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Ep. 30: The future of online business (with Ankur Nagpal, Teachable founder & CEO)

Ankur Napal Ankur Napal

Today in 2020, more than 100,000 instructors have joined Teachable. These entrepreneurs have transformed their knowledge into world-class courses that have earned more than $500 million to date. But with the launch of our new brand, Teachable’s next chapter is about much more than a fresh coat of paint.

We’re expanding our tools to help creators sell more than just courses. We’re including time as coaches, and our founder and CEO Ankur Nagpal is here to share more about what makes creators successful and his big-picture vision for the future of the creator economy.

Today’s guest: Ankur Nagpal

ankur napal ankur napal

“When we think about our broader mission, we want to help people make money from their knowledge and experience in lots of different ways, and coaching is one very, very significant step. But there’s many more to come.”

Late one night in 2013, our founder and CEO Ankur Nagpal, put the finishing touches to what would become the predecessor of Teachable. A recent graduate of UC Berkeley, Ankur had been instructing marketing course created through another platform. With this, he decided he could build something better. Something with more customization tools and a more profitable payment system.

It was called Fedora. As soon as its homepage was open, we began to welcome scores of experts in feng shui, handpanning, email marketing, coding, and sourdough baking. These creators were ready to craft their knowledge into beautiful courses.

Click here to learn more about Teachable’s founding story.

Ankur graduated from the University of California, Berkeley and in 2019, he was named as a Forbes 30 Under 30 Education honoree.

Where to find Ankur

Read the full transcript below.

This transcript is created by a helpful but imperfect transcription bot. Please forgive any typos or errors.

Melissa Guller 0:00

Late one night in 2013, Teachable’s founder and CEO Ankur Nagpal put the finishing touches to what would become the predecessor of Teachable. A recent graduate of UC Berkeley and the newest resident of New York, Ankur had been instructing a course in marketing created through another course platform, when he decided that he could build something better. Something with more customization tools and a more profitable payment system. It was called Fedora. And as soon as we opened for business, we started welcoming scores of experts in feng shui, publishing, cake decorating, playing the handpan, email marketing, coding, and so much more, ready to craft their knowledge into beautiful courses. Just two years later, our team of one in a studio apartment in Williamsburg had grown to a team of 15 coders, marketers, and finance experts in an office in Manhattan. Valued at 8 million dollars, and growing each day in sign-ups and knowledge, it was time for a new name. And Fedora became Teachable, and the rest is history. Or maybe The rest is just beginning. Today in 2020, more than 100,000 instructors have joined Teachable and transformed their knowledge into world-class courses that have earned more than $500 million to date. As for the future? Well, that’s what Ankur is here to talk about. With the launch of our fresh new brand, Teachable’s next chapter is about much more than a fresh coat of paint. We’re expanding our tools to help creators sell more than just courses, like their time as coaches, and Ankur is here to share more about his big-picture vision for the knowledge economy. Welcome to this special season finale episode of Everything is Teachable.

Announcer 1:41

Welcome to “Everything is Teachable,” the podcast that takes you behind-the-scenes to learn how everyday creators have transformed their skills and passions into online courses and businesses. To introduce this week’s guest, here’s your host, Melissa Guller.

Melissa Guller 2:00

Ankur Welcome to the podcast.

Ankur Nagpal 2:02

Yeah, I’m excited to be here.

Melissa Guller 2:04

Same and obviously your interview is a little different from the standard episodes with coarse graders. But typically, I’m not sure. Typically. Yes, I think we’re gonna have a good time. I’m not sure if many listeners actually know this, but you used to teach. So to start off, can you tell us a little bit more about your experience as an instructor?

Ankur Nagpal 2:21

Yeah, absolutely. So my name is Ankur. I’m the founder of Teachable but I only started Teachable. Because I was a course creator myself, a buddy of mine, Conrad and I, we started teaching a little bit in person at General Assembly a little bit on this marketplace called Udemy. We don’t talk about that much over here. But we we realized that like, online education was sort of rising and as a creator had a course on online marketing, saw the potential behind it, but felt very constrained by what the platform’s offered us, and then sort of built Teachable first for myself and congrats was literally a side project that we built for ourselves. Found a little bit of utility got some sales, and then a few months in realize this could be something useful for a lot more people.

Melissa Guller 3:04

Mm hmm. And when you talk about feeling constrained, what were some of the maybe challenges or opportunities that you saw early on that did eventually evolve into the business idea for Teachable?

Ankur Nagpal 3:14

Yeah, absolutely. So I mean, I’m a, I’ve always run businesses for most of my life, right. And the way I run a business generally is I’m like, I’m like addicted to metrics. If I hit a certain number, I want to do more and more and more. And so when we had a course on Udemy, we hustled and managed to get to like, let’s call it two or $3,000 a month in sales. But it really seemed hard to go beyond that, like no matter what we did, we kind of hit that ceiling. And when you looked in further, the reasons for that were one Udemy owned our audience. So like when we would work hard to like bring a new student to the class, they would then get cross sold to other courses, it was very hard to make more money from existing people. Because of that ads didn’t work since you know, we weren’t making that much money per student. On top of that, Udemy took 50 percent at the time, which I found and still find completely insane. But also they discounted your courses very frequently at like 7080 90% off. As a result, we were selling, you know, hundreds of $10 courses being like, Look, something is working people are taking these classes, but there’s no way we can scale this business. So we built the first version of Teachable It was called Fedora at the time, just as a logical extension of that we’re like, how about if we, you know, have the same courses, it’s on our website, we keep 100% of sales, and we can charge a more reasonable amount, just you know, Fedora was born, and six and a half years later, here we are.

Melissa Guller 4:35

Yeah, the rest is history. And I think you point out something that has always been something we talked about a Teachable, which is that we want our creators to own their knowledge and to really be able to support themselves by sharing that knowledge with others, which will be probably the theme of the whole episode. Since starting in 2013, though, you’ve obviously seen and met tons of great course creators. So what do you think are some of the qualities that those successful creators have in

Ankur Nagpal 5:02

Yeah, I think there’s a bunch of things that like that, like differentiate the creators that do really well and from the creators who sort of don’t and I mean, the basics. The first one, which I’m going to just gloss over for a second is like getting content done. The biggest, the biggest reason people don’t succeed on Teachable is because they haven’t actually published a course. So I’m going to work in the assumption that we’re talking about people that have a published course. There’s a few things that result in a successful creator. One is being able to have a large or have access to an audience generally through some kind of channel. Everyone has a different channel, it could be a podcast, it could be Twitter, it could be Instagram, it could be YouTube, but having having an audience is definitely one factor and having a large audience makes it a lot easier. The second one is what I call audience topic fit. It’s really like, do you have a topic that the audience is interested in buying and you know, flick For instance, if you’re if you’re a stand up comedian and your audience like is here to listen to you do comedy Your audience topic fit is going to be pretty weak. But on the flip side if you have like makeup tutorials or whatever, and people are already watching that they’re going to be willing to pay you for the course. So that’s the second thing. The third thing is what we call the offer at Teachable, which is like, do you have a compelling outcome that someone can reach for a specific price point? And does that resonate with the audience? That’s super, super, super important. One of the quickest ways we find people end up we can help people make more money is actually by improving their offer, which is either changing what the outcome someone achieves is, or what the price point is. And finally, and the last point is sort of what separates people within the top 1% really is like how successful is your course at taking people to the outcome, because we find that when people actually do that, they end up telling their friends about it. And that really is what separates like sort of, you know, the people who make let’s call it $100,000 a year and a million dollars a year.

Melissa Guller 6:57

Internally, we talk about the outcome a lot or The transformation. But if people maybe haven’t heard that before, why do you think focusing on the outcome is so important?

Ankur Nagpal 7:08

Yeah, I think the outcome is ultimately the simplest way of thinking about what and online courses, right like, like very meta question like what is a course? A Teachable, we talk about a course being a shortcut to an outcome, which is, what is the one promise your product has? What is the one thing it will give people if they succeed? And we find that that makes a lot of the secondary decision super easy because everything then distills down to a single outcome. So whatever courses you can always figure out what is the one thing someone gets, and just working backwards from that makes everything simpler?

Melissa Guller 7:41

Yeah, I think it’s a lot easier to think about. What does somebody gain? Like they’re not buying you because they like your course. And they want to take a bunch of videos and spend more time staring at a computer like they want the thing that you’ve achieved or the thing at the end of the road.

Ankur Nagpal 7:55

Yep, absolutely. It’s like the cheesy fitness commercials right? Like people are not buying like Working out that or buying the six pack abs or whatever. And that’s what your course is right? Like, what is the after picture of this transformation. Ultimately, like as a creator, everything distills down to that. What is equally interesting though, is like, you can be pretty successful without even getting people to an outcome. It’s really the like, the difference between good and great is where, what percentage of people succeed matter, because we found that like, if you ever get someone to the outcome they paid, they’re not going to shut up about it. Like they’re literally going to talk about it with every single person who care. So listen. And that is sort of where the magic happens is when like, you’ve changed someone’s life and they are your best marketing channel. Yes, you can do ads and podcasts and all of that. But there’s nothing like a true promoter whose life you’ve ultimately changed.

Melissa Guller 8:49

And that’s really important because on the other hand, if you can’t get anyone to an outcome, no amount of marketing is going to solve that problem forever.

Ankur Nagpal 8:57

It’s a leaky bucket you’ll get people to buy initially But like, it’s just less efficient, because you’re gonna get no organic sales like you’ve to always learn to sell no matter what. But to really scale, you want some percentage of your sales happening organically. And if your course or outcome sucks, that’s just not gonna happen.

Melissa Guller 9:16

Mm hmm. Kind of along the same lines, we talked about what sets successful creators apart. But where do you think most people fall short? Or what are some pitfalls that maybe early stage course creators run into?

Ankur Nagpal 9:29

I think the biggest one is, frankly, not getting it done. Like being in this, like analysis paralysis, where you want to get a course on takes a bunch of work. So you sort of keep like iterating and you like recorded and then you listen, and I do this too, right? Like, I would like, record like a lecture. And I’ll come back to it like three days later and be like, this sucks. This is the worst lecture in the world. Why would anyone ever listened to this, then I would re record it. And then kind of repeat this process over and over and as a result a month would pass and I wouldn’t have anything out there. The way I solved it was like By setting a really hard deadline to myself, I’m like, you know what, on Tuesday, this goes live, and I’ve got to work backwards. And if I’m unhappy with it, I’ll come back, and I’ll re record it later. And the reality is, I never didn’t end up coming back and re recording it. But just that sort of discipline of getting it out, there was a very, very big thing that like a lot of people get stuck at.

Melissa Guller 10:20

It’s funny that you say that because I think almost every single guest that’s come on the podcast. In the end, I asked them, What advice do you have for course creators, and I don’t have the exact metrics, but almost all of them say, just do it. Just get started. Don’t wait until it’s perfect. Don’t wait

Ankur Nagpal 10:35

until here. I thought I had differentiated advice, but Okay, let me try to think of differentiated advice then.

Melissa Guller 10:41

Well, while you try to think of something though, I do think it’s noteworthy that unprompted, all of you said the same thing. I think sometimes it’s not that the advice or the teaching has to be so novel, but it’s your approach. Kind of the same thing for courses like you’re not gonna be the first person to teach fitness, cooking, marketing, whatever it is, but you know, you had your own Answer your answer didn’t sound like everybody else’s. So I think it’s still good advice.

Ankur Nagpal 11:04

Yep. No, I definitely I definitely think it’s 100% true. The other thing I tell people is like, try and find your specific angle, like the internet is such a massive place that a lot of things that you think are kind of like minority niche topics are actually pretty big. One of our most successful hitters of all time, like literally right up there among the people that have been most successful in the last five years, teaches Facebook ads for fiction authors. And you would think that’s a very specific topic and I know you’ve had you’ve had him on your on on the podcast as well. That’s a very specific topic. And a lot of people would think that’s kind of like this cute niche topic might have a few people, but no, it’s one of the biggest products on Teachable of all time. So similarly, like whatever people topics are, I would find a way to kind of make it a little bit more specific, a little bit more narrow because just a natural tendency, at least I have is to underestimate the size and scope of the internet and I’m frequently surprised that there’s you know, 10s of thousands of people Just as weird as you are that like, want the same thing. So definitely recommend people kind of niche down. And the final thing I also keep repeating like a broken record all the time is like, probably charged twice as much as like you’re comfortable charging up front because the other thing a lot of people get wrong initially is they charge way, way, way, way too little, and with time, sort of keep moving their price up.

Melissa Guller 12:22

Mm hmm. two really great pieces of advice. And if anybody does want to listen to that episode with Mark Dawson, I believe it’s episode three but you can also just go to Teachable comm slash podcast and find it there. I do have one more question that actually came from a fellow Teachable employee. She wanted to know what are some funny or unusual hacks you’ve seen creators do on Teachable?

Ankur Nagpal 12:42

Oh man, there’s there’s so many what I found really interesting and we can sort of talk about like, how we develop features at Teachable and so forth is most things that we end up developing start out when people are using our platform for something it’s not. We’ve seen people use our platform for all kinds of things. thing is like, we’ve seen people use our platforms for coaching for downloadables people have run like in person events and conferences on our platform. And all these things like we were never quite designed for. And we’ve had people use it as their marketing site. We actually had a school somewhere in Africa use it as their homepage, which was like their actual like student portal, which kind of blew my mind. So it’s really interesting to see all the ways people are breaking our website from a product development perspective, I think like, one of the best places to look for inspiration is like how people are using a product and the ways it was not intended. So we’ve actually been pretty inspired by that and used it frequently. One of the other things that I just like ranks up there and in terms of just like hilarious uses of Teachable is there was a while back where we ended up donating a little bit of money to the ACLU to protest against the immigration ban, which we thought was just not cool and, and then we had a Teachable fan. Let’s call it register school. At the URL boycott and set up boycott, Teachable, calm and use our own platform to build a website encouraging people to not use us, which was probably my favorite use of the platform thus far.

Melissa Guller 14:10

I have to say that’s pretty clever.

Ankur Nagpal 14:12

Yep, yep. Yep. Yep. It’s I think it’s still live boycott on Teachable, calm. I don’t think he’s gotten much traction, though, but it’s still out there.

Melissa Guller 14:18

Okay, well, people can check that out. But then maybe visit regular Teachable comm to if you want to learn something a little more productive, but it is fun to see what different people do. And now if you know, I think it is 100,000 greeters on the platform. It’s really exciting to think about what they’ll continue to do next. And that is what I want to talk about. So I want to get a little bit bigger picture. You often share thoughts internally at all company meetings, or even more publicly on Twitter about the knowledge economy. So maybe for our listeners who haven’t heard the term before, can you quickly just tell us what that means?

Ankur Nagpal 14:49

Yeah, absolutely. The entire company like right, our entire business is predicated on this assumption that was considered crazy a few years ago. It’s still a little crazy, but I think people are like, warming up to the idea but like, I strongly believe more people in the future will create a business become entrepreneurs by selling their knowledge by, you know, selling a product created by their mind. Historically, you built a business by like, either like growing things and selling it or like manufacturing things or selling it. And even now, most businesses revolve around the sale of physical objects. In the future, I think far more people will sell their information, sell their knowledge, sell their expertise. So that was the sort of sort of the bold bet Teachable is predicated on that there would be you know, millions of these knowledge entrepreneurs selling their information in some way, shape or form, all of which now is, you know, comprises the term knowledge economy, which is just people making money from from their information, and a Teachable that’s always been our bigger mission courses were sort of how we started and our first foray into this world. But thinking like 10 or 20 years from now, we want to empower millions of people to make money From their their information knowledge experience, and we’re only getting started.

Melissa Guller 16:05

And as you hinted at this is obviously much bigger than just courses and that’s something that we have been talking about behind the scenes for a while. So just this month in June 2020 when this episode is released, we just unveiled a complete rebrand for Teachable, but it goes far beyond the colors even though those look great too. So can you share the news with listeners?

Ankur Nagpal 16:26

Yeah, absolutely. We’re super excited right for the first six years Teachable was the platform for online courses. Today, it now becomes a platform for online courses as well as coaching. Coaching right now is just when a creator wants to train or mentor people individually. In some ways, it’s a massive paradigm shift and others it’s not a massive paradigm shift because like, we go from like this one product company to a to private company, but it’s not a massive shift because again, we found that a lot of creators were already doing this like a lot of our audience is already doing this. Either on Teachable or Teachable. And it’s also, to me a very logical extension of like our broader mission where for a lot of creators, creating online course takes a ton of time, you basically do two very difficult things. When you create a course you have to like create this like living breathing product that could take a couple of months, and you have to learn how to sell it. With coaching, you now don’t have to create anything upfront, just sell it so like reduces the difficulty by almost like half. And we found that a lot of creators start out their journey with coaching. And on the other end of the funnel, a lot of creators that have large courses also send very sell very high end coaching and the other on the other side of it. So for us it was our logical extension of our platform and I can’t tell you how excited I am for it. Since we’ve been working on this for maybe three years I think since you started most have been talking about products on courses.

Melissa Guller 17:52

Yeah, I think almost a full three years we’ve been talking about this and kind of just hoping and wishing and I know we’re all like you said so excited to see how people start to Use it and maybe just to be really obvious about this, what is coaching? And how is it different from a course you started talking about it, but I want to be really clear because maybe that term coach people think, oh, like a sports coach, or on the other hand, they think, Oh, don’t you have to be accredited? Isn’t that this whole thing? So can you tell us a little bit more?

Ankur Nagpal 18:18

Yeah, absolutely. So coaching. So I think it’s easiest to consider an example, right? Like, let’s imagine you have a writing class, a copywriting course or whatever. And a copywriting course you would upload your content to have, you know, 110 hundreds of students going through it. No matter how many students you have in it, there’s not that much additional work per student, but consequently, it’s a lower price. Now, if you became a writing coach, on the other hand, you would get a client who would work with you, and you would establish a plan based on their goals and there would be sort of one on one check ins, milestones to hit, you’re ultimately like, guiding them in a much more hands on way. Again, the advantage here is if you’re a writing coach, you don’t have to create the content that we would have to create a writing course. You can have your credentials, you can sell your coaching service. And then as you’re working with someone that sort of when the content development happens, the other advantage of being like a writing coach in this example is, let’s imagine you’re a writing coach for three to four people, you get started you, you work through your process with them, you sort of figure out what’s working and what’s not working. And you can then convert that into a course, having already taken people through that process. So very often coaching is a great place to start developing your content that you can then refactor and sell as an online course and already have have the validation that you’ve taken people through your methods, they’ve gotten results, and they’ll be testimonials for a course as well.

Melissa Guller 19:39

I think that word validation is kind of the whole point, right? You’re validating your ability to sell so much earlier in this episode, you talked about really refining your offer and finding the right fit for your audience. And so with coaching, you could try even selling a couple versions of a skill that you have and seeing if one lands better than the other and then you can Actually test your methods of teaching or coaching somebody. And I think for a lot of people just getting started it’s going to be a really great choice.

Ankur Nagpal 20:08

Yeah, absolutely. I mean our goal like from our end, right like how do we decide how will Teachable decide if coaching is successful? For us? The biggest thing we’re looking to improve is, can we get more people to their first sale? Like internally? That’s our kind of magic metric, like what percentage of customers get to their first sale, and the secondary metric is how fast to get to their first sale. So for coaching to be successful, we would one like to see far more people make their first sale. encouragingly, we’ve seen the median time between someone publishing a coaching service and getting a sale is right now one day, so if that stays up, that’s massive because typically we’re like at 45 days between someone getting their first course sales so we’re already seeing it’s much quicker to get coaching sales. Now how many more people can we get to that first sale mark will determine how successful this is.

Melissa Guller 20:55

I love that you brought up the time to first sale because since we are kind of taking a peek at what We think about a Teachable, I don’t know if that’s something that maybe listeners would have guessed. But we’re always thinking about how we can help creators get to the first sale faster or asking what kind of tools they need to better their own businesses, because you’re all our clients in a lot of ways. And so we’re always asking these big questions. And I think this is maybe the biggest new thing that we’ve rolled out in quite some time.

Ankur Nagpal 21:21

Since I’ve been a young man, so this is Yeah, I’m super excited.

Melissa Guller 21:27

You did hint at this too. But how do you think this will affect our creators and just their overall ability to earn money in that knowledge economy that we’ve been talking about?

Ankur Nagpal 21:37

I think this is a big step but this is far from the last step in thinking about products beyond courses right like right now our focus is on one on one coaching and again, I think it’ll help beginners get started and make sales Initially, I think it’ll help expert course creators make more money from their most engaged audience by having like super advanced specialized training. At the same time, like our roadmap is is A lot bigger than this. Like, we also see an opportunity to like start rolling out a group coaching because right now everything is revolves around one on one coaching. And group coaching, again, is a hybrid between like being a one on one coach and an online course, which is fully self serve. So we’re excited about that. But also, as we think about the entire gamut of what knowledge products are, right now, we help people do memberships. But can we do that a little bit better? Right now we, you know, there’s a lot of people who use Teachable for in person events at least pre Rona? And can we do that better? So when we think about our broader mission, like we want to help people make money from their knowledge and experience in lots of different ways, and coaching is one very, very significant step. But there’s many more to come.

Melissa Guller 22:42

I think it’s really exciting to think about the future and even just the different options that we’ll be able to provide for creators. But before we talk more about the future, what do you think are maybe some of the biggest misconceptions that people might have about earning in the knowledge economy

Ankur Nagpal 23:00

I think something a lot of people are a little concerned about, or at least they think more about it than we do is this idea of accreditation. And it’s a little controversial, right? Because like accreditation exists for a reason. Our philosophy is like death to accreditation, like, yes, accreditation does serve. Those serve some purpose, but I think it can be equally damaging. It can equally be this thing that tells people like they’re not worthy, equally like adds barriers to people being able to teach and share knowledge. And teaching and sharing knowledge happens already in so many unofficial ways that we want to unilaterally encourage as many people to share knowledge as possible. And that does mean like accreditation matters does not matter to us. And that is controversial, right? Because a lot of lot of industries are more regulated. We believe that there’s more upside by letting more people teach than there is by having accreditation being this unnecessary barrier that a lot of people have to jump through. And also don’t think it’s a very efficient barrier because really, accreditation just means you’re paying a third party agency money Go through whatever they want you to, it’s not like you’re learning most of those times, you’re just filling out forms and you know, copying answers from somewhere, and so forth. So we’re anti accreditation, we believe that like, everyone should have a platform to teach. And unless it’s like straight up, like illegal or highly offensive, we’ll let you do that. And as a result, more people will teach more people will share their opinion, which in turn will lead more people will learn because we found that people want to learn from people like them. So the more teachers, the more learners. So our goal is to like, just maximize that side of the equation and see what happens.

Melissa Guller 24:33

I’m glad that you brought up people wanting to learn from people like them, because I think we talk about this like, myth of this expert, or whether it’s accreditation or having to have all these degrees or all this experience, thinking that you have to be like the number one best person ever at the thing that you do in order to teach or now coach on it. But maybe you can talk more about that because we’ve just continued to find that it’s not true.

Ankur Nagpal 24:56

Yeah, absolutely. Uh, again, as you mentioned, a lot of people that’s the biggest challenge we deal with is people feeling like they’re not enough. They’re not worthy. They’re not enough of an expert, almost like low key imposter syndrome of, you know, who am I to teach. And what we found continually is people are not looking to learn from the expert. They’re not looking to learn from the person like, super far along when people are looking to learn from his people that relate to people that like for whatever reason they connect with, which is why we believe more teachers the better and even think about in our daily lives, right, like, chances are that we learn more from like a parent or an older sibling, sometimes younger sibling, then a lot of other perceived authority figures that might have more, you know, specific knowledge, and then multiply that by all the possible creators that we found, like, you know, our top programming instructors, for instance, are not professional programmers. They just connected with an audience because they kind of had similar struggles to learning how to code, multiply that with everything, multiply that with people who remind you, of you because of the because you guys might look alike, you know, Like might serve as a better role model for that reason. Think about people whose learning style or teaching style you just connect with. So my advice to people is always don’t like worry about not being the biggest expert chances are you’re the perfect teacher for a specific type of person. So go ahead teach and like find those people.

Melissa Guller 26:18

Mm hmm. Great advice. Now kind of thinking about the future but also very much the present 2020 has been a very unusual year in business. I think it’s safe to say to say the least. So what has 2020 been like for Teachable?

Ankur Nagpal 26:33

Yeah, 2020 has been completely bizarre in every single way. Right? We started the years super like excited gung ho everything like like big year, a lot was happening. I mean, very confidentially at the time. We’re already in talks to merge our business with hot March, the Brazilian company doing the same thing kind of, we do but on a global scale, with the idea that we believe it’s an international world out there and we have to capitalize on it. We announced this Deal, and immediately went into a three month lockdown, which was super fun. But the lockdown was really interesting because on the one hand, you know, typically when people sell a company merged company, there’s, there’s time to kind of take a breath. Think about how far you’ve come celebrate as a group. But instead what happened is that the world went on lockdown, and everyone had to rapidly adjust to this world of online education. So we had our busiest, like two or three months right after announcing our acquisition, but it really kind of heighten their mission. I know this sounds like very cliched and very corny, but like, I think for me, definitely. And for most people working at Teachable it kind of was like, validation, in some sense of this thing we’ve been talking about for so long, it’s like accelerating, but also like, what we do matters what we do, like actually having an impact on you know, the world, thousands 10s of thousands of teachers and millions of learners. So from that sense, it was weird because like you Yeah, I was personally like, unhappy with what was happening and the lockdown and so forth. There’s also this like weird sense of like, gratitude of like doing meaningful work, which, you know, comes and goes, but during quarantine was definitely like this, this matters. And that was, that was really cool. And I would say the last part was also this, like, slight sense of guilt of like, the fact that just our business was doing better and thriving as the world was falling apart around us. And that’s accentuated frankly, with time, but I think it was also kind of cool to see the entire company feel the same way, step up and do what we can to help out in the tiny, tiny ways we could.

Melissa Guller 28:43

And I know you mentioned the business doing really well. But it wasn’t just our business, like yes, we saw really incredible numbers of people using Teachable, but we also saw insane growth for students taking courses. I mean, it was literally off the charts.

Ankur Nagpal 28:57

Yeah, like a lot of people who bought courses for you like months ago, years ago came back started taking their classes a lot of in person businesses rapidly adjusted to online education. A lot of people when faced with like, the lack of income, like very quickly started making money online, in our little bubble of the internet, it was a very, very optimistic time still is, frankly, it basically accelerated the trend of like people moving to online classes, I would say, five to seven years like, so it was really, really cool to just see sort of how, how well our creators are doing. I mean, for context, like, in February, before we went into lockdown, our creators made about $24 million or so this month, which is June, they’ll probably be over $45 million or so. So they’ve doubled their earnings in a span of four months, which is which is ridiculous. Like we would have been happy to do that in a year. And it doesn’t seem like it’s slowing down. So it’s been inspiring to watch.

Melissa Guller 29:57

Mm hmm. It really has and even Bigger. I know you’re looking not just at the knowledge economy, but kind of broader picture. How do you think the overall pandemic is going to affect the future of business? Or maybe even the future of business online?

Ankur Nagpal 30:13

Yeah, so my thesis, right, there’s basically two kinds of viewpoints on this. One viewpoint is like, this is, this is a weird time in the world. As soon as as soon as like, either as a vaccine or treatment, things will bounce back to normal and they’ll be like nothing happened. The other viewpoint, which is the one I have is there will be a vaccine and things will will move back to normal, but certain trends will be forever changed, like certain like movement, like the impact of some activities, not new activities, things that weren’t happening before that have been accelerated, are here to stay as an example like, you know, telemedicine, remote work, online education, the creator economy. I think all of these like little slices of the internet also just ecommerce in general as a category. I think I think this is a permanent inflection point for any of these industries. Think 100 years from now, we look back, we zoom out on the graph. And we look at this moment in time, and we’re like, oh, this is when this industry changed forever. So yeah, travel will pick up, other things will pick up. But I think this sort of movement to online, it’s here to stay. The majority of the gains made by these industries, at this point, are absolutely here to stay. And that’s something again, I strongly believe there are people that take the opposite side of this argument. But I believe our entire industry, the entire creator, economy, like will be forever positively impacted by this. On the opposite side, the full time job economy. I think we’ll be forever sort of hurt by this and will look very different in the future. Long after the virus is still around.

Melissa Guller 31:48

Mm hmm. And when you think about Teachables future specifically, what are you most excited about? maybe a year down the road but bigger picture too?

Ankur Nagpal 31:57

Yeah, years boring. Let’s do 10 years. 10 years from now, I want to I again, it’s like it’s like, like, again, think about this knowledge economy, right I like think of this a utopian world with like, 10s of millions of people all making an income just with like, their, their brain, their knowledge, their experiences, and, and selling different kinds of products, it could be courses, it could be coaching, it could be just like products that we don’t even know what they’re gonna look like, they’re still gonna, you’re still gonna be behind the idea of you have some knowledge and you’re giving it to other people. And at Teachable, we want to empower all these people to earn a living, we want to also help, we also want to control the economy here, which is help them sell each other’s knowledge, right. It’s also like be sort of this, this neutral third party that is help with is creating and facilitating these transactions. And the third thing is, is we want to be truly international. Like I think, again, about 40% of Teachable today is international, but we still sort of have a very us centric buys. The hotbar transaction I think helps broaden our market a little bit but there’s still parts of the world where We have basically no footprint. And I want us to think about this as like, you know, international first company that facilitates transfers of knowledge like just across the entire world. I think that’s really cool too. Because as an immigrant, I firmly believe, like, talent and opportunity are not equally distributed. Like I think talent is distributed everywhere in the world. Opportunity is not. And I would like in our long, long term mission, try and sort of bridge those gaps.

Melissa Guller 33:27

Mm hmm. And when we think about the international appeal of like online courses, or even what it looks like right now, outside of the US where we’re based, how does the knowledge economy look right now beyond just where we are currently housed?

Ankur Nagpal 33:41

Yeah. So you have China on the one hand, when China’s like 10 years ahead of the rest of the world, I mean, in China, you can like microtransactions are super big, I mean, audio podcasts, or we can call them audio paid courses, like the entire podcast economy is so much bigger and it’s all predicated behind paying for paying for college. And you can buy books by like the page there the amount of ways you can consume and pay for information and China’s 10 years ahead, so I’m gonna exclude that market because frankly, like, that’s probably the one market, we’re not going to catch up. The rest of the world is all in like different stages of like realizing how big a thing this is, obviously Hotmart has a huge footprint in Latin America, India is developing very fast more in terms of like education, from like the traditional education side and credentialism. And there’s still a lot of like belief in institutions there that will take some time to sort of Undo, but I do think the rest of the world is sort of just catching up to this. And with each passing year, it’s becoming more and more important. The other thing that’s really cool, though, is just like enabling people, from different countries to like, sell to different countries and kind of earn different amounts of money. Like as an example, coaching as a service is really interesting where there are a lot of countries where you can find a professional coach like someone that’s like very well trained. To teach you for a fraction of the price, because that’s just a way that’s just like how globalization works, right? Like, the money goes much further there. And I think that as a great example of something that benefits both parties and benefits the person in India earning $20 an hour, since it’s substantially more than they would make at their day job, and it’s also a really good deal for someone in America who’s getting a more qualified coach at a lower price. And I think those are the kinds of things we want to enable more, and we have the opportunity to

Melissa Guller 35:30

that’s so interesting to think about, we are starting to wrap up and I want to make sure to ask this before we go. So if you are starting an online business today, what would you do in the first month or two? And what would you just ignore altogether?

Ankur Nagpal 35:44

Ignore the haters. If I were to, if I were to start an online business, I would like I would work backwards from money. What that means is I would like figure out what I could do to get someone to pay me, have them pay me and then like, do the work. Because the biggest mistake like I’ve made in a lot of other businesses is like, do the work first without sort of validating if, if someone is willing to pay for it, that’s one path. And that’s the path I would use. If I’m like creating an information product or creating an online course or something. If I was creating a software business or another kind of business, I would also look at sort of following the Teachable template, can I create something that I would legitimately find useful for myself? Because again, we’re not special, unique snowflakes. If I find something that’s kind of dope for myself, there’s going to be other people like me. So pick one of those two paths based on sort of what type of business and building and I still think, like, I think that’s the only way of going about it. Frankly,

Melissa Guller 36:42

I noticed too, that you’re talking about like earning money or solving problems. You’re not talking about, oh, like, what should I call it? What should I create first, what camera should I buy? And I think those are easy things to think about because sometimes they’re fun, or maybe they’re easier. But at the end of the day, if somebody is not going to pay you for that knowledge, then you’re going to be stuck.

Ankur Nagpal 37:00

The other thing I hate is when people ask me very frequently evening like, yo, like what what topics are selling real? Well right now like, you know, what are the good topics? I like you should not pick a topic because it’s like ranking number one like if it like it, like there’s enough topics out there, find something that you want to do that you want to teach that you have a personal connection and affiliation with that you give a shit about, versus something that is perceived to be selling well. So that’s, that’s again, like sort of at least my stance on things because you’re going to be doing whatever you pick for a while. Do not do it because it’s quote unquote trendy right now.

Melissa Guller 37:37

Huh? Good advice. Now, wrapping things up. What are you thinking about next may even be on Teachable and where can people stay in touch?

Ankur Nagpal 37:47

Cool, very easy question. I’m What am I thinking? I mean, again, like I think I touched on some of the key topics but like, I think we’re still in the super super, super early days of the knowledge economy. So spending a lot of time Thinking about like, where to from here? How do we make this as ubiquitous as possible? How do we make this not this, like, small niche of the internet? But how most people earn a living a step one and step two is how do we, how do we use this to sort to solve the discrepancy between opportunity and talent? Right? So that’s, yeah, that’s where I spend most my time thinking. The best place to find me is where Teachable.com I’m on Twitter. Probably the only social network I use. My handle is my full name on carnac. Ball. We’re also on Twitter at Teachable and yeah, looking forward to staying in touch.

Melissa Guller 38:38

Huh, I do have one more. slightly spicy question. You asked me to ask you controversial questions. I’m not great at that. So to send us out, do you really believe that Everything is Teachable?

Ankur Nagpal 38:53

Yeah, I do believe I do believe Everything is Teachable. Should everything be taught is another question and I would say the answer is probably Not Everything is Teachable. So that’s a cool cop out if an answer.

Melissa Guller 39:03

Well, that was a lame answer, but I guess that’s how we’ll leave. So Ankur. Thank you again for joining the podcast. I hope listeners enjoy learning more about Teachable and the bigger picture direction that we’re headed.

Ankur Nagpal 39:13

Def Glad to be here.

Melissa Guller 39:19

Thanks so much for joining us this week and all season long! You can see the show notes for this episode and learn more getting started on Teachable for free at teachable.com/eit30. On behalf of Team Teachable, we hope you enjoyed today’s interview with our founder Ankur Napal. Thanks again for joining me, Melissa Guller, on this season of Everything is Teachable.