Industry: Education Technology
Founding Student Name(s): Nicholas Rudder
Brief Description of Solution: ScholarSite’s platform allows the world’s leading academics and experts to independently run live cohort-based courses with leading companies around the world.
For instructors, we make the teaching experience and cohort setup process easier than ever (customer distribution, inbuilt payments, zoom scheduling), they increase their exposure to the professional world and earn material upside in course earnings that they can’t get with any other provider.
For learners, our cohorts allow them to engage live with world leading experts, join a community of like-minded professionals and gain insights that will help them advance in their career, all through a next generation learning platform.
Funding Dollars: ~$800k
What led you to launch this venture?
My co-founder and I initially started ScholarSite as we had both worked extensively in academia and had seen how some of the best insights and research-based content was locked up within the small circles in which it was created (I worked with academics throughout my dissertation and MBA; Adrian was an ex-researcher in the field of AI at University of Melbourne).
We don’t believe leading experts (and their content) should only be accessible to those who can afford to attend elite schools. We feel that our background in academia, coupled with our experience in tech and media, makes us the perfect team to break down the ivory tower.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with the venture? Selling out Steve Tadelis’ cohort (Professor at Haas and ex-Economist at Amazon, eBay) on the Economics of Digital Platforms in one week.
We sold 70 seats to product managers and marketing specialists from companies like Google, Dropbox, Upwork, Outschool and more. Better yet, we sold out his second cohort in 2 days!
How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? There is no doubt that the people I met during my MBA (both students and Professors) were part of the journey of getting ScholarSite to where it is today (not that we are that far along!). Without Steve Tadelis. we wouldn’t have had a first cohort. Without Kurt Beyer (my Entrepreneurship Professor), we wouldn’t have raised our pre-seed from Scott Galloway!
Furthermore, we’ve hired several people that I met at Haas who have been, and continue to be, integral to our success.
What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? Tom Brunskill, CEO and Co-Founder of The Forage (a successful EdTech startup here in the Bay Area), continues to be a source of inspiration for me. He’s an Aussie co-founder (like me!) who’s risked it all to make a business work over the other side of the world. He’s built an amazing product that has a real impact on people’s lives. He believed and invested in us from day-dot and has always been there for support and advice (especially when s*@t hits the fan!).
Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? Hands down, it was Entrepreneurship with Kurt Beyer. A lot of our initial strategy and go-to-market plan was formulated in that class. Here, you get insights from guest speakers and investors from the Bay Area who have seen it all before. Above all, Kurt genuinely just wants to see his students’ ventures succeed and he will go above and beyond to make sure that happens. I finished my MBA back in June and I still talk to Kurt regularly – that’s the sort of guy he is!
The biggest lesson I learned in that class was to pitch the dream! Being brought up in Australia, we are natural-born skeptics and coming to California was a bit of an adjustment to say the least. I needed to learn to pitch the big vision of ScholarSite up front and Kurt helped us do just that.
What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? This has to be both Steve Tadelis and Kurt Beyer.
Steve saw our vision and backed us when we first had lunch with him in the Mission and has been a huge advocate ever since. Our first cohort was obviously a hugely important one and I don’t think we could’ve picked a better expert.
Kurt, as you can tell above, has always been a rock for us. We’ve had some pretty low moments and you can always count on him for solid advice and a good pep talk.
What is your long-term goal with your startup? Our vision is to build the rails that will empower the next generation of faculty. One last thing: we are expanding and looking to hire a product manager. Check out our website and please apply if you are interested in our mission!
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Editor’s Note: Nicholas Rudder, who received an MBA from the London Business School, was an exchange student at Berkeley Haas