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Bootstrapping an Education Company: Tod Browndorf, CEO of Coggno (Part 4)

Posted on Saturday, Feb 20th 2016

Sramana Mitra: So you’re a B2B platform software company.

Tod Browndorf: Correct. We just delivered 600 HIPAA compliance courses. Then we give them an interface where they can then distribute it within their organization. We didn’t create the course. We’re the distributors of the course. Our software is able to report who did what, when they did it, and how many times they did it. Then we issue Certificates of Completion based on the results that we get.

Sramana Mitra: Let’s go back to 2009. You’ve got a couple of beta customers, and then you got some friends and family financing involved. What happens next?

Tod Browndorf: We used to let authors come in and create content for free. We stopped doing that. We get distracted with lots of crazy authors with lots of curriculum that was very niche. It was a very big distraction. We had hundreds and hundreds of authors that had really bizarre courses that very few people were interested in. It was a big drag on support, so we decided to have a very modest monthly fee for access the system to weed out the people who are serious.

Sramana Mitra: We’re talking about a pretty long period. What are some of the major strategic moves in building this business?

Tod Browndorf: The major strategic move is we created things that facilitated delivery of curriculum within an organization. We’ve created something called a training platform. It’s like a virtual training kiosk where stores like 7-11 could put their employees in front of our screen, although it will be white-labelled as theirs. It’s a very easy delivery system for them. That was a pretty major step forward in terms of technology development.

We also created a course library where organisations could buy bunches of courses and then distribute them out as they needed in a white-labeled environment. That was another major strategic step forward for us. The other ones would be mostly sales-related. We started to help companies create courses. We had lots of people who came to us with ideas. They needed to be able to create courses and they didn’t know how. We started to help companies with authoring.

Sramana Mitra: In terms of sales and marketing, how do you acquire customers?

Tod Browndorf: We acquire customers in several different ways. We have large channel partners. We’re able to put links to the curriculum. We have a Javascript that we gave to partners. We call it a web shock. They can paste it right on to their website and their audience can access our curriculum through their website. It works for HR type of companies that have local relationships that we could never have. They have our courses on their websites.

Sramana Mitra: You’re talking about B2C customer acquisition. I think what I find confusing about the way you’re telling the story is I’m still confused whether your business is B2B or B2C. I’m asking, “How do you find customers who buy your portal to distribute their courses on? You’re answering the question, “How do you acquire consumers to take your courses?” Marketing to consumers is not your job. It’s the job of people who actually offer the courses.

Tod Browndorf: We do the marketing for them. For instance, a small business in Texas might be a member of a Chamber of Commerce. If you go to that Chamber of Commerce website, they can buy courses for their business from that Chamber of Commerce website.

Sramana Mitra: Who authors the course?

Tod Browndorf: They belong to subject matter experts. We have American Dental Association. We’ve got lots of HR courses. They’re all created by experts or known experts in their field.

This segment is part 4 in the series : Bootstrapping an Education Company: Tod Browndorf, CEO of Coggno
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