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fiola

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Hi,
5 months ago, I've started working together with my girlfriend on a platform for learning programming. We have several years of experience in private tutoring and we have some students which obtained good results at national competitions in the past years. Seeing that the demand for programming lessons is big, we decided to build the platform. The difference between us and the other sites like codecademy, udemy and others is that they focus on making their customers happy in terms of the difficulty of the assignments, and they focus less on teaching the principles and the hard things about programming. I haven't met a good programmer which hasn't struggled with understanding a notion or solving a hard problem.

During summer we also had some former students work with us on implementing features and we paid them for each task performed. Right now they do some (very little) work for us for free, but they are busier since they are now students at the university.

The platform is in romanian and we decided to focus on the romanian market first. Until now we offer our lessons for free and we have 12 000 users in 2 months after the launch, 8000 of them came after we appeared on national television. We have 200 active users per day, 870 likes and 540 members in our Facebook groups.

In Romania, the education system is centralized so every student who learns computer science in high school, learns the same things. We adapted the curriculum on the platform to be based on what the students learn in school and started going to schools and talking to teachers and students. The feedback was good and the people encouraged us to continue and add more content.

From the 8200 users who read the first lesson only 2000 solved the first problem and 1000 the second one. Only 51 users finished all the content on the platform which currently covers only basic stuff. We're trying to keep the quizzes difficult and the programming problems challenging in order to make the users think and understand the basics because once you truly understand how the basics work , you can learn faster the more advanced stuff. Do you think the drop in users is too big and that we should focus on engagement?

One of our uncertainities is when should we start charging for our content? Because our platform is free, we can get media coverage and we can go into schools and hold presentations. If the whole platform is paid, then we could promote it only via ads. One way would be to have some free content and charge for the more advanced one. Another idea would be to create a private forum for the platform with paid access where students can get help and where employers post job offers (the demand for programmers in Romania is very high). Another dilemma is whether we should charge per time period (full access one month) or per chapter/module and once you buy the chapter, you have full access.

When we began, we thought that if we have 10 000 users who pay us 25$ per month we can have a decent revenue and focus on expanding to other countries. However some folks with more experience (got accepted into y combinator and other accelerators) advised us to focus on moving to a "bigger market" and move to a bigger city like SF or London and try to get VC funding.

We both got internship offers in the Bay Area for the next summer and now we're not sure if we should go to the internship or work on the project during the summer.
The advantages for going to the internship would be:

  • money (we could each come back with over 15 000$)
  • we can research the market and see whether we could get people in the US to pay for our content
  • networking with other people who are building startups
The disadvantage is that we would stop working or work very little during the internship (July - September).

Until now we didn't invest a lot of money into the business. Should we hire 1 or 2 programmers and use our savings or should we keep working on the platform ourselves together with people who would work for free with us?

Thanks for taking the time to read all of this
 
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Isaac Oh

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Hey! That's awesome to hear and I'm looking to create a similar education sort of deal but, disclaimer, haven't gone as far as you.

I think engagement is very important. Of course, you want to teach them the more difficult concepts and not sugar coat stuff but if no one is getting to that point, you aren't putting yourself in a position where you are able to help them. If it's possible that you can teach the same concepts while still upping engagement, that'll mean more value transferred to the customers.

As for monetizing, I'm thinking of making my contents free and possibly having higher level or more obscure stuff accessible through payment. Or, like MJ did, offer an ad-free or more tailored experience for your customers for membership. I'm also playing with the idea of a low cost subscription that will give them access to everything.
 

fiola

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Hey! That's awesome to hear and I'm looking to create a similar education sort of deal but, disclaimer, haven't gone as far as you.

I think engagement is very important. Of course, you want to teach them the more difficult concepts and not sugar coat stuff but if no one is getting to that point, you aren't putting yourself in a position where you are able to help them. If it's possible that you can teach the same concepts while still upping engagement, that'll mean more value transferred to the customers.

As for monetizing, I'm thinking of making my contents free and possibly having higher level or more obscure stuff accessible through payment. Or, like MJ did, offer an ad-free or more tailored experience for your customers for membership. I'm also playing with the idea of a low cost subscription that will give them access to everything.
Thanks a lot for taking the time to provide feedback. Obviously we want to raise engagement and make the platform as pleasant to use as possible while teaching what we want to teach in a way that makes the users smarter.

We've decided to go to the internship and do a vlog about the experience of being an intern at google and show the kids that it's possible to go from an almost 3rd world country (this is the opinion romanians have about Romania) to working at one of the best companies in the industry (I'm still thinking about how to tell them about the script and how to get unscripted :smile2:). We've already started the vlog, and we're filming a new video each week.

Moreover we'll start a subscription based paid module for people who want to pass the admission exam for a CS university in the country. There are around 4500 participants in the exam each year and the popularity of the domain is growing. Moreover you need to be pretty good at programming in order to promote the exam so the content needed for this module is also needed in general. In Romania if you get a good grade at the exam, you'll get free college. We'll advertise the module using this fact (the cost of college is higher than the cost for a subscription for 3 or 4 months in which you'll learn everything you need in order to get a good grade) and also we'll talk about our results with kids which got good results at programming contests.
 

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