Meet MasterStreet, a marketplace for professional development classes

By Erin Griffith , written on July 12, 2013

From The News Desk

For the past year, Thomas Lehrman, co-founder of boutique research firm Gerson Lehrman group, has been talking to tech companies about their people problems. Clearly recruiting is a pain point in tech. But that is also a problem many, many others are trying to solve, from LinkedIn's recruiting tools, to startups like Namely, to VC firms' in-house recruiters.

So Lehrman chose to focus on a different pain point: professional development. For the past year he's built up both sides of a marketplace that connects companies, professional organizations and people with classes. The result is MasterStreet. After a year in private beta, this week the company took its platform public. It is currently only available in New York.

MasterStreet's aim is to provide a centralized portal for employees to find professional development classes, from Web development to auditing. It is open to individuals, but the company's focus is on companies. Lehrman would not name any of MasterStreet's clients, but he said the company is focused on "high growth" tech companies with 25 to 500 employees. Through contractual arrangements, the companies allocate a allocate a set amount of money for employees to spend on professional development courses via MasterStreet, Lehrman says. They benefit from offering professional development as a perk to its employees, which he (and others) believe incentivizes workers to stay longer at the company while becoming more valuable employees.

MasterStreet focuses on in-person classes, says Lehrman, despite the rising popularity of MOOCs (massive open online classes), which often provide video lectures online for free. Knowledge workers who seek to develop themselves professionally already spend a large portion of their day in front of a screen. "Learning things in an in-person classroom setting is attractive," Lerhman says.

On the education side, MasterStreet works with New York universities such as NYU, Pratt, Columbia, FIT and Cornell. The institutions pay MasterStreet a fee when the site successfully recruits a new student.

Lehrman has raised a small amount of capital from friends and family to launch MasterStreet.

[Illustration by Hallie Bateman]