Varsity Tutors, a learning platform launched in 2011, has announced that it raised $50 million in a Series C funding round led by Learn Capital. TCV and The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative also participated in the round.
The funding came after meeting with just 10 potential investors.
The company was first launched in 2007 as an offline service that connected tutors on campus with those who needed help with real-life study sessions, similar to what Economics Tuition Singapore offers to students in Singapore.
Varsity Tutors has since moved on from its offline services and now offers an Instant Tutoring product that connects students with live experts via mobile or desktop. Tutoring sessions provide whiteboard functionality, doc editing and other tools to help students better grasp the information.
The company plans to use the funding to enter new geographies and categories. They also plan to build new products.
Chuck Cohn, founder and CEO of Varsity Tutors, says the company is seeing demand for more technical training. He says that will be the next logical step for the company. Music lessons may also be offered, although the platform already offers guitar and piano lessons.
Recently, the company acquired First Tutors in the UK to expand its reach internationally. The platform functions similarly to how Varsity Tutors operated in its early days. Students are connected to tutors for a free, and their relationship continues offline.
The company is working on integrating its technology with First Tutors and their users in the UK. The two companies will continue working together until they better understand how to price their services in the UK.
The company also plans to expand into other English-speaking territories, like Australia and South Africa.
In total, Varsity Tutors has raised $107 million in funding.
Cohn got the idea to start his company after having a bad experience with a French tutor who spoke almost no English.
The CEO and founder of the company said the legacy tutoring business was expensive, inconvenient and “one-size-fits-all.”
“Our original business model was similar to Netflix’s early DVD-by-mail business – you go to our website and request a tutor to come to your home,” said Cohn in an interview.
In the company’s early days of growth, Cohn was interviewing for a job at Bear Stearns while taking college classes. After 80-100 hours each week, the CEO had a “small breakdown.”
It was at this point that he decided to dive in and work on his company full-time. The risk has paid off.
Varsity Tutors now has 500 employees and has provided more than 100,000 students with over 3 million hours of instruction. Cohn grew the company over a decade using a small team and his own capital.
The company’s newest product, Instant Tutoring, helps connect students with one of its 400,000 tutors in as little as 15 seconds. The platform currently covers more than 150 subjects.
“Online learning hasn’t been great,” Cohn said. “We’re building an experience that’s better online than it is offline, but we bump up against the biases of what online learning meant over the last 25 years. Our challenge is getting people to try it out and experience why it’s better.”