Job site The Muse dips its toe into education with Muse University

By Erin Griffith , written on August 8, 2013

From The News Desk

Yesterday I highlighted a company that's cleverly bridging the gap between the myriad of free online courses and actual, real life jobs. Turns out TradeUp isn't the only job site thinking about education.

The Muse, a New York company which graduated from Y Combinator last year, hosts job listings from more than 100 companies, highlighting each company's culture with videos rather than stale text-based job listings. (Such elaborate company profiles means the companies pay more for their listings than on a jobs warehouse like Since launching two years ago the site has used its editorial voice, via its blog The Daily Muse, to lure in job hunters. The blog now draws a million monthly unique visitors, up from 300,000 this time a year ago.

Founder and CEO Kathryn Minshew says she had always planned to blend her site's content and job postings with educational services. This month her team finally had the bandwidth to launch Muse University, a very "lean startup" product consisting of four email-based tactical classes.

The initial offerings include a job-hunting boot camp, management 101, tips on landing a promotion, and how to hack your work-life to be more productive. The courses, ranging from a week to a month long, arrive each day in a user's inbox with a written lesson, tips, a homework assignment, and additional optional reading.

Minshew says she opted to start with emails because most users visit The Muse while at the office. Putting the courses into an email means they can easily digest them while at work, as opposed to a video or separate site. Further, The Muse subscribes to Lean Startup 101: "We're better served by pulling together a very good but technically simpler version of our product and responding to user feedback than to invest in time and resources into video right away," Minshew says.

Muse University only launched this week but already The Muse has been approached by large companies interested in partnering for internal training courses, which don't vary that much between company-to-company at the lowest levels. "Nobody wants to watch that classic bad hair 1980's training video," Minshew says. "I think we have already proven we can take career content that is sometimes thought of as boring and deliver it in a way that is full of personality." With Muse University, she's aiming to do that for career development.

The fusing of education and job hunting seems so natural that I'm surprised this week is the first time I've encountered it (twice now!). I won't be surprised if more career and recruiting sites begin integrating educational resources into their offerings. With its acquisition of Pulse and expansion of its blogging software, LinkedIn is leaning in that direction, but offering little in the way of formal courses. On the flip side, Masterstreet, founded by The Muse investor Thomas Lerhman, is a marketplace for formal professional development classes at universities.

So, so many startups are tackling the job hunting space -- see my coverage of Collegefeed, Shiftgig, Talentbin, Workfu, and TradeUp for just a few examples. The amazing thing to me is that, unlike other crowded categories for startups (hello, photosharing), in this category, they're taking fairly diverse approaches. I'll be curious to see how long this many startups can compete for companies' recruiting dollars before there's a shakeout or consolidation.

The Muse has 14 employees, two of which focus on editorial. The company, which raised $1.2 million from 500 Startups, Great Oaks, Eric Ries, Gordon Crawford, Cathie Black, Thomas Lehrman, Y Combinator and Ori Allen, is not profitable, but highly focused on turning a profit on its job search revenue, Minshew says. She was adamant about charging companies to use her service from the start, rather than experiment with freemium and free trials, because she wanted to know if she really had something customers wanted. "So many people said, 'Don't worry about charging now, worry about that later," she says. "My perspective is if they're not paying for it, how do I know they value it?" She now has hundreds of companies, including Quantcast, Facebook, Pinterest, Atlassian, Spotify, and NFL, subscribing to The Muse's job posting service. Prices vary depending on size of company, but are typically in the "tens of thousands" of dollars per year.

With Muse University, Minshew hopes to reel in people hungry for career and life advice but may not be in job seeking mode. Then, when they do decide to start looking, they'll start at The Muse. "It's not just a small number of whiny millennials, its actually a massive movement across a number of different people, across generations who want more inspiring work and have a less linear career path," Minshew says. "People are no longer looking for their next job based on a title and a salary, but one of any number of moves as part of a much longer term career path essentially."

Image of Minshew with co-founders Alex Cavoulacos and Melissa McCreery via The Muse