Carl Prigee to Mayor Willie Brown after Prigee jumped from a biplane and landed right on target in front of the library, to the applause of the thousands gathered in attendance.