CreativeLIVE scores $7.5M from Greylock for cable TV meets online ed platform

As we’ve reported before, plenty of newly-funded startups are building virtual, decentralized classrooms for students of all ages who are hungry for new skills and opportunities.  But Seattle-based CreativeLIVE is beginning to carve out a niche focusing on live cable TV-quality webcasts and content meant for the “creative entrepreneur.”

Launched in 2010, the under-the-radar platform has been profitable since its first month and reaches one million people from 200 countries, the company said. On Tuesday, CreativeLIVE stepped up its game with nes that it raised $7.5 million in Series A funding from Greylock Partners and added Mika Salmi, former president of Viacom Digital as CEO.

For most of its two-year history, the company, founded by photographer Chase Jarvis and entrepreneur Craig Swanson, has focused on the creative arts, such as photography, filmmaking and video. But in the past nine months, it’s stretched into software development, business, productivity and other subjects interesting to entrepreneurs and it plans to expand into more.

A key differentiator for the company is that while other online learning platforms primarily offer pre-recorded video instruction, CreativeLIVE plays up its live video capabilities.  In a studio in Seattle, the company records the instruction live (with 5 to 7 high-quality cameras, not a tiny little webcam) and in front of a studio and online audience.

“The classes aren’t canned, they’re very dynamic and have a cable TV quality feel to them,” said Salmi.

The live approach not only means that instructors can adapt in real time to in-person and virtual feedback (from Twitter, Facebook(s fb) and other social channels), it gives the company an opportunity to create an interesting business model.

CreativeLIVE charges nothing to users who tune in live for the live webcasts (as well as rebroadcasts) but earns revenue when people purchase copies of the videos later on.

Some of the platforms’ bigger-name teachers, all of whom are vetted and coached by the company, include best-selling authors Tim Ferriss and Ramit Sethi.  The company declined to disclose details on how much the instructors make but said that one who teaches a four- to five-day program could earn more in that time period than the average elementary school teacher makes in a year.

With the new funding, Salmi said the company plans to make a big marketing push, open a new San Francisco studio and boost its tech platform, as well as expand into new verticals and internationally. 

Given the company’s long-time profitability, it seems that the model is working. But as it expands into new areas and competes more directly with sites like Udemy and Lynda, which also target professionals looking to build new skills (although not necessarily entrepreneurs), it will be interesting to see how it stacks up. The quality of the video certainly seems better and more consistent than that of competitors, and the company aims to filter instructors more carefully (recruiting brand name, prize winning personalities). But, ultimately, it’s the content that matters and if people can find totally free or comparably priced videos, the quality of the video may not matter.