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Bootstrapping an Education Company: Tod Browndorf, CEO of Coggno (Part 5)

Posted on Sunday, Feb 21st 2016

Sramana Mitra: Who pays you?

Tod Browndorf: When we sell a course, we retain a percentage of revenue.

Sramana Mitra: I got it.

Tod Browndorf: Let me go back to the HIPAA example. That was created by a company called Teach Privacy. Teach Privacy is an expert in HIPAA compliance. We had a customer who wanted 900 courses. These courses reside in our system. They bought them through our system and we share revenue with the company that created the course.

Sramana Mitra: Right. In this mode, can you give me some metrics? How many domain specialists do you work with? How many people are actually consuming your courses?

Tod Browndorf: We probably have about a thousand. 10% of them really matter. There’s about a hundred that are really making serious money. In terms of customers, we delivered almost a million courses since we started. We started counting four years ago. We do have dentists that come in. They only buy one. Then we have people that come in as a group. They buy 50 or a hundred.

Sramana Mitra: What has been your revenue ramp since 2009 when you had this product out?

Tod Browndorf: We did very little revenue until about 2012. It was pretty bare bones. Then we started ramping up pretty significantly. We probably had about $1.5 million in 2013. It went up to $5 million around 2014.

Sramana Mitra: Is there anything else in your journey that is worth discussing?

Tod Browndorf: Two things. I know you have an audience of entrepreneurs. I think that they might appreciate a couple of things because nobody told me this. There are certain things on the Internet that don’t always translate. We’re in the education business, which you mentioned in the beginning, it’s not like an app. A lot of people think that you can just create some way of doing things easier on the Internet. In education, there’s a certain piercing of the electronic veil between the trainee and us.

We have a certain intimacy with our clients—both B2B and their subsequent trainees that pierces that electronic veil. I think that’s an important thing for people to realise. It’s not all about just creating some software and charging people. There’s a lot of things that we do for people that require a lot of handholding. They have a certain implicit sense about us. It’s not like just buying a record or something on Amazon.

Sramana Mitra: It’s a different business. Education is a very different business than e-commerce.

Tod Browndorf: Right. People get frustrated very quickly. We have to support them. It’s not only the fact that they don’t know how to use their computers. Sometimes, it’s about the fact that they don’t know the answers to the questions. The other thing that I would share with your audience is at some point along the line, you have to decide whether you’re all-in or not. We struggled through the first few years. I think around 2009, I decided to burn the bridges and go completely all-in on this. That was a psychological and emotional turning point that facilitated a lot of our success.

Sramana Mitra: Thank you very much for your time.

This segment is part 5 in the series : Bootstrapping an Education Company: Tod Browndorf, CEO of Coggno
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