TeachStreet Rolls Out Test Prep Sites, Does Lead Generation with Big Partners
“It’s like figuring out what we want to be when we grow up.”
That’s Dave Schappell, founder and CEO of Seattle-based TeachStreet, an Internet startup focused on helping students and teachers connect through classes and online tools in seven metro areas around the U.S. Today, the company announced an important milestone in its growth: the introduction of two new websites dedicated to helping students prepare for the GMAT and GRE graduate school admissions tests. The sites include access to free practice tests, tools for building personalized study plans, and lists and reviews of local and online test-prep courses from providers like Kaplan Test Prep, Manhattan GMAT, and PowerScore.
The move is significant in the continuing evolution of TeachStreet, which added online payments and pro memberships last summer to its original revenue model, which was based on contextual advertising. Now, “building content-rich experiences around specific verticals,” Schappell says, will make the company’s websites more sharable and sticky, and generate more traffic—and more revenues based on connecting students with schools and teachers.
The strategy falls under the umbrella marketing term of “lead generation,” which a lot of Web startups are trying to do—make money by referring customers to other businesses. In fact, TeachStreet has been doing it from day one, by connecting students with classes. Schappell says, “We’ve been seeing ourselves as a lead-gen company. But we didn’t have a lot of the tools. This is the first ‘opening the kimono’ on going and doing traditional lead gen with larger companies.”
And what makes TeachStreet’s approach special? Most lead-generation sites send “leads”—prospective customers—and then the school or business has to “convert” them to paying customers. “We’re sending them conversions and payments. It’s the evolution of lead gen,” Schappell says.
As for the test prep sites, it sounds like TeachStreet saw an opportunity to capitalize on what students really need online, and to build relationships with big partners like Kaplan. “We built it because we were seeing all this activity,” Schappell says. “Hopefully it’ll work.”