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Bootstrapping an Education Company: Tod Browndorf, CEO of Coggno (Part 3)

Posted on Friday, Feb 19th 2016

Sramana Mitra: Let’s talk a little bit about the specifics. How long was the period where you worked with personal savings and what kind of numbers are we talking? How much of your personal savings did you have to put in to get it to some level?

Tod Browndorf: Probably two years and about $100,000.

Sramana Mitra: In that period, what milestone did you achieve?

Tod Browndorf: We got to a beta site and then we got to a working business. We were able to get some customers.

Sramana Mitra: Tell me a little bit about what specifically was the beta product, and who were the customers you were going after.

Tod Browndorf: The beta product was a learning management system. At the core of our product is something called learning management system. I don’t know if you’re familiar with what that is.

Sramana Mitra: Very much so.

Tod Browndorf: We developed our own proprietary learning management system. The idea was that it would be extremely simple to use for a non-technical person. Previously, learning management systems required a lot of administrative input and a lot of in-house support. Through SaaS, we were able to do support for customers and facilitate the delivery of the curriculum in a very easy manner. We were able to attract a couple of customers who started paying us.

Sramana Mitra: Were you learning anything about what types of customers were resonating with your product in particular and why?

Tod Browndorf: Yes, I did. We appealed to very retail-oriented customers. We’re known for easy-to-use technology. For instance, we deliver probably 100,000 courses to gas station attendants around United States, which are folks that don’t necessarily have a significant amount of technical acumen.

Sramana Mitra: Who offers that course?

Tod Browndorf: We have several different people who offer that course. Let me just take a step back. We also decided another thing early on. Our curriculum is primarily focused on compliance-related curriculum, or stuff to do with complying with some sort of legislation or some sort of mandatory governmental requirement, or mitigating liability. There’s lots of training around mitigating risks in terms of safety and human resources.

I’m circling back to your question. At first, I thought it would be cool to create an environment where everybody can learn everything. Then I started to understand that people don’t really have a lot of time for learning everything. Most people are just trying to work to pay their mortgage and raise their families. I don’t think that lots of people have lots of time to take time out of their lives to learn something unless they have to.

Sramana Mitra: So what’s the point?

Tod Browndorf: The point is we focus specifically on compliance and continuing education.

Sramana Mitra: I guess I’m still trying to understand the business. Are we talking about a B2B business where for some people who specialize in those kinds of training, you offer the learning management system for that training? Are you offering B2C compliance-oriented courses?

Tod Browndorf: Most of our training is B2B and we provide a portal within an organisation to distribute mandatory, compliance-related, or CEU within their organisation.

This segment is part 3 in the series : Bootstrapping an Education Company: Tod Browndorf, CEO of Coggno
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