When 25-year-old North Carolina native Katie Kapler met Nihal Parthasarathi, she knew they’d start a company together.During NYU undergrad, they gave it a shot. But like many founders, their first attempt resulted in utter failure.
Now they’ve re-entered the startup scene with CourseHorse, a company that launched in April.
CourseHorse is an aggregator of classes — from yoga to languages — in the New York City area.
“There are a ton of directories for schools but not for the classes they offer. You still have to go to schools’ websites and search for the classes you’re looking for,” says Kapler.
CourseHorse is a full listing and booking platform solution. It recently won an 8-month long NYU Stern competition, beating out 220 other startups for a $75,000 prize.*
“After it was all over, we realised we probably lost money [in respect to the winning amount] during the process,” Kapler laughs. “But the exposure it gave us has been really valuable.” Kapler says she and her cofounder were swarmed by investors after winning the competition but opted not to pursue financing.
“We realised we’d have to give some of the company away so we’re going as far as we can before raising money,” she says. “We have about 18 months worth of money [in our bank accounts]. Nihal and I are supporting ourselves an our tech counterpart as well.” Kapler is used to being scrappy though. She paid her way through NYU and graduated one year early to save money.
CourseHorse is off to a pretty good start. In just two months it has partnered with 130 schools and has more than 4,000 classes listed. Kapler says they’ve had about 60 bookings, of which CourseHorse takes a 15-20% cut.
While they’re building momentum, Kapler and Parthasarathi have a long way to go. When you type in “photography” on CourseHorse, only three classes show up. Don’t even try to search for something specific like “hot yoga” or a class outside of Manhattan. CourseHorse doesn’t have a mobile site either.
But the founders promise a lot of improvements in the near future. Kapler says they’re working on a deal with Mind & Body, a company that posts classes for fitness/health businesses like Bikram Yoga.They’re also in talks with media outlets about partnerships to display local course listings on their web sites.
Jason Finger, Seamless Web’s founder and informal CourseHorse mentor, sees a lot of promise in the young founders and their company too.
“SeamlessWeb and ZocDoc (where I was on the Board) were in the business of moving offline inventory to a web-enabled platform that made for a more efficient transaction. I see all of the same market characteristics for CourseHorse,” Finger tells us. “I think CourseHorse will be an important property led by a very talented team with an inventory acquisition approach similar to the one we pioneered at SeamlessWeb.”
*221 teams competed in the 12th Annual New Venture Competition; the 8th Annual Social Venture Competition, or the 1st Annual Technology Venture Competition. CourseHorse won the New Venture category.