It's easier than ever to learn online, but overwhelming to pick what content to consume. Between Udemy and Youtube, there is way too much course content and the ad-hoc approach to learning usually leaves you stuck with significant gaps in your education.
Build a community that curates the best online courses, and then collaborates to learn new skills together.
This idea was one of my first solo projects, comprised of a Wordpress site and a whole bunch of plugins to make membership functionality work. I had a few people interested in the early product, all who fit the “lifelong learner” category. So with a small pool, we collected the first series of courses to send out to subscribers. I tested a membership first with a physical box, where I sent mail out with a few products related to the courses and links to access the course material.
When I launched on Product Hunt, the initial response was encouraging. The site made over $1000 in sales on the first day, and it seems like the problem resonated with others. As word spread and a few more people signed up, I realized the problem with sending a physical good: I had to send boxes to all of these people. For the first round, I boxed them and shipped them myself. The launch round/first batch went well. I sent over about 25 boxes, and all 25 recipients loved the experience (this was back when subscription boxes were a hot commodity).
Why it failed:
This project was destined to succeed. Customers were happy, willing to pay up to $150 for boxes filled with learning content, and the model had decent margins. So why did it ultimately fail? Two factors: physical shipments and lack of community.
There’s a reason why drop-shipping, or the ability to manufacture a product/store it in a warehouse and send it out upon order, is a favorite way to start a physical-good business (be wary of scams and get-rich-quick schemes). Because otherwise, it’s a nightmare. Dealing with buying physical goods, designing packaging, and the mail system was complicated at best. I noticed by the second shipment I started to get burnt out, and the project wasn’t enjoyable anymore.
The second aspect was the community angle, which was supposed to solve the problem of “how do you learn together?” Since this is before Slack was a thing, Facebook Groups was the only option besides building out a custom forum (something I’d have to hire out for, since my programming skills were pretty weak at the time).
So I invited users, but nobody posted. I polled a few members and discovered that the courses we sent out had a self-contained “community” in the comments section, where the instructors answered questions about content. When it came to socializing and discussing learning outside of those systems, people didn’t care that much.
So before the second round (quarterly shipments), I decided to pull the plug. I’ve always thought about bringing this idea back, and a year later updated the landing page copy (what’s currently there) with an updated concept about group learning without the physical shipments. There’s still something there, but this was one of my first lessons that even if you have a good idea and some traction, the 'founder-product' fit is as important as product-market fit. This project brought more stress and less enjoyment than any other project.