Get your learnin' on: CourseHorse raises $500K to build a directory for local classes

By Nathaniel Mott , written on October 11, 2012

From The News Desk

CourseHorse, a New York-based startup that connects users with local classes – think music lessons, cooking classes, or yoga instruction – has raised $500,000 in seed funding from New York Angels, NYC Seed, Golden Seeds, and a number of angel investors.

The company, which was founded in 2011 by NYU graduates Katie Kapler and Nihal Parthasarathi, currently offers 20,000 classes from 500 institutions, including CUNY (City University of New York) schools and the Institute of Classical Architecture, as well as other schools and small businesses.

CourseHorse is a New York startup through and through. Parthasarathi cites partnership opportunities, New York's emphasis on getting out and doing something instead of lounging on the couch (unless it's raining), and the strong sense of solidarity among NYU graduates as just a few reasons behind his and Kapler's decision to start the company within the five boroughs.

There's another thing that makes New York appealing to CourseHorse and the other startups that call the city home: the media. Though CourseHorse isn't trying to redefine publishing or get a lot of press (yes, I realize the irony of my typing that), it can leverage media companies by offering a better version of the age-old Classifieds section.

Its first partner is Time Out New York, an obviously New York-centric magazine and website with 1.5 million unique visitors each month. "[Time Out] had a lot of editorial content about classes in the city, and realized that as a media company they needed a way to better monetize what they were working on," Parthasarathi says. CourseHorse offers that solution.

Still, though New York has served CourseHorse well, it's time for the company to branch out and capitalize on the market in other cities. Its first stop: Los Angeles.

Why? Well, part of it has to do with plain-old market research. CourseHorse took a look at which cities were using Google to find local classes the most often, and Los Angeles was near the top of the list. The company also asked some of its university partners where they think CourseHorse should go next, and LA kept coming up.

Parthasarathi says that the similarities between New York and Los Angeles also influenced the decision to move there. "It's really [about] the culture that develops, about getting out to do activities," he says. In other words: sunny Los Angeles and "the city that never sleeps," are good, and rainy-old Seattle is bad.

At its core, CourseHorse is about self improvement. Whether it's becoming a better cook, a better guitar player, or gathering the skills necessary to start a new career, CourseHorse is meant to be the bridge between potential students and their teachers. In that instance, New York and Los Angeles are perfect choices, as both cities encourage a culture of constant self improvement and evolution.