Welcome to the thirty-first edition of “Startup of the Week” which features many great startups and interviews with successful business heads. This week, I interviewed Spencer Fry, the co-founder and CEO at Coach, a platform providing tutors with tools to help them reach more students, earn more money and save more time.
I’ve asked Spencer a series of questions about Coach and tips for budding entrepreneurs. Have a read at what he had to say.
How did the idea of Coach come about?
The products and services I enjoy working on the most are those that help individuals build and grow their businesses. Coach came out of that need. We’ve found that not only tutors, but also freelancers, tend to be very good at the service(s) they offer, but often lack the tools and marketing knowledge that’s necessary to grow and scale their businesses.
Most of my friends are freelancers, my girlfriend included, and I happen to know some very successful tutors in New York City, as well. It all just came together about a year and a half ago when I began sketching the product at 9th Street Espresso coffee shop in the East Village.
Simply, what does your business do?
Coach is a platform built for people looking to independently market, manage and grow their businesses; every customer gets their own website and access to helpful tools and marketing resources to support their growth. While at the moment we’re only focused on tutors, we plan to expand the product to freelancers and anyone who works independently on their crafts.
Did you have a business plan?
Anyone who signs up for Coach gets access to:
- Their own website to help market their services
- Automated scheduling tools to help save time and back-and-forth
- Online / automated payment tools for faster, easier access to their earnings
- Our Course Builder to help users create and sell their own content
The way we make money is by taking a 5% transaction fee when tutors process payments through Coach. Getting paid is one of the most frustrating parts of being a tutor and a freelancer, we make it super easy for people to accept and receive online payments.
What were the challenges you faced when creating Coach?
Everything with Coach has gone well to date, the only challenge I can think of is one that every product company faces: improving the product at a steady pace without getting bogged down on any single improvement.
Often times, you get too deep in the weeds and you need to pull back and look at the big picture. In my opinion, it’s more important to build toward where you want to be in the future, rather than improving something small in the moment that won’t have a serious impact.
What is the difference between you and your competitors?
The biggest difference between Coach and other platforms catering to tutors is that we’re focused entirely on the tutor, whereas many “tutoring platforms” continue to be student-focused. Everything we do at Coach right now is with the tutor in mind. Tutors have been let down and mistreated by a lot of web companies. From our product to our business model, we’re aligning ourselves with tutors so that we benefit each other.
We want to be the product that all tutors use to run and grow their businesses. Using Coach frees up their time to focus on teaching more students. We handle the rest, from their website and marketing to scheduling and payments.
What were you doing before Coach?
I’ve been an entrepreneur my entire life. My last few startups since 2002 include TypeFrag, Carbonmade, and Uncover. I’ve been building, designing, and programming products my entire adult life. It’s all I know and what I do best.
Coach is special, though, as it feels like a culmination of everything I’ve done. We’re only four people, but it’s the best team I’ve ever worked with and we just click.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Having written a lot of articles around startups and advice for entrepreneurs on my personal blog, I think the most important aspect to focus on is where are your users coming from and how you’re acquiring them. If you don’t figure out what will drive growth for your startup, then you’ll be out of business no matter how great your product is.
Many first-time entrepreneurs focus too much time on building their product rather than validating that people want it. It’s natural to be very engrossed in your product as you’re building it because you care and it’s so very personal, but it’s going to hurt a lot if you don’t find people to use it and are forced to go out of business.
In one word, describe your job?
This is very much the hardest question of the interview, because my job at Coach changes every day. When people ask me what I do, I often say that I aspire to be an “architect” in my job, but my daily job is ever-changing. At any given moment I’m doing something different.
More literally, I’m the CEO of Coach, and Fred Wilson wrote up a blog post on what a CEO does and that is: “A CEO does only three things. Sets the overall vision and strategy of the company and communicates it to all stakeholders. Recruits, hires, and retains the very best talent for the company. Makes sure there is always enough cash in the bank.”
Those three things are always top of mind for me.
Headquarters: New York, NY, USA
Did you enjoy this post?
Never miss a blog post. Subscribe below to get more posts like this sent straight to your inbox as soon as they're published.