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TakeLessons.com

TakeLessons Raises Another $4 Million and Launches Local Tutoring

By TakeLessons.com, Venture Capital No Comments

TakeLessons ScreenshotToday, we announced a round of funding to further our advancement into music and to launch our second vertical – tutoring – starting with San Diego tutors and Austin tutors.

I’ve been asked why we chose tutoring. We see it as a complimentary market to music.

  • Fragmented, yet large market
  • Tutors would rather do what they love vs. do administration and paperwork
  • Market is underserved by technology
  • We can now offer a new service to an existing student customer
  • Fits within our expertise of what we do
  • Allows us to leverage our online platform, so we can deliver a great experience either in person or online
  • Recurring revenue

So, I’m happy to announce a new chapter in the TakeLessons’ history book. We look forward to helping more and more instructors make a living doing what they love.

Press release below:

 

TakeLessons Closes $4 Million Venture Capital Financing. Announces Launch of New Tutoring Vertical.

SAN DIEGO, CALIF, January 29, 2013 – TakeLessons (http://www.takelessons.com),  the largest online service marketplace for music lessons in the U.S., today announced that it has completed a $4 million round of venture capital financing, bringing the total investment into the company to over $12 million. Triangle Peak Partners of Palo Alto led the round with participation from Siemer Ventures and existing investors Crosslink Capital and SoftTech VC.

Steven Cox, TakeLessons’ Founder and CEO said, “this new investment will aid our continued growth and leadership in the music space and will fuel our platform expansion into new marketplaces, including tutoring and the other performing arts.”

TakeLessons has paid out over $10,000,000 to music teachers who are serving students in over 3,000 cities. The rapid growth has recently been driven by TakeLessons’ Online Lesson platform, which enables more flexible scheduling and eliminates geographic constraints.

In addition to music education expansion, TakeLessons announced the launch of its new tutoring marketplace in San Diego this month and will serve Austin, Las Vegas, Sacramento and Denver by the end of Q1.

The funds from this round will be invested in product development to deliver an improved lesson experience for teachers and students and to pave the way for horizontal expansion into new markets. Karen Baumbach, VP of Finance and Alan Cole, Chief Revenue Officer, recently joined TakeLessons to support the company’s aggressive growth targets.

“We’re committed to helping teachers make a living doing what they love to do,” remarked Cole. “This funding will support investment in our tools that allow private instructors to acquire and retain the best students.”

About TakeLessons
TakeLessons, the largest online service marketplace for music lessons in the U.S., has been connecting music students with the best local music teachers since 2006. The company provides convenient, safe, affordable and fun music lessons to students of all ages. A pioneer in the online services space, TakeLessons also equips teachers with web-based scheduling, billing and communication tools. For more information and to find the best local teachers, interested parties should visit www.takelessons.com

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TakeLessons Reviews

By At Work, TakeLessons.com 2 Comments

I get a lot of satisfaction by working on things that make a positive, lasting impact. There’s a ton of ways to make money, so I figure why not make a living doing something that creates value for people. This concept has been echoed by my company to where the company philosophies are similar to my own.

At TakeLessons we are truly dedicated to building a company we can be proud of – a company that does good for those we serve, our employees, and those that took a risk with us by investing their money. As a result of hard work, we get amazing TakeLessons reviews from our students and teachers all the time. Receiving a rave review or a five-star rating for TakeLessons always makes my day because it shows me that our work makes a positive impact on the world.

We get a ton of feedback from our users – most of it good, and sometimes things we need to work on (we’re certainly not perfect). Here, I’d like to share a few special messages from some of our students and teachers.

From Students

Subject: Stellar Teacher: TakeLessons Reviews on Chrissy

I have been working with Chrissy for some time now. I have enjoyed every minute of it. My skills have improved dramatically and this is due to her diligence and outstanding teaching skills and attitude. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend her to anyone that asked more for a teacher. Please pass these kudos on to her and note her record accordingly.

Thanks

Dave M, TakeLessons Student in Henderson, NV

Subject: I Love Joshua! TakeLessons Review from Scott B.

Hi,

I love Joshua! He is perfect for me and what I need. Specifically, Joshua has met me where I am in terms of my skills and experience. I am a more advanced student than Joshua typically gets. Instead of teaching me skills and songs segments, which I have done with other teachers, he focused on teaching me and playing with me! We plugged into his amps, created a rhythm track and jammed together. I have since put a pickup in my acoustic guitar and am practicing more effectively at home now. I love working with Joshua!

Regards,
Scott B., student in San Diego, CA.

Subject: My Son Enjoyed Every Minute! TakeLessons Review from Molly K.

I wanted to let you know that Eli had his first drum lesson with teacher Sheldon. I cannot express to you how impressed I was.Eli tends to have focus trouble due to his cerebral palsy and he was so focused and enjoyed every minute of his lesson. Teacher Sheldon was fantastic at working with him showing him and getting him involved in the lesson and learning. I am just so excited to see how the next one goes.I just thought you’d like to know.

Molly K, Student in Lawrenceburg, IN

Subject:My Son’s Lessons: TakeLessons Review from Juline H

Al is a wonderful teacher, My son is having a really
great time taking lessons. It’s more repetitious than he anticipated and
harder than he thought it would be, however he is as adamant as ever to keep
pushing through and still loves to play the guitar. Thank you guys very
much for helping my son have this opportunity!

Juline H, Student in Peoria, AZ

 
 

From Teachers

Subject: You Gave Me Hope: TakeLessons Review from Alkesis B.

I absolutely loved the webinar you held yesterday! I thought you were great at conducting such a clear and informative hour, that kept my attention the entire time. I told my wife yesterday how excited I was to work with your company! I’m honestly pretty skeptical after several horrible experiences with other companies. All of them owe me anywhere from one to five thousand dollars for lessons I taught that I am still waiting to get paid for. That is honestly the only reason I’ve left other companies that I spent one to five years contracting for in the decades I’ve taught lessons. So what I’m trying to say is you gave me hope :)I appreciate your time and attention and I look forward to working with you!

Aleksis B, TakeLessons Teacher in Germantown, MD

 

Subject: Appreciate the Support: TakeLessons Review from Rusty R.

My Note: This teacher had a death in the family and we worked with him to reschedule his lessons for that day. This was his response.

I want you to know how much I appreciate your help, concern and support. I will resume teaching this Friday with my student Alex, and move forward. It has always impressed me that in the worst of times,  it brings out the best in people,  and although due to the miles we’ve only talked by phone, your kindness and empathy will not be forgotten.My sincerest thanks once again.

Rusty R, TakeLessons Teacher in Memphis, TN

Subject: Student Accolade: TakeLessons Review from Katrina D.

I just wanted to let you know that my student, Jonathan A, auditioned for Celia Cruz High School of Music in the Bronx this evening. He sang the National Anthem and played Minuet in G, Mozart, on the guitar. He was asked to sight read on both instruments as well.

He did such a great job that the string teacher pulled him aside afterwards and let him know unofficially that he wants Jonathan in his string section and was willing to fight the choral department for him. I am sure this does not happen often (a teacher stepping off-stage to unofficially welcome an auditioning student), and am so very impressed that he did so well and will most likely be accepted to the high school beginning next September.

It is always wonderful working with young children, and seeing their hard work pay off. Jonathan met with me earlier today and seemed a little less confident than usual as his audition loomed over him. As a teacher, it is important to know when to pick on the little things and when to pump your students up – and today was a little bit of each, and more of the latter.

I thought you might want to hear about this wonderful benchmark in Jonathan’s musical career, probably one of the first of many great experiences that will shape him as a musician, and see how Takelessons has had a part in his growth.

Katrina D, TakeLessons Teacher in Bronx, NY

 

Creating Corporate Culture: Interview with John Assaraf Part 9 and 10

By Business Philosophy, Company Culture, Entrepreneur Insights, Speaking, Start-Ups, TakeLessons.com, Videos No Comments

John Assaraf sat down with Steven Cox, CEO of TakeLessons.com, to discuss what it means to create and maintain a thriving corporate culture. In this interview, Cox defines corporate culture, outlines steps entrepreneurs can take to define their company’s culture and shows how a strong culture can translate into other great gains for any organization.

Part 9 in the video series. Subscribe for email alerts when more videos are posted.

Part 10 in the video series. Subscribe for email alerts when more videos are posted.

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 1

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 2

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 3

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 4

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 5

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 6

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 7

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 8

Cox: Because of the belief system that we have, we do not treat people that way. Nor will we be treated that way. It’s just the value system that we had that was correct for us and it was the best thing that we’ve ever done for the culture of the company. It wasn’t planned. These sorts of serendipitous things will happen in your own organization as you grow and you find out that when push comes to shove, you’re not going to deviate from this.

Assaraf: This is what I stand for.

C: This is what I stand for. People still tell that story today in the company about how we do things. The third value we have is Build Stuff You’re Proud Of. And the story on this is, being a tech company, we had been involved, not as owners, but as workers at other tech companies where what they tried to do throughout the nineties is do just enough to make it look like they had a product to get some sucker to buy them and sell their company to another company. We decided early on that we didn’t want to be one of those sorts of companies. We wanted to do something that we could look back on and we wanted to build a site that we’re very, very proud of. That has resonated with us and kept us very, very true to what we do.

If given the choice between building things right and building things quick, we choose building it right. In the tech world, that means we move a little bit slower than others. We’ve been round and round with investors about that but at the same time, we want to build things the right way. That has expanded out from technology into every area of the company. So if you’re in Customer Support, have calls you’re proud of. If you’re in Marketing or Sales, sell things that you’re proud of, cut deals that you’re proud of. Write code that you’re proud of. All this means is contributing in such a way that it makes a positive, lasting difference in millions of people. See how now it ties in with our core purpose.

A: It ties in with your purpose. You get that?

C: So the values systems stack up and start resonating together.

A: I love this stuff.

C: This next one, this is my own personal litmus test. The way I describe it is, I want to build stuff I’m proud of. What am I proud of? This is my grandfather, he’s 92 and I want to build things that my grandfather would use and be proud of using. For me, he’s the best guy I know, the most honest guy and he’s my personal litmus test. If you can find this sort of thing for you, then you know. You’re always faced in business with so much opportunity. The big key is being able to decide what to say no to. You’ll have lots and lots of opportunities to say yes, lots of people pulling you in different directions. If you can learn to say no based on a value system, it makes the world a lot easier.

A: Make your default “no” and then move to “yes” is what I always tell people because we’re all so wanting to help everyone else. We have this opportunity and this opportunity and we need to start saying no to everything and moving towards yes and having reasons for moving towards yes, then that gives you a much easier framework to deal with. Love that.

C: Absolutely.

A: CANI!

C: CANI! You’re very familiar with that. This one is borrowed from Anthony Robbins…

A: Who borrowed it from the Japanese Kai Zen.

C: Right, it’s all borrowed and that’s okay. You don’t have to come up with these yourself but what’s important is that it’s true. And this is one of my own personal beliefs and it ties in with the innovation of the company. As a company, growth isn’t serendipitous, growth isn’t okay; it’s required. It’s a big difference. You can feel the difference even as I say that. We are expected when we’re hiring someone in they know today is great, tomorrow’s got to be better. Tomorrow after that has to be better. Not only as a company but we actually want you as a person to grow. Because we believe if we can get you to grow and to learn these life lessons and set goals, we teach people to set goals within the company, accomplish those goals, you can apply that to your personal life, apply that to your business life. In general, that makes you a happier person. Happier people are just cooler to work with.

Part 10 in the video series. Subscribe for email alerts when more videos are posted.

Assaraf: Let me ask you a question. When you say, today is okay, tomorrow’s gonna be better, the next day is gonna be even better than that, I want to make sure people get this distinction. It’s not that you’re not or we’re not good enough today, right? What I hear and what I know of you is, we’re capable of growing individually, professionally, personally and as a business if we have this focus on just getting better. Not from a scarcity or negative perspective; it’s from a human growth and fulfill our potential perspective. That’s the message that you share with your employees.

Cox: Exactly. If you go back to the prior value of Respect for yourself, I have no problem telling my team and them telling me and everyone in the company going, wow, we are really awesome. In fact, I expect that. We want awesome people. We want them to be able to look and say, I absolutely rock. And, that’s good enough for today. Tomorrow I am going to rock even harder. That’s just what we do as a company. We are totally accepting that we are awesome as we are, and I say that actually in a very humble way, it’s not in a bragging way. No matter how awesome we are today, what we do know is the world keeps moving. Things keep going on and part of the joy is keeping up and getting ahead.

A: And by the way, what I want to make sure that you’re all in agreement and accordance with is that these are Steven’s and his team’s values, alright? They’re not yours. If they happen to be yours, that’s great, but this isn’t about taking Steven’s and his company’s values and making them yours. This is really about identifying your own and living that truth, that purpose, that value system, so that you’re living your life for your purpose and what you stand for and what you stand against as well. Some people might say, oh my God, that’s too much pressure, I don’t want that kind of pressure. Well, he thrives in it and so do I. Other people say, oh my God, if tomorrow’s got to be better than yesterday and the day before, I’m in chaos, I don’t like that, that’s cool. But you find people in your team that that’s cool with as well so that you make your growth and your day to day life easier to handle and manage.

C: Right. Someone’s value system could be, I don’t live to work, I work to live, or something, which means I am going to limit my time to 30 hours a week. That could be someone’s value system and that’s just as relevant for them as our value systems are for us. So again, back to Lady Gaga, there is no right or wrong culture. It’s finding what’s true for you.

A: That’s the key.

C: Our final value is Perseverance. We’ve defined that as certainty in the face of obstacles. This really came from a story and I’m sure this will resonate with you guys as well. We were trying out different models and again, we were self-funded, and we were basically down to a couple paychecks left. We weren’t making a lot of money to start with. All the guys were taking a discount on what they should be earning. It was basically down to the wire and I said, guys, we either have to do something this month and make this happen or we’re not going to be around next month. So, what do you want to do? It was quiet in the room and they were all kind of sitting there and they said, well, we better work hard then. We better get back to work. It was the perseverance of not even accepting the idea that we would quit. Quitting is not an option. It’s easy to say, it’s harder to do when you’re down to the last dime, knowing that, hey, if we don’t make something happen it’s going to be a difficult situation here in just a couple weeks. And it was those sorts of things that we’ve applied in different areas of the company as well. It’s perseverance when we’ve kicked off several versions of the website and we thought it was awesome and we did testing and it completely bombed. What we did is we simply back-tracked and we tried it again. So now we have a culture of innovation where trying things is cool and the expectation of failure is okay. In other words, the idea of not trying something because it might fail, is just completely not within our value system at all.

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 1

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 2

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 3

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 4

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 5

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 6

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 7

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 8

 

Creating Corporate Culture – John Assaraf Interview Part 8

By Business Philosophy, Company Culture, Entrepreneur Insights, Speaking, Start-Ups, TakeLessons.com, Videos No Comments

John Assaraf sat down with Steven Cox, CEO of TakeLessons.com, to discuss what it means to create and maintain a thriving corporate culture. In this interview, Cox defines corporate culture, outlines steps entrepreneurs can take to define their company’s culture and shows how a strong culture can translate into other great gains for any organization.

Part 8 in the video series. Subscribe for email alerts when more videos are posted.

More from this series:

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 1

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 2

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 3

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 4

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 5

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 6

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 7

 

Cox: We hire customer support reps and they are normally in college. It’s kind of a part time job, sometimes a full time job right out of school, and we say the same thing to them. Guys, this is your company as well. Your job here is not to do your job. Your job here is to please the customer but also to make sure your job gets better, to come and take it to the next level. Why? That’s what owners do. We have a whole bunch of examples of what this looks like. I’m not going to read all of them, but you can get an idea of the detail that we go into to describe what an ownership mentality looks like.

Assaraf: So that’s why you say there’s the words “Ownership Mentality” but then you’ve really taken the time to define what that means and then you find people, vendors, suppliers, who really resonate with that Ownership Mentality, whether they’re providing you with a service or whether you’re providing your customer with a service, whether you’re a guitar teacher or a piano teacher, regardless of who you’re dealing with, you look for those qualities to do business together because of the nucleus that creates.

C: Right. That’s a great segue into our second core value, which is Respect, for yourself and others. That basically means we expect people to value themselves as well as to value others highly, meaning the customer, the supplier, the service provider, everybody. It came down to an interesting story and you’ll find these in your own company as well. We were a team of five people and this was before we had done our first round of venture financing and I was funding the business and we weren’t making any money.

A: He was the bank! Many of you are the bank right now!

C: I was the bank. Believe me, I feel your pain a lot. We went five years before we took our first round. We scraped by, we bootstrapped. There was a time in our business when we were selling leads to an instructor, and this is the model we did. Very similar to Google AdWords, we’d sell on a lead acquisition type model.

A: So you were generating leads online and selling those leads to people who were guitar instructors and you’d make your money by selling those leads, so that was your initial business model that you morphed and changed, which a business will do, morph and change over time. I just want to give them some of the underlying lessons; I don’t want them to think they’ve got to be where they want to be at.

C: Right. Along those lines, a little off topic, in essence there’s something in the tech world that’s called pivoting. What that means is, you can normally expect your business, if it’s a tech business, to pivot three or four times before you get your model right. It’s very simply that you have to keep going. This is the third start up I’ve done and it still took us three pivots to figure out what the customer really really wanted out of us. So this was the second pivot we were in. First we had done a subscription model and that didn’t really work so then we did lead generation and that was this model.

There was this one particular group buying leads from us, I won’t name names, but they made up about 30% of our business and they were just buying a tank-load of leads from us. We had one single customer service rep at the time and her name was Lori. Lori was on the phone with this person, we’ll call her “Jill”, her name wasn’t “Jill”, but she was on the phone with “Jill” and what happened was “Jill” couldn’t get her computer working right. Lori was trying to help her but she just had a browser from the 1800’s and Lori said, “I think if you update your browser everything would be taken care of” and this person said, “Oh, it’s my fault? I’ll have you know that your site sucks and you probably don’t even know what you’re talking about because you’re just a customer support rep and I went to Brown. Do you know what Brown is? Brown is an Ivy League school. Do you know what that is?” and starts berating Lori right there in front of the team.

We were a team of five; she made up 30% of our sales. It was at that moment in time, all of us kind of looked at each other and the lady demanded to talk to me. So I got on the phone and I said, “Hey, I just want to let you know that you are now making me choose between my team and you and you are going to lose that battle every time.”

A: Even though she was providing you with 30% of your revenue?

C: We fired her on the spot.

A: The client?

C: We fired the client on the spot.

More from this series:

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 1

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 2

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 3

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 4

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 5

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 6

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 7

 

Creating Corporate Culture – John Assaraf Interview Part 7

By Business Philosophy, Company Culture, Entrepreneur Insights, Speaking, Start-Ups, TakeLessons.com, Videos No Comments

Part 7 in the video series. Subscribe for email alerts when more videos are posted.

More from this series:

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 1

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 2

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 3

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 4

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 5

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 6

John Assaraf sat down with Steven Cox, CEO of TakeLessons.com, to discuss what it means to create and maintain a thriving corporate culture. In this interview, Cox defines corporate culture, outlines steps entrepreneurs can take to define their company’s culture and shows how a strong culture can translate into other great gains for any organization.

Assaraf: So before you get into that, Kristen, does anyone have any questions so far? I want this to be about learning and part of learning is also understanding. So, does anyone have any questions? If you do, let’s take one or two questions right now. If you don’t, then we’ll let Steven keep going. Kristen?

Kristen: Yes, we have a question from Evan. He says, who defines the culture, the directors or the directors along with the employees?

Cox: That’s a great, great question Evan. How many employees does Evan have, do we know?

Assaraf: It’s hard to get a feel for that.

Cox: It’s interesting because we’ve just asked this question again now that we’re at several hundred employees. I personally believe that there is a core group of people that starts by defining what those value systems are and they’re the ones who kind of set the pace for everybody else. They’re the leaders in the company. Then what happens is, folks coming in later have to believe that value system right from the beginning. We don’t teach people Ownership Mentality; they either have it or they don’t. We don’t teach people that you need to constantly improve. The people that come into our company, they want to come in because what they tell us is, these are things that I already believe anyway.

A: If you want to know about the Law of Attraction, for all you “Attractionaires” out there, that’s the Law of Attraction at it’s very finest. You define your nucleus and find people who that resonates with; that’s already what they’re doing and thinking and behave like and that’s the core of resonance right there.

C: Right. Now Evan, the second part of this is there’s a value system and then there’s a set of behaviors that help shape those value systems. And what we believe as a company and what’s right for us is we’ve established a value system that will not change and that we won’t deviate from. Within those value systems, there are behaviors and there’s changes in the marketplace. With every new person coming in, what happens is they adhere to the value system but then they’re free to create their individuality within that. So what we look for are people who naturally believe the value system. Then out of that, we get a tremendous level of creativity within this value system. So we’ve provided the guard rails, and the amount of beautiful activity that happens within the guard rails is exceptional. We do things that I never thought of. Our best ideas, how we embrace that culture and how we enforce that culture does not even come from me now. It comes from some of the employees that are working closest with the customer. Everyone gets their say in what that is without the movement of the structure. Does that make sense?

A: Totally. Hopefully that answers your question. Do we have another one?

Kristen: Yeah, we have another one from Richard. What if I want to keep my company’s personnel size small. I do not want to create a large corporate job for myself.

C: The rules still stay, if it’s a five, ten person company.

A: Even three or four.

C: Yes, three or four. Find three or four people that absolutely resonate with your reason for being, with your own value system. And again, the number doesn’t matter; it gets tougher to do with more people. But the idea is that you’re true to your nucleus. You’re true to your core. And all three, four, four hundred people, the number doesn’t matter, are all moving in the same direction based on a value system that you can all get behind.

A: Awesome. Thank you so much Richard. Let’s let you continue some of your core values, how you designed this and what’s happening with the company.

C: Sure. So our first core value is Ownership Mentality, and what that basically means is we look for people who treat the company as if it were their own. We reinforce that with the idea that you are responsible for your own actions and you are responsible for making sure that the company is growing in the manner that it should. The way we reinforce that is that at any given point in the company, if someone sees something that’s out of line or out of whack with our value system, they have the right as well as the obligation to speak up and say something. So it’s not a hierarchical system where people can’t come to me and say that I’m full of crap. Because they can if they really believe that. Ultimately, you are responsible for the results of the company. That means if you see a piece of trash laying on the ground, you pick it up. Why? Because that’s what owners do. You do not punch a clock. Why? Because owners don’t punch the clock. And we look for people who share those same values, that are looking for that entrepreneurial spirit. This whole idea was formed because we wouldn’t have been in business early if we didn’t find people who had that natural ownership ability. So that’s why it was very key to us and it’s just been resonating throughout the company.

More from this series:

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 1

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 2

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 3

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 4

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 5

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 6