SkillPop. I love this business.
With a strong, valuable marketplace model where buyers and sellers find mutual value, SkillPop is gaining momentum quickly in Charlotte, and now, the Raleigh-Durham area.
I recently had a cup of coffee with SkillPop’s Founder and CEO Haley Bohon. I left inspired.
Here’s my synopsis:
With SkillPop, buyers are consumers who are interested in having cool experiences, learning new skills and expanding their knowledge. SkillPop enables this with what they call “pop-up classes”. Pop-up classes are short duration (2-3 hours) learning sessions/classes led by local experts and artisans; they’re typically hosted in cool, intimate settings – think breweries, galleries, co-working spaces, etc. As a consumer, I can just visit the SkillPop website and find classes I’m interested in.
The sellers are also in a great spot. You have photography skills you want to share? You know how to do Argentinian dance, paint with watercolors or speak Russian? Well, there is a marketplace on SkillPop where you can post classes, then teach people who are excited and motivated to learn what you have to offer – and you get PAID for it. What a great way to be a moonlight entrepreneur or just engage in your passion. I love it.
Some key business drivers I see:
SkillPop benefits from “the network effect”. Network effect refers to fact the value of the business grows with each new participant in the network or offering of the network. The more classes offered by sellers, the more appeal there tends to be for buyers. The more buyers consume the classes the more they will attract sellers – those who are motivated to “teach”. Each new node on the network, makes the whole network more valuable.
SkillPop can develop great operating leverage. As a marketplace, SkillPop can develop a self-provisioning model where teachers post classes with minimal human touch (although light curation will always be valuable). Customers register online with simple technology. Therefore, SkillPop can scale its offerings dramatically with minimal increases in fixed costs (people, offices, computers, etc.) which should drive great operating margins – and great leverage.
SkillPop is agile, creative and agnostic. Unlike traditional learning environments that may be constrained by physical space, institutional oversight, full-time teachers, infrastructure and many other things, SkillPop can rapidly shift offerings, locations, approaches or just about anything to capture trends and market dynamics. This agile framework will allow SkillPop to move quickly and leave traditional schools in the rearview mirror.
OPPORTUNITIES: What might the future hold?
SkillPop already has a great model and plenty of options. But considering the future and where they could go, here are a few approaches I think are interesting:
- SkillPop can continue to expand geographically offering local pop-classes virtually anywhere.
- SkillPop can offer franchise options to allow local operators to leverage the business model, technology and best practices.
- SkillPop can dramatically expand the scope of its offerings – think pop-up sports training, pop-up business training and on and on. (Haley, the sky is truly the limit!)
- SkillPop could consult and advise with thousands of “traditional” learning frameworks (schools, universities, large events, etc.) to redefine the future of learning and teaching.
THREATS: Where do I see risks?
- SkillPop’s business model has reasonably low barriers to entry so similar or exact businesses could continue to proliferate.
- SkillPop may have to invest heavily in marketing to build and expand the brand when entering new areas or demographics.
- SkillPop will need very strong leaders beyond the CEO and/or a powerful culture to ensure consistent experiences are achieved market to market, class to class, etc.
- SkillPop could be disintermediated by their own customers (both on the teaching/hosting side as well as user side).
As I said, I love this business. I think their model can absolutely redefine local and experiential learning. I look forward to watching where their team takes SkillPop and hopefully learning some Argentine tango, Russian, or hand-lettering along the way myself.
Check it out, take in a class, explore.
Yours in startups,
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