By Nancy Dahlberg
[Host's update: After running Skillied for more than two years, the founder decided to close it down in March 2019. We wish Marcella McCarthy well in her next career move.]
You can learn how to make ceviche, photograph Fido or be a makeup artist – and this startup is just getting started with hundreds of class offerings. Skillied, a Miami tech startup, is a platform that connects people to local in-person classes to help them discover their passion or learn a new skill.
The back story: Marcella McCarthy caught the entrepreneurship bug while studying at University of Miami, where she developed a business plan for a tea shop and placed in the school’s competition.
“It was the best six months of my college experience -- I was all-in. My parents even said are you still going to class? But it paid off. I learned about this energy in entrepreneurship.”
After stints in the jewelry auction business in New York City and as a freelance writer, the homegrown Miamian kept coming back to the nagging problem she had been experiencing searching for photography classes for herself: Why was it so difficult to find and book classes and workshops in Miami?
“When I rent a home on Airbnb I know exactly what I am going to get. I wished something like that existed.”
She and her father, Tim McCarthy, cofounded Skillied in January of 2017 and launched in October that year. Rob Dyson, former CTO of willing, an online wills site that went through YCombinator, joined Skillied as CTO and co-founder this year. Anastasia Novak is head of teacher partnerships. McCarthy’s also got a software developer, and her father, an attorney, handles legal affairs (“I took him out of retirement.”).
Bring on the tech: On the surface, Skillied is a curated list of live classes with reviews, but it is much more. “It is really the Open Table of in-person education. We are not just the marketplace. We are the tech tools and backend to power and grow your business so we integrate with people’s websites as well. You can find classes on Skillied, but the merchants are also using Skillied to power their businesses,” said McCarthy, who learned her tech skills as a graduate student in multimedia journalism at Northwestern.
There are several integration options: a calendar widget, a white label solution or custom landing pages that are easy to update. A dashboard for teachers tracks revenues, student contact info, scheduling tools, teacher profiles, etc. “All of these features have been built because teachers told us, wouldn’t it be great if you can do this.”
Chef Julia Doyne, formerly of the Forge, runs her own cooking school called I Can Cook. For private classes, all her class options, menus and her availability are online, and people can pay right there. “We power her website and we’ve helped her grow her business. It’s rewarding.”
For consumers, Skillied offers classes in painting, cooking, computer training and more, as well as private tutoring. A trip through its website or newsletter is like a smorgasbord of the fun and the serious, and all the courses are vetted. You’ll also find educational events such as a women’s empowerment seminar and an egg-freezing lunch and learn.
Skills retraining, a national issue as jobs become automated, will be a big opportunity. McCarthy wants to make it easy for people to sign up for classes and learn new skills, whether it is web development or digital marketing or culinary arts.
She hopes that as the platform grows, students can build their own curriculums with Skillied.
Just don’t look for an online class here. You won’t find any. “When you learn in person, you also learn from your peers. It is such a more full experience.”
Tagline: “Learn locally”
Growth: 10 percent week over week growth over the last five months.
Recent milestone: Skillied expanded to Broward.
Financing: Bootstrapped. Raising an angel round of financing under $1 million, Skillied’s first raise.
Target market: Locals as well as tourists; 70 percent of the website traffic is women. “We’d love to work with a cruise line to offer local educational shore excursions.”
Business model: Skillied earns a percentage from each booking.
What’s ahead: More expansion in South Florida, including Palm Beach, within the next 10 months, then plans to expand to a city outside of Florida within the next 14 months.
Biggest need from the community: Skillied would like to get more educational institutions on board so their extensive noncredit classes are easier to find and register for. Skillied already works with MDC’s Idea Center and Miami Fashion Institute, but wants to work with all the institutions.
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