Chicago’s Snapclass Makes the Education Pivot
Once an all-encompassing platform for online content creators to monetize their expertise, Chicago-based Snapclass has pivoted in recent months to become a channel for online education.
Beginning in February, Snapclass will start offering its subscribers a white label client that allows them to connect with a network of users who can seek them out on topics they’re looking to learn more about. The startup is aiming to provide a straightforward tool for educational organizations, businesses, and even individuals who can teach without ever stepping outside their home.
Snapclass co-founder and CEO Scott Mandel gives us an inside look at the company’s recent redirection, and teaches us a lesson on why you should always get out early.
What inspired you to create Snapclass?
The inspiration for Snapclass came from poker actually; I used to play and coach professional poker. I would do that online using a number of different tools like Skype, PayPal, Dropbox, my Gmail account, and a calendar to kind of facilitate the whole education process.
There wasn’t really a solution that had all those components built into one platform. It took a little while but I built it.
We’ve taken a few pivots since our launch. Our original idea over a year ago was to connect experts with individuals and we wanted to facilitate that connection via video chat online.
The one problem we found was experts wanted to charge a lot for their time and oftentimes didn’t really need the money. On the other side, individuals were pretty cheap and they were only willing to talk and pay for a certain high-level expert, but the two price points were off by too much.
We ventured down the path of education because people are used to paying for education, whether it’s tutoring or college. We tried to curate a tutoring marketplace, if you will, with tutors and teachers on one side and students on the other.
Curating a marketplace was very difficult for us, but at the same time speaking with these teachers, tutors, experts. and consultants, they all said, “I might have a use for this platform, I’d love to use it.” So we’ve kind of retrofitted our existing infrastructure to allow these businesses to use our platform on their own site.
When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I think I knew from a pretty early age. I always had a lot of ideas and I always thought things were done inefficiently and I always wanted to solve that.
I wasn’t much of an engineer; my background is in business and finance. I just decided that after college I wanted to venture down this path. It took a lot longer than expected and I’ve had some bumps and bruises along the way, but we’re getting there.
Who are some entrepreneurs that inspire you?
Richard Branson is definitely an inspiration. He goes with his gut and is not afraid to screw up. I think you need that when you’re an entrepreneur -- you can’t be afraid of failure.
What was your very first job and what did it teach you?
When I was 13 I was a busboy at an Italian restaurant. Obviously being 13 I wasn’t old enough to work, but my parents knew the owners so they put me to work. This is a brand new restaurant and we were making unbelievable money. I’d come home with $200 or $250 a night and for a 13 year-old that’s a ton of money.
As the restaurant got older and management began to have some problems, there were days that I’d work and I’d make $15 or $20. Then I realized that good things don’t last forever and I also stayed there too long. I should’ve quit way before. I always thought that things would get better. I held on a little too long.
From that experience I learned that good things don’t last forever, and also get out while you still can.
How would you spend your days if you had all the money in the world?
I’d probably be on the other side of the table, as far as raising money is concerned. I’d be investing in other entrepreneurs. I think the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of the U.S. is what’s going to lead this country so I think the education system and the way people are taught to approach work needs to be changed. I would definitely be doing something in that area to help.
What does 2013 have in store for Snapclass?
On February 4th we are officially launching our white label platform, which will be available on a subscription basis. There will be a number of new features coming out and different customizations available to our users as well as an API shortly thereafter.
The ultimate goal is to help education and training companies grow their business and bring it online.