How I'd launch Course Hub - Yelp for online courses

Feb 17, 2021 12:17 pm

Education moved online at record speed, & now tens of thousands of people are creating their own courses online. Today's idea is all about helping online course creators find new students.

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A few things from me:

First, welcome to 1,593 new subscribers who joined this week! (thanks to this post & this post going viral on LinkedIn).

Second, I subscribe to Wes' cool newsletter called Everyday Startup, where each week he shares MULTIPLE start-up ideas. I've stolen some of my ideas from him, & I love that it's a quick read each week. Join me in subscribing here!

Lots of you have asked where I find new business ideas to write about (other than stealing from Wes' newsletter). I have a list of ideas, but the best ones are ones that I discover right when I sit down to write. That's the story of today. Joseph followed me on Twitter & I noticed that he had tweeted about a Yelp for courses. So, you have him to thank for today's idea :)


Now on to this week's product idea: Course Hub.

Value proposition:

  • The greatest challenge for any course creator (& any product, for that matter) is discovery. That's why every successful online course creator today (Jack Butcher, Nat Eliason, David Perell, Tiago Forte) has a large audience. Millions of people are doing noteworthy things, & thousands of them would make great teachers, but without a pre-existing audience or alternative sustainable channel, most won't get students. So, what Yelp & Google Maps do for brick-&-mortar businesses, Course Hub would do for online courses.

  • Course Hub would also fulfill another key purpose of Yelp: social proof. Yelp ratings aren't perfect & can be manipulated or spammed, but many people still make purchasing decisions based on them.

How I'd launch:

  • The simplest version of Course Hub would be just a website with one page course profiles that you'd manually add reviews to. For more pizazz, you could use Airtable as the website's backend & let people automatically add their review of a course to its page by filling out a form, & Zapier could create new pages for new courses that get reviewed. You'd still want to vet new courses & reviews to monitor spam or manipulation, but this would be a significant improvement from text-only.

  • Once you have a simple product, DM people on Twitter who've taken one or more of the top courses (Write of Passage, Building a Second Brain, Build Once Sell Twice, Effortless Output in Roam, etc). Up & comers like Brandon Zhang & Dickie Bush are already building their own recognizable brands & a course review from them would be even extra social proof. You could offer people a backlink to their Twitter or personal website in exchange for their review, but a course review is a small ask & being on a website is usually already sufficient to tap into their vanity.

  • For your first "marketing", create a Course Hub Twitter account & brand it as surfacing the best of online courses. Now, DM course creators the beautiful testimonial pages you've created for their courses. Many will tweet it or link to it as social proof. You can also reach out to smaller course creators who don't have their own audiences. Pitch them on being some of the first courses on Course Hub, & the opportunity to be highly visible once it starts getting traffic.

How I'd scale:

  • Social proof is great, but the key benefit creators wants from Course Hub is discovery, & to power discovery, you need traffic. Two channels will be key: First, organic Twitter: every day, highlight a different course or course alum & share a testimonial. Often either the course creator and/or alum will retweet you & drive new followers & traffic.

  • Second, focus on SEO. The courses' own websites will rank well for their area of expertise, but focus on ranking for course comparisons. For each pair of courses on similar topics, create a "Should you take course X or course Y page?" Don't trash any individual course listed on your platform, but highlight the nuances of individual courses, i.e. is Sarah's cold email course geared towards job-seekers while Paul's cold email course is for sales? Additionally, you might be able to get Course Hub to rank for "review of X course" keywords" if the course's main website doesn't sufficiently focus on reviews.

  • Next, work with newly launching courses early. Before they have lots of alumni, they're extra eager for social proof & discovery. And with Gagan Bayani & Wes Kao launching a shiny new course platform featuring courses from Sahil Lavingia & Anthony Pompliano, I'd be signing up for Sahil's & Pomp's courses to be able to feature them on Course Hub.

  • Ok, you've got lots of reviews & lots of courses getting lots of traffic, but how about monetization? Once you've proven the traffic, & creators realize your value, charge courses a small monthly fee to be included. Let course creators pay to promote their course in search results. Course Hub is a third party aggregator, like Amazon or Product Hunt, & you should copy their monetization models. Just like Amazon, maybe you can eventually launch your own course to promote on the platform. How about a course on launching a course discovery platform?

Why it would work:

  • We all know that universities are broken, & even if they're not going away anytime soon, more & more people are starting to supplement their college education with online courses, whether asynchronous (MasterClass last valued around $1B), or live, via a cohort-model. And while lots of people are making courses, fewer are building the tools to help others make them, which is exactly what Course Hub will do.

Why it might not work:

  • Most courses have social proof on their own websites. What if they don't see the need for social proof on a 3rd party platform or fear competitors submitting false reviews?

  • What if every successful course creator ends up building their own audience & doesn't see a need for 3rd party discovery? Or alternatively, what if Course Hub isn't able to drive much discovery for courses?

Question for you: How can you create a product others want to share for you?

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