Specialized verticals are a major part of the new marketplaces environment. One vertical we like is TeachStreet, a portal that helps consumers find teachers, and then helps sign them up and process payments.
Along the same lines is TakeLessons, a five-year-old teacher site that is exclusively focused on hooking vetted music teachers with students. The San Diego-based company has just announced a $6 million raise with participants including MySpace cofounder Josh Berman and former Facebook exec Tim Kendall. The funding comes on top of $1.7 million in angel funding.
The music lessons space is a $3 billion industry, but highly fragmented and full of part-time teachers who may not have the expertise to do their own marketing. TakeLessons has been designed to control the business processes, including finding customers, selling them, collecting payments and scheduling the services. The company takes an undisclosed cut from every lesson, which average $25 for a typical half-hour piano class.
Certified instructors are available via TakeLessons in 3,000 U.S. cities. Music categories include voice lessons, piano, drum, guitar, singing and saxophone. The company also offers courses in less common instruments, such as harp, mandolin, ukulele, harmonica and Flamenco guitar, as well as DJ lessons, music recording workshops, songwriting, speaking voice and music performance.
The company, which has 54 workers in San Diego and 137 workers nationwide, recently had a major coupon by landing a program with BestBuy to place teachers inside their new Best Buy Musical Instruments stores. Additional partnerships have been formed with the National Association of Music Merchants, which has its instructor’s site powered by TakeLessons, and TeachStreet itself, which takes many listings in its music category from TakeLessons. Additional partnerships are being pursued.
CEO and founder Steven Cox tells us that the company made a mistake in its early days by providing a wide range of classes, and also focusing on lead generation. “We realized that if we didn’t focus on one area, we wouldn’t be good in any of them,” he said. As for lead generation, it didn’t leverage the company’s real strength, which was to develop a marketplace, he says.
I love this concept, and tried out the search engine for my area in north San Diego. I found several “piano” teachers within a few miles; a (rare) “bassoon” teacher was found 53 miles away. “Steel drums,” however, seemed to throw the engine off, as it tried to give me “percussion.” I actually (used to) play steel drums, but of course…. not many people do.