Steven Cox – TakeLessons Company Update at San Diego Venture Group Pitchfest

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Steven Cox, CEO of TakeLessons and winner of 2010 San Diego Venture Group Pitchfest gives an update one year later on the progress the company has made since winning last year.


…Here’s a very simple message for our teachers and that is: you go teach and we will curate the absolute best instructors throughout the nation.

In fact, we hire about 5% of the instructors that apply to work for us as a contractor. We end up curating the top 5% based on an algorithm that we’ve written, as well as personal interviews that we assess each and every one of their character traits.

For the customers,we  provide safe, certified instructors for them. We’ve build online tools that make the site very unique that you can’t find anywhere else in the nation. We offer 100% money back guarantee, so anyone can go out and try lessons and if you don’t like it, just give us a call back and one of our friendly counselors will refund your money.

In essence, what’s happening is the business is going really, really well.

So, I’d like to give you an update on what’s happened. We were looking for a 3 million dollar raise as of December of last year, so we started in January and we took a total of 29 meetings, most of those were in the Bay area firms, we also talked to a couple San Diego firms, talked to Brian in the LA area. From there, this has kind of been the trait. So, in 2006 we had a seed round of $200,000, we did a round in 2008, followed that up in 2010 with $795,000 and last year we closed on our first institutional round for 6 million dollars.

Our lead investor on that was CrossLink Capital. Eric Chin is now a board member,  and it was our very first institutional raise, and I can say that he has been an exceptional board member.  We’ve now had two board meetings and they went pretty well. They had a lot of good information that they personally helped with out with, as a CEO, and they really opened some doors. Also in the round, we had Softtech Venture Capital, which has funded a couple of pretty good companies, and we are happy to be a part of that group. Also Maynard Webb, the ex-CEO of eBay, also came on board as an investor, and we are proud to have him, as we are looking to grow our marketplaces. We are very proud to get these folks into ground.

Employee growth: Let’s talk a little bit about how we’ve done since 2010. When we presented we were at 37 employees. As of today, in San Diego, we have 92, so we are growing. We are now located downtown [San Diego] and it feels really good to be able to provide great jobs for people, but also make the positive lasting impact on both our employees, as well as our customers. Next year we are going to be on a hiring spree. We expect by the end of the next year to be at around 155 to 165 people… so if you are looking for a job, please contact this table right here.

Quarterly revenues: when I presented last year, this is where we were on our quarterly revenue chart [show chart] and this year we will continue to grow. So, we have doubled in revenue this size off a pretty good base. Again, the capital really helped the team and everything we have been able to deliver quite well.

We struck a deal last year with Best Buy Musical Instruments. They have opened what is basically like a guitar center, inside over 100 of their stores, and we are now running the music lessons area for them. In fact, you can walk into a Best Buy, buy a guitar, and also take music lessons right there in the facilities. They are using all of our software and all of our instructors, in order to do that.

I think David, is actually a customer of ours –is that right? Down in Chula Vista? Perfect, thank you very much.

The Best Buy store roll out: we started at 32 stores, then we went to 103 stores, now you can walk into any single Best Buy store throughout the nation and buy a lesson pack and we will teach those lessons in your home. So that was just completed and we are announcing that here, this week, that now we are in every Best Buy store across the nation. It was a big roll-out and it took about a year and a half and we are really proud.

For 2012, what we are looking to do is once again double our revenues. Just as important as revenues, we also want to grow our people. We’ve never had the opportunity to really invest back into our people, with training and education and developing the culture the way that we want to. We think that this year we are going to be able to do that, and it feels really, really powerful and really good to be able to do that.

Also, one of our goals is to be in the top 5 companies to work for in San Diego. That is just as important to us as the development of the revenue side. So, this is what we are going to do this year.

I’d like to also give a big shout out to our “internal team”. It’s the folk who have been with us since day one:

-Randy Socel with DLA Piper

-Barney and Barney

-Wells Fargo and CoAmerica Bank have been awesome partners.

-Steve Martini from Quality First Commercial has kept us out of a lot of bad deals and gotten us into a lot of good commercial deals. So, we really appreciate you, Steve.

-All of our accounting firm team. [Round of applause]

So, finally all I would like to say is, I cannot tell you how much I truly appreciate the opportunity just from TakeLessions, to be able to come up here and present in front of the group. I’m sure all three of the contestants tonight feel the same way. I really wanted to encourage each and every one of you – the accounting firms, the law firms, the venture capitalists—we really need your support. Over the past three months I’ve been in probably 4 start-up gatherings. And over those past 4 gatherings, there was one venture guy that showed up, and I think we can do better than that. I think we can do better to support the scene. We are doing really well, but there is always room for improvement.
We just did a slide here, which show that there are 87 start-ups right here on this screen. It’s blossoming. We are seeing this every day. People contacting us asking, “hey, how do we get started,” “hey where do I go from here,” “who should I do my banking with,” “which venture guy should I reach out to…” We think that the scene is awesome.

You know, when we were doing our funding, the number one issue that CrossLink had was, “is there enough talent in San Diego. Can we pull in extra talent from San Diego in order to grow this business?” And really, what I would say is that that’s up to us here in this room. It’s not just up to the start-ups, the venture guys, but if we all work together, what I’d love to see—mainly because I don’t want to move to the bay area, because no one wants to live in the bay area, over San Diego— we’ve got an opportunity to grow this thing, as a group.

So, what I wanted to do was challenge each and every one of you, to look around and say, “how can I get more involved in the San Diego scene?” The San Diego Venture Group has pushed us off to a great start and we really appreciate the opportunity, but it’s time to step up our game.

I want to encourage you to raise the game and make San Diego awesome. Thanks so much!


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TakeLessons on Fox5: Sing Like an Idol — KSWB

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Sing Like an Idol — KSWB

TakeLessons was recently featured on Fox 5 in support of the new American Idol season.



Heather Ford: Hey guys, good morning. Well, we have created a jam session for you. These are all students from TakeLessons, so whether it’s a musical instrument or fine-tuning their voices, they’ve all learned how to do it and we’ve created a little jam session for you to hear, everything that they’ve been working on. You know, with American Idol coming on tomorrow night, we want to show you how you can learn to sing like an Idol. And Steven Cox here, from TakeLessons, is going to help us. Because I think that’s the mistake about American Idol. We see these average people come to life on stage and you’re saying that can just about happen to everybody.

Steven Cox: They are average people and they have taken their passion that’s inside, really crafted their craft and now they are up on TV. Can everyone get up on American Idol? Maybe, maybe not, but our goal here at TakeLessons is to help everyone reach their own potential, whatever that potential may be.

HF: And this is right in San Diego, people can go to the Best Buy in Chula Vista and actually walk in the store and get a lesson. Are there any other ways that people can get lessons from instructors that are nearby or anything like that?

SC: Sure, we’re actually nationwide; we have 3,000 cities that we cover. Here in San Diego, we have about 150 instructors. No matter where you are, from all the way up in Oceanside down to Chula Vista, there’s a very good chance that we have a really great certified, qualified instructor that’s no more than a couple miles from your home.

HF: Ok, and expensive, maybe a little bit?

SC: No, no, not at all, actually. We try to make it very affordable for folks. That’s one thing we do, is we want to bring music to people.

Something that may help with the affordability, now that you mention it– for people who watch your show and give us a call today–what we are going to do, if they buy a pack of lessons today, we are going to give them one free, as well. That’s right, free lessons, so I’m sure you’ll like that.

HF: We like this because it’s safe. You know who is going to come to your house, or you know where you’re going to go and that you will learn from them. It’s just really cool. We’ve really enjoyed it.

Our students have been doing a really great job, this morning. We have created something a little bit special for you guys, but I’m going to need your help though, back in the studio. So, if you could get up off your chairs, sing for us a little bit. Shelly, Raul, Christy–are you ready to jam out this morning, like American Idol.  [Play music]

Alright guys, so all the information you can find on our website, Take it away guys!


TakeLessons Founder Interviewed on

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Steven Cox stopped by to tell us all about his San Diego based startup, which, as the name simply implies, is an online marketplace for finding music & voice instructors in over 400 cities
in the US. Steven and his team are working extremely hard and have
provided a service that simply didn’t exist before now. Every
instructor brought into their service is carefully screened for
background, ability, and all other pertinent qualifications. Also,
TakeLessons has created a very open social platform so that students
can rate their instructors and also connect with each other as they
reach existing goals and create new ones along the way.”