Vancouver studio raises $1M to build online learning experiences

Nov 2 2020, 5:41 pm

Vancouver-based Course Studio is ready to change the online learning landscape after raising $1 million from industry insiders to expands its team and services.

The company, which was co-founded by CEO Tonner Jackson in May, works with course creators to build “online learning experiences.”

And like the industry they are working to shake up, Course Studio is growing fast.

“The number one thing this funding will help us with is hiring. We are kind of bursting at the seams right now,” said Jackson. “Course Studio has access to customer problems and we’re building solutions to solve those problems. The million dollars is effectively allowing us to do that.”

Tonner Jackson, CEO and Co-founder of Course Studio

The financing will also be used to realize Course Studio’s promise to creators of “you teach it we build it.” Jackson explains that they do this with their customized online learning experiences.

“Online learning experiences need to be very good at three things. The first is education, so content that people want to pay to learn and that they cannot get for free elsewhere. The second thing they need is entertainment and we have some interesting proprietary ways and philosophies of injecting entertainment into online education. A lot of that is gleaned from Masterclass and our experience of growing some of the world’s most trafficked online classes. And then the third piece is community, when you’re on a browser your distractions are maximized. You have Netflix and social media a tab away. We believe that the community aspect is a big way to mitigate that. We have some novel ways of implementing community inside of an online course that we’re really excited about.”

The Course Studio team is located in Vancouver, Toronto, New York and San Francisco. It is made up of people who have worked with Masterclass, Blue Wire Podcasts, Metalab and Thinkific. Their collective experience includes designing some of the world’s most trafficked online classes for individuals like Malcolm Gladwell, Chris Hadfield, Steph Curry, Thomas Keller and building and producing digital products for Sam Harris (Waking Up), Microsoft, Atlassian, and more.

The company is looking to hire Vancouver-based designers and developers, including software engineers with React and Node.js experience as well as a senior lead designer to lead their design team.

“We have such an interesting group of individuals,” added Jackson. “We have folks who literally built and scaled the most trafficked online course experiences on the planet.

“They have perspectives that very few have and there’s a ton of artistry that people may not realize. Frankly, I think there are more parts art than science when it comes to the design of the curriculum itself.”

Course Studio team. (Photo submitted)

Course Studio will be launching their first online classes in early 2021, including a course for a “very influential individual who is a big household name.” The company is also working on a new technology they are building on top of Thinkific, and working with smaller course creators to refine some of the way they operate in the services business.

“Our ambitious goal is to be cash-flow positive and generating a million dollars of revenue this year,” shared Jackson.

“We probably have 30 or 40 subject matter experts and creators reaching out to us a week right now wanting us to build something with them. Our strike zone customer is someone who has a large audience but has a less than foggy idea about what educational content they want to roll out effectively. We have a very robust process for helping them.”

Jackson’s hope for Course Studio is for the company to become a Vancouver success story.

“I want Course Studio to be a big business in Vancouver that’s generating a lot of impact for this community,” said Jackson. “I was steeped in the entrepreneurial ecosystem here. My first business is still operating.

“Like e-commerce was 10 years ago, our view is that’s where we are at in the life cycle of the online education space. We’re really excited about where we’re going.”

Daniel ChaiDaniel Chai

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