Louise Rogers, CEO of a British company called TSL, likes to joke that she runs a 100-year-old startup.But it’s not really a joke.
Rogers’ company, which started as a print newspaper 100 years ago, has morphed itself into the biggest social network you’ve never heard of, called TES. (This hails from the name of its long-lived publication, the Times Educational Supplement).
In the network’s six years, it’s collected almost 2.5 million teachers worldwide and has become insanely profitable.
Teachers use it to share lesson plans, schmooze with other teachers, and find jobs. In an average week, TES users download 3.5 million documents — “that’s about 8 per second,” Rogers told Business Insider.
Last year, TSL generated “over $110 million in revenue” with about half of that, $51 million, in profit, Rogers says. Much of that comes from the company’s recruiting services but some still comes from its legacy business selling ads. But last year it launched a subscription service for TES and quickly ramped up to 18,000 paying members.
Although TES has been a big hit in the U.K. where it originated, the company just made a big push into the U.S., opening a U.S. office and launching a premium service plan here (called iboard, $19/year) It also has a global premium service plan called TES Pro, $45/year).
The company also created an unprecedented partnership with American Federation of Teachers, the union led by Randi Weingarten. TSL and the AFT invested $10 million to create an online service called Share My Lesson, where U.S. teachers can swap lesson plans and ideas for free.
Plus Stanford University is currently studying TES to determine how the social network can help schools save money while making teachers better, Rogers says.
Because TES is focused exclusively on teachers, it’s not exactly a direct threat to other social networks liked LinkedIn. But it does show how single-profession networks could be an equally appealing, and sometimes better, business model.
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