May 1, 2019

Looking for advice. What do you think I should do to finally get this of the ground?

Valentijn van den Hout @vvdhout

Hi everybody,

In the upcoming week I will be launching a new version of a product on PH that I have been grinding away at for one-and-a-half year. I am super excited about the platform and where I am taking it but have had so much trouble getting it off the ground. I am turning to you guys and girls for feedback and support.

When I started working on my project - called Courseroot - Mid 2017 while on holiday, I just wanted to create a place that helps people in their search for online courses and tutorials. I have always been an avid online learner myself, and I wanted to smooth out the process of finding the best courses while so many new providers started popping up.

That is what I set out to create, and that is what I had built. And the platform was amazing (in my opinion); over 80.000 courses from the biggest course providers aggregated and ranked shown with their most important course characteristics, and the ability to filter through them based on those details. Neat and helpful.

#1 on Product Hunt for the day, over 1600 upvotes, and....

That was it. Ever since the initial launch it just did not get of the ground, I have been dragging it along, spending time on other projects, coming back to it and pushing it again, losing the hope and passion that drove me to work on it in the first place. I decided I had to sell it because I just couldn't get it to where it deserved.

After being one bank transfer away from a fully completed sale, which ended up falling through, I decided I had to take one more shot at it. And this is it.

I wanted to do more with it, if it was going to work or not, I wanted it to represent something more than just a simple search engine for online courses. Something I could get behind completely. I'd always hoped to get myself in a position where I can give back and do more than just making a neat product. Why not try it now already.

Courseroot is now going to be a way for us, those fortunate enough to have access to amazing educational resources, to distribute some of that opportunity to adults and kids that have been not as fortunate. By taking 50% of the profits Courseroot makes and donating them to amazing charitable causes such as Water.org, Save the Children, and others, I want to make Courseroot a place where your growth means their growth.

We earn commissions on referrals to the platforms we list courses from (prices are exactly the same) and have the opportunity to do something bigger with this. I hope that the platform will come to fruition this way and become something of real value: to those looking for education, and to those that can't.

I would absolutely love to hear your feedback and thoughts. On the idea, the website, anything, but especially on what your advice would be regarding steps I should take to get it out there. The platform can be found here: https://courseroot.com/

The goal is to launch the new version on Product Hunt again next week, hoping that it will catalyze something and get Courseroot where it needs to be. It would be amazing if you, only if you actually like what I am trying to do, would come show your support as well.

A massive, massive thanks for taking the time to read this and I am very much looking forward to your input.

I wish you all the best with your projects,

Valentijn

  1. 2

    This is a great tool, thank you for building it! I also appreciate the idea of donating your profits to charities, giving yourself another reason to make this project successful.

    A few ideas to gain more traction:

    1. Have you tried using ads to reel in prospective users?
    2. I recall coming across forum posts where people are asking which courses are making sense. Maybe search for them and reply with an analysis of what you think are the best courses using your tool and letting them know it exists.
    3. Can you add value to instructors with your tool? Maybe they can help direct traffic to you somehow?
    1. 1

      Hi bcosynot,

      Thanks for taking the time to provide feedback and thoughts.

      I have tried ads in the past, the only issue is that the competition (the big platforms such as Udemy and Coursera) have a higher long-time value for a prospective customer because of their retention. It means they ad bids are very high and out of my league unfortunately.

      I have also tried answering some questions on Quora and reddit regarding the best courses but it does not seem to be a very sustainable way of gathering traffic thus far.

      Yes! I have had quite some instructors reach out to me to see if they can get on the platform but the traffic is so incredibly low at the moment I just really do not feel comfortable asking money for it (which should definitely possible when traffic is a bit higher). And setting them as affiliates is unfortunately not really beneficial at this point because all our current courses are in some way integrated in affiliate partnerships with the big platforms, so it would just be cannibalizing its own revenue.

      Maybe I have been getting more and more stuck on hoping there is a silver bullet to get things rolling as nothing seems to be really bearing fruit, even though it might not exist and I should just keep grinding on. But I am burning through savings in the meantime and the point is coming where I really need to make a decision.

      I am launching the new version on Product Hunt tomorrow. Hopefully it might catalyze something. Last year with the initial launch it did incredibly well (#1 of the day with +1600 upvotes), lot of promotion, but never did anything for the long run.

      Big thanks again for sharing your time. It is much appreciated.

      Valentijn

      1. 1

        How about temporarily taking the "wirecutter for moocs" route. Come up with detailed analysis courses on topics that people are searching for? You're providing more value for students through detailed analysis. It would also provide instructors/platforms to advertise the fact that their course was chosen best by courseroot, providing traffic/awareness.

        Of course, this is a lot of hard work and won't scale.

        1. 1

          That is definitely an option. In the early days I used to reach out to instructors as well that ranked very well among all courses and they certainly seemed to appreciate it.

          By the way, I just launched the new version on PH and could use all the support to get it on the first page: https://www.producthunt.com/posts/courseroot-share

          Would love to get your support 🙌

          I am going to see if I can think of such an approach that maybe scales a little bit better. Thanks for the input again!

          1. 1

            You bet. Good luck!

  2. 1

    On the growth stuff, I'd highly recommend watching seven minutes of this video (https://youtu.be/0LNQxT9LvM0?t=136), from 2:30 until 9:30. The rest of the video is Lean Startup 101, but those seven minutes are super interesting, basically focusing on Weebly's growth graphs from month 6 (when they first got TechCrunched) through month 48 (when they started growing organically in a way which dwarfs all their early PR success and then quickly sold for $350 million).

    My lesson learned was that PR stunts are a rounding error in the grand scheme, and are simply a way to get a little bit of traffic to figure out whether or not the product is good enough to start down the path of organic growth. If not, you rinse and repeat. If so, you've potentially got a product and a business.

    I don't have any specific feedback about the new direction (it all looks great) but wanted to mention the above as a response to the "one last shot" mentality, and also as a response to the question of "how to get it out there?"

    In any case, wish you good luck with it and hopefully this particular shot does work out.

    1. 1

      Hi Robitz,

      Thank you so much for your answer. Definitely going to check out that video.

      Totally buy into that. I think virality and PR can be great to get some exposure but the product itself needs to be demanded and useful enough to bring in sustainable traffic. This is what I am struggling with right now; I am constantly switching between "Am I beating a dead horse here?" and "No, the product works and people really like it. I just need to get something going for it."

      Big thanks again for sharing your thoughts and the message of support 🙏

      All the best,

      Valentijn

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