Not everyone has spent the pandemic binging on box sets; millions of people with a bit of extra time on their hands have used it to acquire new skills – anything from learning a language to taking a business class. And for coaches and teaches imparting their knowledge, the ability of online classes to reach students far and wide has been a genuine revelation. There has, however, been one problem. While many coaches have loved teaching online, the daily grind of running such classes has often been exhausting and frustrating.
Enter LiveHive, a new platform which aims to solve exactly this problem. Founder Dave Nicholson believes online classes are here to stay even once the pandemic subsides. “But coaches aren’t going to want to have to build a stack of different technologies to run their businesses,” he argues.
Nicholson launched the business with co-founder Winnie Man, taking inspiration from a lockdown conversation between the two of them. “Winnie had recently finished training as a yoga and meditation coach and launched her own business; when Covid-19 arrived, she began running classes on Zoom,” he recalls. “The classes themselves were fine, but the rest of it was really hard work.”
Managing this sort of business is tougher than people realise, Nicholson points out. Coaches need to manage their schedules, answer queries from students and would-be students, make sure people are paying, send out links to classes, and manage a constantly changing membership. The list of jobs is endless, even before coaches start thinking about sales and marketing to bring in new business. Worse, each piece of the process requires the use of a different platform or technology.
“Winnie effectively had to create her own technology stack,” Nicholson says. “It’s not ideal for the coach and it doesn’t work brilliantly for the students either, so we decided to build an end-to-end solution that could do it all.”
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LiveHive is the fruit of their labour. Launched in the second half of last year, Nicholson describes the platform as a “Shopify for coaches”. The idea is that coaches should be able to use LiveHive as a one-stop-shop, providing all the tools they need to run their business through a white label solution that is bespoke to what they do. To their own customers, it will feel like an inhouse solution.
“We think we can cut the amount of time our users spend doing the administration of their business by 80-90%,” Nicholson says. “That’s important because it gives them more time to teach.”
In other words, coaches will have more opportunity to satisfy the undoubted demand for online learning across a whole range of disciplines. There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that millions of people around the world think online classes are preferable to the traditional approach. Not least, such classes are open to everyone, wherever they happen to live. Investment in the broader “edtech” space more than doubled to $16bn last year according to one survey.”
“We think it’s possible to teach people using live online video just as well, and maybe even better, than you can face to face,” argues Nicholson. “The last 18 months has changed the world in many ways, and when it comes to teaching, we believe that what was once niche has become mainstream – coaches, trainers, teachers, professionals and creators the world over have sustainable businesses to build as a result.”
LiveHive’s ambition is to build its own business on the back of that phenomenon. It makes money through charges based either on a percentage of the fees that coaches charge when using the site, or a regular monthly fee. The first model gives coaches an opportunity to try the platform out before committing to subscribing.
For now, LiveHive is focusing on informal education – everything from art classes to yoga sessions, or from business classes to cookery demonstrations. It thinks that market is worth as much as £1.5bn a year in the UK alone and that annual growth rates of 30% are reasonable to expect. In time, Nicholson points out, the model is transferable into more traditional education, with schools, colleges and universities all now making more of online learning.
The key, he argues, is to focus on what coaches need to run their businesses efficiently and effectively – and that is largely transferable. “We don’t think there is any need for us to specialise in one particular type of class – we’re building solutions to a common set of solutions,” Nicholson says.