Sympoz, the startup behind craft centered how to course site Craftsy, is quite a fascinating player in the edtech space. Though it has raised $56 million in total funding, with the latest round of $35 million in December, it has not received that much coverage.
Probably because the craft space does not seem to be that relevant in the overall picture of revolutionizing education and preparing people for a new world in which everyone needs to know how to code. Well, as you might guess already, I beg to differ.
Craftsy is essentially a Lynda.com, Udemy or Learnable for the craft space. Want to learn how to crochet, bake or take professional pictures? Craftsy has you covered. Now, why is this a big deal you might ask? Homestay moms learning how to knit a quilt. In that case I would like to point you to Etsy.
Etsy has turned into one of the biggest ecommerce platforms based on handcrafted goods from a global community of independent (semi)professional artisans. According to Bloomberg Etsy sold more than $1 billion in handcrafted goods in 2013. Apparently, Etsy made part of the revenue from NYC based VC Fred Wilson’s holiday shopping spree who in this short yet insightful post describes his mobile shopping habits.
This not only shows that there is a growing interest from the consumer side but also a growing competition among artisans. If you want to attract customers you not only have to ramp up your own crafting skills but also learn additional ones like taking appealing photos, something that we have already seen on sites like eBay. Whereas in the early days it was OK to list your item with a crappy picture the successful sellers, private and professionals, take great care in shooting and choosing the right ones today.
And besides Etsy there are other popular micro gig sites like fiverr.com or taskrabbit where you can find a wide variety of examples where skills like the ones you learn on Craftsy can be turned into revenue. To round this up, the two biggest freelance platforms oDesk and Elance just announced their merger into a unified global powerhouse. It is obvious that the future of work is freelance and gig based.
Essentially both verticals are complementary to each other. The high paid workers who work in some form in the tech / software space are going to micro employ the workers on gig and freelance platforms and buy from artisans on Etsy or other ecommerce platforms. The video from Taskrabbit below is pretty telling, knowledge workers who don’t have the time to do task X because they want to have free time and see their friends after nine hours in the office.
That is why I think Sympoz / Craftsy has the potential to become a major player in the years to come. The startup is riding not one but several waves like the crafts movement, buying local and artisanal and of course the evolution of the workplace into a freelance driven economy.
Another pretty well-funded startup in the same vertical is of course CreativeLive which raised $29.5 million and just recently introduced a 24/7 live streaming channel which lets people watch for free and learn new skills. Both startups also underline the importance of production value with their professional studio sets, something competitors like Udemy are clearly lacking because of their focus on user generated content.