CreativeLive, the fast-growing online education startup founded by photographer Chase Jarvis and entrepreneur Craig Swanson, is getting ready to open its next chapter.
The startup company — founded in Seattle in 2010 — today is announcing that it plans to open a new 12,000 square foot broadcast studio in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood. The new studio will complement its bustling 10,000 square foot location in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, allowing the company to expand the number of online educational courses it offers in the coming months.
It will kick off the new studio on June 20th, hosting a one-of-a-kind live educational confab with lectures and interactive discussions from the likes of LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman; Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff; author Tim Ferriss; Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman; SurveyMonkey CEO David Goldberg; author Guy Kawasaki; and others. The series, dubbed “Secrets from Silicon Valley,” will run on CreativeLive for free as a live broadcast on June 20th and June 21. Replays of the 14 lectures will then be available as a $99 package, following the very successful revenue model that CreativeLive has pioneered over the past three years. Typically, the downloads of CreativeLive courses — some of which top 10 hours of content— sell for $29 to $99, so you can think of it kind of like iTunes for education.
Instructors get a share of that revenue, and to date the company has paid out $3.5 million to instructors. Several instructors have pulled in more than $100,000 for their courses, but the average runs in the $10,000 to $20,000 per class. Most of the entrepreneurs participating in the “Secrets from Silicon Valley” series have agreed to donate their earnings to charity.
To date, CreativeLive has hosted more than 250 courses, representing 12.5 million total learning hours around topic areas such as photography; business; and design. A recent class on PhotoShop attracted a record 150,000 viewers, and most of the courses typically draw around 30,000 folks.
Like the name suggests and unlike some of its heavily-funded competitors such as Lynda.com, CreativeLive broadcasts all of its courses live for free. “We are in the business like SnapChat and Twitter. We are a real-time company,” said Mika Salmi, the former RealNetworks, AtomFilms and MTV exec who was named CEO last fall. “When it’s real-time and live, you can interact. That’s a key part of it. It is not a canned class. The instructor is teaching to a real audience.”
In that regard, Salmi said the company is more like a TV broadcaster.
For the launch of the San Francisco studio, a group of about 30 folks will be chosen via a contest to participate as students in the classes in-person. Of course, Salmi and the rest of the CreativeLive crew are expecting tens of thousands of others to tune into the free broadcasts. And he’s hopeful hundreds of others will purchase the classes if they can’t tune in or miss a few hours.
The new 12,000 square foot studio in San Francisco will be a big step in helping the company scale the business. “We have plenty of instructors, and we have plenty of topics we want to put up. We just need studio space,” he said.
Of course, studio space in the heart of San Francisco doesn’t come cheap. And that’s part of the reason why the 70-person company, which has operated at a profit for much of its history and has touched on it this year as well, raised $7.5 million in venture capital funding from Greylock last year. (Though Salmi says they’ve not really touched that money).
Salmi, who is based out of San Francisco but makes frequent trips to Seattle, said that the new studio will help the company lure more talented lecturers and teachers from California. The company also has experimented with courses broadcast from New York and Las Vegas, and other studios may be opened in the future.
“It’s kind of an interesting question for us long-term: Do we have to be in different time zones, because we are live and we have this real-time element?”
Over time, Salmi said he could see the company hosting multiple live channels around different topic areas, meaning a student could be tuning in to coursework on Web design in Warsaw or film production in Buenos Aires.
Live broadcasts do pose all sorts of interesting challenges, with Salmi noting that one class was canceled because the instructor got laryngitis while another class on newborns saw one of the babies urinate on the instructor.
“That’s what makes it exciting. That’s why the audience likes it. It’s like reality TV. People feel apart of something,” says Salmi. “So, the live aspect — it is risky and it is difficult — but it is a key part of what we do.”
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