TeachStreet, which lists and profiles local independent teachers for everything from test prep to tennis lessons, is close to its official launch out of beta in Seattle and readying a second market in Portland, Oregon, according to founder Dave Schappell. From there, it will add the Bay Area.
Schappell says the development of Portland will be far easier now that the site’s developers have finessed a process for finding teachers, and then creating profiles of them. There are more than 25,000 teachers, classes, schools and venues profiled in Seattle. “Essentially, it takes a little bit of scouting. … We try to find school directories, Craigslist or other locations where we can find this kind of thing. You can’t find much of it in the Yellow Pages.”
Once TeachStreet has ID’d a teacher — i.e., a piano teacher in Queen Anne — the site can typically populate the rest of a profile in 10 to 15 Google clicks, he says. As for users, the categories they mostly gravitate toward include creative arts, performing arts, languages, music, home and hobbies. Academics and business have been under-performing, however. The site is still working on that.
While TeachStreet will try to stay relatively comprehensive, it will try to cut back some categories for Portland. “We’re still going for the long tail, but part of it is we don’t want to clutter up the site,” he says.
The work is mostly handled by overseas data collectors. “We didn’t think a good computer experience existed for this type of information,” he notes. The site is promoted via SEO and SEM, and funded to the tune of $2.25 million — $1.65 million by Madrona Venture Group and Bezos Expedition Funds, the venture arm from Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos. The rest comes from local funders, friends and family funds. Schappell worked for Bezos at Amazon.
There are seven staffers, which will soon ramp up to 11. Media partnerships are also being pursued. A frame of reference for this kind of vertical that comes to mind is The Learning Annex, which typically lists thousands of adult classes all around a city. But Schappell says that is only part of it. “The Learning Annex is about classes and lifelong learning classes,” he notes.
He thinks TeachStreet is more akin to Meetup.com, where people meet based on different interest in thousands of subjects. “We’re helping to find local experts near you.”
While teaching will always be at the site’s core, Schappell expects the site to eventually evolve into all kinds of expert services. “We’re helping to find local experts near you,” he says. Categories could include a full range of advisory services, such as career counseling or kitchen remodeling. “You might need someone to guide you through some of the steps. Or you may want some help negotiating to buy a car.”