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Dave Schappell's latest idea: weekly deals

A few months ago, TeachStreet founder Dave Schappell was lamenting the fact that nearly everyone he bumped into asked about his company’s “Groupon strategy.” Schappell didn’t like the hype, but now the Seattle entrepreneur appears to have caught a mild case of deal fever. TeachStreet today plans to announce a new offering, which allows its users to earn weekly discounts on everything from dance to knitting to Spanish classes.

It’s a natural move for TeachStreet, which operates a massive online directory of nearly 500,000 classes from more than 93,000 music, language and other teachers.

But what about those comments from a few months ago?

“We didn’t, and still don’t, like the idea of becoming ‘a deal site,'” Schappell tells GeekWire. “We think that’s a race to the bottom for the folks who only play in that space — attracting the worst deal-seeking-only customers, and having nothing else to offer service providers.”

The difference with the TeachStreet offering, he said, is that the Madrona-backed company already offers much more than daily deals.

“This was just another way for us to generate leads for teachers,” said Schappell, adding that the company also provides class listings, SEO, Craigslist support, social media marketing tools and more.

TeachStreet's first daily deal in Seattle

TeachStreet is starting out the new offering with discounts from Educator.com– $59 for a 6-month access pass normally valued at $150 — and from Arthur Murray Dance —  $25 for a 3-class dance package that normally sells for $59.

It plans to offer one weekly local Seattle deal, with expansion into other cities coming over time.

The company isn’t going into the business completely blind. In fact, it built the technology that powers the four-month-old daily deal offering for The Washington Post’s Service Alley site.

That provided a lot of experience and know-how in the emerging area, and led to the company building its own technology rather than partnering with other daily deal services. Schappell notes that some of the white-label offerings are expensive, and the technology itself wasn’t too hard to build.

The splintering of daily deal sites into niche categories was bound to happen, and we’ve already seen this occur in the Seattle area with the emergence of sites set up for a wide array of product categories and interests. (Baby products, guy’s products, etc.) [Previously: Following in Groupon’s footsteps, a parade of daily deal sites]

Schappell, for one, believes the focused approach will help the company attract interest and drive revenue.

“We think we’ll bring much higher quality customers to our schools/teachers, as our normal visitor is lifelong-learning focused,” he said.

Schappell declined to disclose the revenue split with the deal providers, but he did say that the company does not plan to compete with Groupon and others on price. The higher TeachStreet rates haven’t caused much concern among deal providers, who Schappell said are excited about getting the exposure on the site.

“..We’ll be delivering a much higher-quality customer versus the Groupon (and) LivingSocial’s of the world,” he said.

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