Insurgents

Tech Insurgents 2012: Mike Karnjanaprakorn

Mr. Karnjanaprakorn (Photo: About.Me)

The Principal of New York

Before Mayor Bloomberg signed up for Codecademy, before General Assembly signed its first lease in the Flatiron—even before Peter Thiel started paying kids to skip school—Skillshare founder and CEO Mike Karnjanaprakorn was trying convince New York investors to finance his peer-to-peer learning startup. He billed the company as the Etsy of education, since it set up a market for anyone to teach—and learn—practical skills through an affordable hands-on class, starting at $25 a night. (The hybrid online classes that Skillshare launched this August, with Livestream office hours, start at just $20 a night.) Read More

Corn Husking

What We Learned On Our First Trip to Big Omaha, Nebraska’s Answer to SXSW

Photo by Malone & Company / Big Omaha via Silicon Prairie News

Earlier this week, Betabeat shlepped out to LaGuardia and took a plane and then another plane to Nebraska. We could tell things were gonna be different when the view from the window seat was tract after tract of pastoral green and brown instead of the Lite Brites that usually greet us descending into Queens. Then our shuttle driver from the airport invited us over for a home-cooked meal. We could get used to Central Time!

We are here, of course, for Big Omaha, an intimate startup conference that people like to describe as “how SXSW used to be,” i.e. before the marketers descended, Jay-Z showed up, and the suits started ruining everything. Attendance is capped at 650 and batches of tickets sell out within minutes. Read More

Facebook Faceoff

Former Facebook Social Design Evangelist Says Facebook Model Is ‘Self-Serving, Egocentric’

Mr. Fisher (linkedin.com)

Branch is billed as a curated discussion platform, but we’ve also found it to be an excellent tool for eavesdropping.

Today, Josh Miller–the founder of Branch who thinks San Francisco is ‘too nice‘–started a conversation on the platform entitled, “Houses, Schools, and Town Squares – Building Next Generation Social Products.” Several tech heavyweights chimed in to discuss a  metaphor coined by ex-Facebooker and current Path CEO Dave Morin that compares Facebook to a town square–prompting Eric Fisher, who wrote Facebook’s Social Design Guidelines to help you build great social experiences, to protest that the social network is actually “centered on individuals and their friends which is a very self-serving, egocentric model.” Read More

So Refresh and So Clean

Education Revolutionary Skillshare Keeps Eye on the Prize With New Redesign

Mr. Ong's profile.

Skillshare recently opened up nationally after going city-by-city while it ironed out the kinks in its democratized teaching platform; now the startup is up to 10 employees, with two starting next week and three more hires to be announced soon, says CEO Mike Karnjanaprakorn. But he had a bigger announcement today: a fairly drastic redesign, meant to reorient Skillshare to its core competancy. Read More

Do It For Me

Brother, Can You Spare Some Time? Zaarly, TaskRabbit and the Rise of the Convenience Economy

Illustration by Oliver Munday

Chad Miller likes to think of running errands for strangers on TaskRabbit as a quasi-religious experience—or at least as close to spiritual as a gay former Southern Baptist from West Texas is likely to find in New York. Mr. Miller is a 38-year-old Columbia graduate who acts, writes and works full-time managing outreach for the university’s Arts Initiative. He signed up for TaskRabbit as his “tertiary job” in September, shortly after the Boston-based startup launched in New York.

“This is going to be incredibly gay as I’m saying it,” Mr. Miller laughed, “but it’s very hakuna matata, Disney-fied—you put it out there and you get a little back. The karma piece is really nice.”

Along with a bumper crop of like-minded companies, such as Zaarly, Fancy Hands and Agent Anything, that have entered the New York market in the past year or so, TaskRabbit offers an updated play on Craigslist for the iPhone-era: buyers post the dirty work they want to get done and nearby “Rabbits” bid on the jobs. Service requests range from the sophisticated—“Motivate me to write a book :)” read a recent TaskRabbit request from Midtown—to the menial. “$50 for a Massage,” a Zaarly user on the West Side posted in November. “General massage,” the ad elaborated, tersely, in the description. For the most part, however, Rabbits are asked to perform domestic drudgery: assembling Ikea furniture tops the list.

It’s easy to see why democratizing the personal assistant might do well in New York, a city largely unburdened by hang-ups about, say, paying $20 to avoid wasting time in a Laundromat, even when one’s budget barely permits it.

In the past three months, Mr. Miller has made a little over $2,000 on the kind of irksome chores overextended urbanites are eager to slough off on someone else, including driving strangers to JFK, waiting in line for hours to save someone’s seat for a Conan taping and lugging furniture to a fourth-floor walk-up. The money’s nice and all, but to hear Mr. Miller tell it, the appeal doesn’t sound far off from “Love thy neighbor.” Read More

Startup News: Skillshare Creep! Forrst Recruiting! And Happy Birthday Wanderfly

forrst

SKILLSHARE EVERYWHERE. Skillshare had two big announcements yesterday: 1) the democratized education platform is available in “every major city” in the U.S. now, and 2) CEO Mike Karnjanaprakhorn has been named one of 12 TED fellows in 2012.

FORRST RANGERS. The developer community Forrst has started posting jobs. Bring it on, Stack Overflow.

SAVE AMIT. The campaign for Amit Gupta continues! Upcoming: bone marrow drive in Delhi and swabbing party in Somerville and much, much more.

DREAM TEAM. New Work City is joining forces with the hackers of NYC Resistor to cross-promote events. Synergy!

XX INNOVATION LUNCH. “I’m super psyched for my lunch this Friday,” Charlie O’Donnell wrote in his newsletter this week.  “Marissa Campise from Venrock and Sarah Tavel from Bessemer are co-hosting a lunch with me for up and coming women entrepreneurs to get a chance to meet venture investors.” Read More

Tick-Tock

Skillshare Founder, Champion of Lean Start-Up Mantra, On Why He Needed That $3 Million

Skillshare founder Mike Karnjanaprakorn and Skillshare friend and investor Zach Klein.

New York-based peer-to-peer education start-up Skillshare, whose co-founder and CEO Mike Karnjanaprakorn recently typed up an article on how to launch a start-up for just $5,000, raised just enough money for its product team and a little wiggle room back in January. But this week the start-up announced two major feature releases and a $3.1 million funding raise from Union Square Ventures and Spark Capital. “We’re at the point where we’re not asking, ‘will this work,'” Mr. Karnjanaprakorn said. “But, ‘how can we grow this.'”

When the Skillshare team realized they had a winning formula–a platform where anyone with a skill to share can propose to teach a class which then becomes available when a minimum number of students sign up–and when they noticed competitors starting to move in, they decided it was time to staff up and start grabbing land. Zach Klein, a longtime adviser and current officemate, “basically led our round” the first time, Mr. Karnjanaprakorn said, but the CEO stuck with investors he knew: Union Square Ventures’s Albert Wenger and Spark Capital’s Mo Koyfman, which is how Skillshare was able to close its round fairly quickly. Read More

Sharing

Skillshare Expands to San Francisco; Next Stop Philly

skillshare class

Continuing education start-up Skillshare, founded by former Hot Potato head of product Mike Karnjanaprakorn and veteran CTO Malcolm Ong, has been growing slowly since it first started offering classes in New York City in the spring after raising $550,000 from Founder Collective, SV Angel, Collaborative Fund and angel investors including Meetup’s Scott Heiferman and TechStars’s David Tisch. “When we first launched, we got a lot of feedback like ‘why is this closed, why isn’t this open everywhere?’ But for us it was like we really abide by the lean start-up philosophy,” Mr. Karnjanaprakorn told Betabeat last week.

He and Mr. Ong decided to limit Skillshare, which lets users offer small, paid classes in anything from computer programming to making chocolate, viewing New York as a sandbox for the company to work out any bugs and, you know, see if anyone would want to use it.

Turns out they did. “We have teachers that make a lot of money on the platform, thousands of dollars,” he said, citing one teacher who does a class in Ruby on Rails.  Read More

Funds and Fundability

Do GOOD, Make Returns: Collaborative Fund Ramps Up in New York

michael karnjanaprakorn

Idealistic New York entrepreneurs take notice: Collaborative Fund, the socially-minded seed stage fund started late last year by Craig Shapiro, former president at GOOD Worldwide, is ramping up its New York presence. Michael Karnjanaprakorn, co-founder of Collaborative Fund-funded Skillshare, just announced he’s officially advising and scouting for the fund in a role similar to what Chris Poole does for Lerer Ventures and Zach Klein does for Founder Collective. Read More