EdTech Series: LearnWorlds

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Joining me is an entrepreneur who created a platform that helps teachers do more than just teach. They enable testing, student success and even give teachers tools to help them sell their courses.

It’s kind of like Shopify for online education. If you want to teach, you want the platform, they’ll make it easy for you. The software and company is called LearnWorlds and the founder is Panos Siozos. I want to find out how he built it.

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Panos Siozos

Panos Siozos

LearnWorlds

Panos Siozos is the co-founder of LearnWorlds, online course platform for creating, selling and promoting your online courses.

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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. My, uh, I guess I kind of call them a friend now and past interview. We, uh, Nat Eliason. Is someone who’s been blogging now for a long time. And one of the blog posts that really hit big for him was how he, how he makes money as a blogger.

And I went to read it because I wanted to understand, I said, this is a guy I thought was blogging for fun. Whenever he reads a book, he does a book summary on it and his book summaries have become popular. But I know when I talked to him, he said that he does it because he wants to remember what’s in the books.

How’s he even making money. Well, it turns out one of the things that he does is he’ll create courses like the one that he did on Rome, which is the software that he really liked for taking notes. And that just. How much does that one produce? It’s a few hundred thousand dollars from these courses. He’s got this other course.

Um, you know what? I don’t want to go into his numbers, but he’s basically making money by teaching. He’s built up his, his content on his own site by writing about the things that he personally wants to remember. And he teaches joining me is an entrepreneur who created a platform that helps teachers.

More than just teach, but also test and make what they’re teaching interactive and make sure that their students actually remember it. It’s kind of like Shopify for online education. If you want to teach, you want the platform, they’ll make it easy for you. The software and company is called learn worlds and the founder.

His name is Panos. Tell me if I’ve got the last name. Oh,

Panos: Almost.

Andrew: we’ve practiced it so many times before we got started. So good to have you here. We’re going to find out how he built up this company, how it’s doing, how it’s competing with so many other platforms. I feel like now everyone wants to create software for teaching online. How’s he doing so well? We’re going to find out all that.

Thanks. The two phenomenal sponsors. The first, if you want to start creating content online, I think there’s no better platform than WordPress. You should go to hostgator.com/mixergy and host your website there. Right? And the second, if you have a team. Gusto we’ll make sure that they get paid and taken care of.

Right. And I’ll tell you later why you should go to gusto.com/mixergy prefers. Thomas. Good to have you here.

Panos: Hi, Andrew. Thanks for having me.

Andrew: How much revenue you guys producing

Panos: We’re at 5 million ARR right now.

Andrew: 5 million annual recurring revenue. Impressive. Considering also the fact that here’s the part that’s most impressive for me. Your background is all education. Weren’t your parents teachers.

Panos: Yes, not only me, but also of my co-founders. We came all from a public school teachers. So education was very much valued at our homes. Education was a, both a way of living, but also it was a way of contributing back to the society. And I think this is something that we. We keep to these day. And we really value teachers and people who are able to, to teach and, uh, and, and teach other people how to do things.

Andrew: What’s different about your platform. I want to know how you went from being someone who loved teaching, who comes from a family of teachers to be building the software company for teachers. But I want to understand first, how is it different? There’s so many other platforms I’ve interviewed five other guys in the last two years.

I think who’ve created software for teaching. What’s different about learn worlds.

Panos: Well, sometimes we, we believe that we see a new platform coming out every, almost every week or every other day. So it’s a, it’s a very hot topic right now. What differentiates us is that we have a background in learning and we’ve spent many, many years in academia researching and creating e-learning products.

So our, our platform is not just a technical thing that we put together. Uh, we didn’t duct tape a few solutions so that people can start easily creating and selling online courses, but we’re bringing along lots of R and D the state of the art of learning. We try to make it accessible to everyday teachers, teachers, so that they can create the best possible versions of their online

Andrew: Be more specific, like what, what what’s. Different, what can we do that we can’t do somewhere else so that we may not even know we should be doing for our students.

Panos: well, some of the things w Vino is one of the, is the most precious asset when it comes to online courses is the thing that most people use. And at the end of the day, it always looks the same. It all looks at the same. Most people just upload a video. Five 10 minutes, 20 minutes. It’s leaner. It’s uh, it’s in most cases it’s even boring.

One of the things that they are able to do in learn worlds is create interactive videos. So you can just upload your linear window that you showed at home, perhaps with a mobile device or with a, with a web camera or a screencast. And with just a few clicks without being an expert, without being a net tech expert or a video expert.

You can convert it into an interactive experience that is very engaging for the students. And this shows very well in their analytics and their actual bottom line because people like the courses that they get in there, they like this interactive video experience. So they’re willing to spend more and buy more courses.

One example is. A video plays, let’s say you want to teach something like conflict resolution in the workspace, and you have two people talking with each other, the video poses, a question pops up and asks you, what is the right approach or what, what should be the right there? What’s the right, uh, a response in, in, in one case and the student has to teach.

So they are no longer just. Passive viewers of a video, which is usually very boring and, and leads to very, a drop of attention very rapidly. And then people just let the video sometimes play, but they have to make choices. They have to interact. They control their own. Space their own, uh, their own pace of learning.

So they construct their own mental model and they learn better happy students learn better. They’re willing to pay more. That’s the bet that we, that we took, and this is what we see being verified every day. Okay.

Andrew: What about note taking one of the things that I’ve, I’ve done this, uh, this past. Dear is I signed up for Skillshare and I started taking these courses. One of my favorites by the way is massage. I taught, I learned how to, how to give my wife a good massage, no taking such a pain in the neck. I’m opening up a note doc from Apple notes.

I’m doing screenshots. I’m trying to copy and paste from one thing to another. I’m not, you know, I’m not sitting down at a computer to do this. I’m doing it on my iPad. So it doesn’t all, all the features aren’t there. What do you do for that?

Panos: Well, uh, again, this is something that was one of the very first feature that features that we added into our platform. Sometimes we, we think that other platforms without wanting to disparage anyone, but in most cases, learning fields, just like throwing a PDF or a video at somebody and wait and wait to see what sticks, but this is not how people learn.

Like you mentioned, you need your notes, you need to have your books. You have to need you. You need to be able. To record your progress into create your own artifacts as you go along. So one of the first things that we need in the platform is our ebook editor, where you can just upload. Copy paste your text, or you can just import a word document and you create the beautiful mobile friendly ebook where you can just highlight passages of texts or add your own post-it notes.

So as you read along, you have your very own representation of your understanding. You can just add your questions, your notes. And at the end of the day, these are the things that are most important for you. These are the things that we, you will remember, not just the things that you studied, but where you put some effort and you created your notes and

Andrew: you’re saying, because I take notes when I take notes, I remember more, but for me that’s really important. And then the other thing is I need a way to get them out so that I could just see the things that I thought were more important. What are the steps that matter to me? Is there an export, is there a way to see that.

Panos: Yeah, there’s a way to print. There’s a way to see all your notes at one at one place. So these are little things that help students and help them convert. The same happens with assessment there w in the platform we offer two modes of assessment. There can be a formal final assessment. This is perhaps what the continuing professional education business needs in order to give out a certificate.

So you have to go in and you can take a hundred questions, 60 minute, multiple choice randomized tests, which is like very, very formal, but also equally important, even more important for real, for learning is the formative assessment where you just self test your knowledge. You go in, you do a test, perhaps you take the same test five or 10 times, and then you can see where you were, right where you were wrong.

So you can go back to the actual content, the videos, or the eBooks and study and repeat. So this is in terms of the learning achievement and how much you learn. The formative assessment is much more important than the final assessment, which by then the, the, the, the course is done. So that was part of my PhD as well.

So this is the kind of knowledge that we put that we took when we were, we were in the academia, we were creating many different platforms. We were testing them with your

Andrew: in academia. So that’s what I was going to go into. Next. Your previous experience, creating educational platforms was white.

Panos: Even in academic setting, we were researchers, we were doing a PhD post-graduate studies in a, in a university in Greece. So we had our own lab. We were creating different applications, testing them with students or with other, uh, with other people. And then we were doing research on that publishing papers or presenting conferences, but

Andrew: it academically. Were you also creating software or creating some

Panos: Yes, we were very hands-on. We were very hands-on us as students. So that was, uh, early 2000. We w we started creating the first. A web application. So we have, it was becoming much easier to produce something and put it online. So we didn’t want just to be theoretical. We always wanted to create actual products that people would use and see improvement in how they learn in how they, uh, how they progress.

And this is what we were doing, but still. No, no, no. It was, it was just to give you the context. It was in Greece, early 2000. Nobody knew anything about doing business online or forming against startups. So we didn’t have any kind of guidance like that, but we always knew that we could do better that having a great application that 200 students use can be very satisfactory, but we wanted 200,000 students or 200 million

Andrew: So it wasn’t about a business. It was just, there’s gotta be a better way to learn. We are studying this right now. We’ll create it somehow, but it won’t necessarily be a startup. That was your

Panos: Also.

Andrew: Then you went to, then you went to work at the European parliament. Why, why didn’t you go into teaching?

Why didn’t you go do something else?

Panos: team back then we were, we are three co-founders. We followed the same path. Two of us completed our PhDs, the other didn’t complete the PhD, but we were working in, in this academia setting. And then for a few years we headed the two different directions. One continued in an academic setting, and now he’s a professor, the other work in, uh, our, our, our, our chief product officer went on to, to become a full professor.

Our CTO worked in different software products. And I went into, into policy. Actually, I was working in the European parliament for the European research for you. So I was always curious about innovation and how you can achieve massive scale and massive impact with the products that you create. But I was approaching that in a, in a, in a different setting in

Andrew: type of policies, what type of policy, what type of policies were you working on?

Panos: One of the biggest things that I’ve worked on was the European budget for research and innovation, which was equivalent of $75 billion. So we were working about what is, where should Marty go, where we should we invest money in clean tech or nanotechnology or anything? Anything else. So I was working in this space, but we always had a niche and we was, we were talking together about what we could do and how we could get our previous experience, our theoretical knowledge and create a product that people would be able to use.

And as the years went by increasingly, it was much easier to do a startup. We do. You don’t need any servers. Uh, cloud computing made things much more accessible. Online video was much more accessible, much more easy to do. So this is the kind of experience we have. And at some point we got together, we saw that that was end of 2011, early 2012.

Team Treehouse was around Linda, if you remember, so. Uh, at that point, it became obvious that there were other paths to no lids outside traditional academia or schooling. You didn’t have to go to university to become a web developer. In fact, probably the worst way to become a gradable developers to go to the university.

You just go online or just start working on projects and acquire practical NOLA. So you can go in and, uh, and apply to it in a real setting. And this is where all this knowledge we have. All of these started solely defined in our heads and said, okay, we’ll bring, we were still seeing that the platforms out there were still very crappy.

And we were very dissatisfied by the kind of platforms that people were using. And we said, okay, we can do better. We have the know-how. We can bring all our previous experience and create a product that people will be able to use, create amazing courses. And. Monetize their knowledge or their audience be able to make profit out of it, make something that is practical.

Okay.

Andrew: You mentioned lynda.com and tree house by Linda for a while, there became one of my most profitable interviews on Mixergy because she, she did an interview with me about how she created lynda.com this before she sold it to what to LinkedIn for about a billion dollars. Am I right?

Panos: it would be probably more, but the other was one of the major acquisitions. When it came to two online courses, it was quite inspirational for us.

Andrew: And so why didn’t you copy her model? Oh, there it is. It’s 1.5 billion, according to business insider. Why? Um, why didn’t you copy her model where it’s a platform. Other people come and create their content there and she sells it and then splits the revenue with the creators.

Panos: Well, I have to say that our initial idea was something similar. So the first thing that we wanted to try was to create the platform and the content ourselves. So we started a small, uh, small business in, in, in Greece where we were creating content about becoming a web developer, like learning HTML five and CSS three, and where you could go in.

And, and start learning about this stuff. We realized very early on that creating the content can be very, very difficult. And, uh, and, and this is very, very expensive. And at that point, other teachers approached us and say, Oh, that’s an amazing platform. Can I use it for teaching photography? Can I use it for teaching marketing?

Can I use it for teaching math? So at that point we realized. That this can become something much bigger. And also at that point, we realized that the model of the marketplace is one thing where you create, I don’t know, an Amazon kind of business where you control the entire. Every marketplace, you have the users, you have everything.

And then more and more people come to you. Well, don’t show we started realizing this is not the best possible model for the actual creators. If you’re a creator, let’s say, and you go to Udemy. The first few guys that went there, they managed to become very well known. They had access to thousands of students, but those that came after and those that came after those.

They, they, it was increasingly difficult to become known, to differentiate yourselves from, for yourself, from the other hundreds of thousands, of course, creators. So this is where we decided that our, our model is not the supermarket, the marketplace, but it’s. The model of creating the individual school, the individual property, the same thing like Shopify.

So if Amazon is the marketplace and Shopify is where you create your own digital property and you can start selling your own courses, this is what we preferred. And this is what is what empowers the actual. And creators the teachers, the content creators, that those that have the old deans, it allows them to create a very valuable property and online business, a business in the books from where they come, they can sell their online courses or, uh, or other products or memberships.

Andrew: I want to know how you created the first version, but first, let me tell you about my first sponsor. It’s HostGator for hosting websites. I looked it up. I know how much, uh, I know how much Nat brought in from that course. So he actually published this. He said his course on how to, uh, how to use Rome. Do you know Rome?

It’s this note taking app that’s becoming really popular, but it’s pretty it’s, it’s still very beta. I don’t even think they have an iOS app or desktop app of any kind. Anyway, he got excited about it. He created a course for it. $400,000. He made on it in nine months because he taught this thing. That was, uh, that a lot of people were curious about.

And frankly, it’s a little bit complicated, but the reason he was able to do that is he built up his audience on his blog by writing about the things that were interesting to him. I see some articles, I think on a site about tea. I see articles on a site about a budget. I see articles on a site about books that he read and he just.

Just writing largely so that he remembers largely that he’s held accountable, but also the rest of us are reading it. He’s building up a reputation building up this, uh, this audience. And so when he has a course to sell boom, he’s got, he’s got an audience of people who are ready to buy it. The reason I say this, if you’re out there and you have not started a site yet, this is the time to go to hostgator.com/mixergy.

When you use that URL, you’ll get an incredibly low price. For hosting package that just freaking works and allows you to focus on your business. I’ve hosted Mixergy on HostGator for a long time. I’ll continue to host on them for a long time because it just works. And I urge you. If you’re getting started, I need some tea here.

If you’re getting started right now, go to hostgator.com/mixergy, build up that business panels. Do you have, do you have an example of someone, um, who’s started blogging, started writing and then ended up creating a course on your platform?

Panos: I think we have many examples of those. Anybody who has our ideal customer is anybody who already has an audience and has, or is able to create content. And these can start from a blog. It can be a YouTube channel. It can be. Uh, a podcast for lot mother Henny, a people, anyone who has a following and can create some form of content can create a very successful online school.

So we have several such examples. We have Instagrammers people who started posting let’s say an amazing case. We have two guys amazing teams, school of calisthenics from the UK. They started by doing calisthenics exercises in, uh, out in the park shooting some great videos on Instagram. They started having a following.

They launched on us, uh, with the, with learn Woltz on, uh, on the summer of 2019. So these things started becoming bigger. And as you can imagine, when COVID hit, they skyrocketed it from a local UK business. They became a global, a global business with a.

Andrew: couldn’t go to the gym. And so

Panos: couldn’t go to the gym.

Andrew: they’re going outside and

Panos: so that’s it. And this started from an Instagram account.

We have others who started with a blog, others who started with a website that podcast any kind of audience can be kind of be monetized that way. I sometimes say that. Online courses are the eBooks of 2020. Anything that you would do with a new book back in 2000, like creating authority, presenting yourself as an expert, getting some leads, for example, or getting some, some traction, having people follow you and even obviously selling it, selling your ebook, your knowledge.

And, and getting revenue people can do that now much easier with an online course. The online course is the ebook of 2020. It’s much more interactive. It’s much easier to create. You don’t have to write or edit. You can just go online, create a few videos. About the things that, you know, obviously that your followers are interested in, in learning about, and you can start selling it.

And it’s much easier to update. It’s much more interactive. It’s much more engaging and it’s much more profitable. How, how, how much can you sell a book for four 50 Euro? You donors, 100. We have on our side online courses that are being sold for $800. $1,000, $1,200. So this is something that you can sell with a transformative course.

This is a course that can change somebody’s life and people are willing to, to invest in that.

Andrew: let let’s go back then to how you built this business, you had the idea who built the first version of the software who created it.

Panos: Well, we were three co-founders. Uh, the two of them built the platform. I was working more on the, uh, on the,

Andrew: I didn’t

Panos: the business

Andrew: I didn’t realize they had technical background. They were able to code it themselves.

Panos: Yes colder. But in this case, I was assigned to doing the research and trying to find our customers and competitors. And what other other people do we count crafted the first version of the platform and still to this day? There are some vast libraries that have been written by my two co-founders the first people who nobody dares to touch there.

It’s so complicated and convoluted code that still hangs somewhere in there in the background.

Andrew: What did the first version do?

Panos: Well, this is one of the, one of the interesting things about the platform. We don’t believe in lean. We don’t believe in MVP. The first version was much more complex probably than the version that we have today. So we probably, from a business point of view, it doesn’t make much sense, but e-learning is quite deep.

So we, you see, it’s not easy to identify if you’re onto something. If you have a great product, unless you built the entire thing and have students spent significant time, so you can move just full people with a light prototype or an MVP. So we had to build the entire thing that took us almost two years, two years of work nights and the weekends While we had the full-time job. And, uh, after a certain point, after a few months, the us we’re funding, the third co-founder who quit his day job in order to be able to, I work full time on the platform. We also brought a young guy from, uh, we thought from the university as a previous student of ours. So at that point we were four people, three working on the platform and the content I was working on the, on the business

Andrew: What does that mean that you were working on the business side? What were you doing?

Panos: Researching emailing, working on content blog, setting

Andrew: Actually writing the con writing the content, publishing it for those two years that they were coding.

Panos: Everything that you got imagining a heading cold calling, trying to knocking on people’s doors out. At that particular time, we were trying to see whether we could find any attraction within Greece, as you may imagine, that was 2012, 2013. Greece was in a terrible situation financially. Nobody was investing in me learning.

So that was probably one of the best things that happened to us is that we failed to find any traction in Greece. So we had right away, very fast to, to switch to the U S market and start approaching that market. Which was obviously very mature. You didn’t have to explain that to anybody. What an online course season, what is the value of your learning?

So that, uh, at that point, things started becoming much, much easier. So it took us about two years to create a, to create the platform we launched.

Andrew: also trying to get potential customers to sign up, to give you feedback? Panos was that your job?

Panos: Yes, not to try to get some customers to give us, uh, to give us feedback. It was at that point, as I mentioned, the first iteration of the platform, we have created our own content around learning HTML. So this is the first thing that we tried to sell. We had some successes, that’s what we were selling the actual course ourselves.

And we had a few successes there, but the, the, the, the Ms. Thing that we got these up. People really liked the platform, even those that didn’t like the actual course, they realized that the platform is very, very powerful. So they wanted to use it for teaching other, other subjects, the things that they have in

Andrew: Who are some of the people you can think of that you, that you use or that you talk to?

Panos: Well, uh, that point, we realized that in terms of we were experts in the subject and we were quite good technically, so that we could implement our platform, but from a business point of view, we were amateurs. So at that point we were doing everything that the amateurs have to do, you know, and aspiring star topper.

So we weren’t going to any kind of competitions. We were participating in a business incubators. Startup competitions, student competitions. At this point, we were, I dunno, 35 years old PhDs. We were able, we had, we were, we could find jobs that would pay us a few thousand dollars per month, but we started at square zero.

We started doing the basic stuff.

Andrew: some of the competitions, were you talking about what you were doing, showing it off and winning some prize money, right.

Panos: Yes, not money. The first, the first thing that we want, we’re very, uh, participation, uh, a hot desk in a workspace in a, in a coworking space. We were winning some very minor things that didn’t make much sense, but they give us positive feedback. People were seeing that there is some value. In here and in, from another competition, we got $10,000 worth of Microsoft Azure costing.

So that was super valuable. That went a long way into being able to support the platform because that’s 10,000 that we wouldn’t have to spend out of our own pockets. And then we got more and more in one competition. We got our first, we got a price of 5,000 Euro five and a half thousand dollars. And that was our first marketing budget.

That was one of the biggest successes. And this is one of the things that kept us into the game. We were getting positive feedback. Didn’t have any actual customers yet, but we were getting there. We were realizing that we’re onto something.

Andrew: All right. Who was your first customer? The first user.

Panos: Our first, our first customer was an excellent one of the top artistic photographers from, from Greece. So that was a guy who was already a very well-known photographer. I mean, amongst these, uh, the, the, these artistic cycles, he was, uh, he was, uh, Uh, expert in talking and presenting, he had shot several documentaries.

So we helped him shoot the online courses, create the, create his own line course and help him also to sell the online courses because he wasn’t a marketer. He didn’t have an expertise on how to sell these courses. And this is where we actually had. Users come in for another customer in consume their content and have some, some actual feedback about the platform.

That was one of the, of the great first experiences.

Andrew: What did you learn about helping him sell?

Panos: It’s not easy. That’s not anybody can do it. Even if somebody has the content or is an expert teacher teaching and selling, it’s not always the same thing. So you have to help people or to give them the right tools and the right guidance so that they’re able to help themselves. So this is where we started understanding that.

It’s not a successful online course platform is not just about creating the best possible version of your online course. That’s something that our scientists selves understood very well, how to create that. But there, we understood that we also help me to help people to sell online courses. And that means we have to teach them about digital marketing, the different channels, affiliates, and the SEO and, uh, and Facebook ads and stuff like that, and help them to implement those things.

Andrew: I was impressed that you weren’t turned off by that. I was impressed that considering your academic background, that you didn’t see people sell using countdown, timers, and scarcity, and turn your nose up at it and say, Ooh, PE, that’s not for us. You actually said, all right, if that’s what’s working, we’re going to put that.

Is that in here?

Panos: Uh, w w I guess we were, we were very stubborn and very, we were willing to learn, and I always say that. A startup and any kind of project. It’s not determined by the things that you know, because you don’t know anything when you start, or even when you finish, you don’t know much about the business and how it changes, but it’s determined by how fast you learn.

So this is one of the great lessons we learned once we switched to the U S market and we had some customers there that already have used different platforms and they have very. Strong ideas about how you approach the S market, which I have to say it’s a bit more aggressive when it comes to marketing from our European point of view, you know, where things are a bit more relaxed and more like selling aggressively.

It’s not something that happens in Europe. Uh, very, uh, very well, I guess it’s kind of frowned upon socially. Uh, but this is something that we learned from our, from our best years customers, like we need these, we need to be able to make an offer. And as you mentioned, we need to create the sense of urgency or scarcity.

So we need to count down timer that will expire and something that will blink and will compel people. So we added it. We said, okay, we have to try that. This is what people are telling us. This is what they know. I mean, they they’ve seen that before. Let’s see if this is the way to go. And I have to admit that at this point we started even dreaming down some of the e-learning tools that we have in the platform that were difficult for people to understand and to use.

So we said, okay, let’s thin a bit the, the e-learning part, all the, the, uh, the, over the top, some over the top tools that we have some things that were quiet to quiet, difficult for the average teacher to use. So we started toning down some of the learning parts and started working more. All the e-commerce parts and what are the things that we need so that we can create for them a very, very successful e-commerce engine to help them sell as many courses as possible.

Andrew: Okay, I’m going to come back and ask you where, what you toned down and then where you got your teachers, what was working for you. But first, let me take a moment to talk about Gusto and I have to tell you. Everyone’s leaving San Francisco. If it feels like there’s a moving truck outside my house every day or my block every day.

So I called up my accountant and I said, if we leave San Francisco, it seems like we just won’t have to pay taxes for California. Right. If we go to Austin and he comes back to me with an email says, it’s actually not that easy. Uh, we should get on a call. I get on a call with him and he says there are a few issues that you need to consider first, any options that you might’ve gotten while you were in California, California’s going to say that any money accrued on them, even if you sell it, years later belongs to like some taxes go to California and then your, your wife’s job.

They need to be okay with doing a couple of things that makes you into a non-California citizen. And why anyway. So now I’ve got to go deal with my wife’s job too. And I realized, no, I don’t. She’s just going to fire off a message to her HR person. The HR person will get back to her within five minutes and then we know how we could do what we need to do.

And if we decide to leave, she just has another person she could follow up with. And it’s all taken care of. Here’s why that matters. Gusto today. Panels. Employees contractors have questions like this all the time. A company wants to help them out, allow them to go live someplace happier, cheaper, whatever, closer to family.

But you don’t always know how to handle all that. That’s where Gusto comes in. Not only do they make it easy, but they even have HR professionals standing there ready to help you out as the business owner, ready to help your team out as the people who are trying to pay and manage and take care of your, your staff.

That’s what’s great about Gusto, the same level of care that my wife has at our company, which is a publicly traded company, very robust team and all that. Anyone who’s listening to us, even if they have just one, two, three, five, 10, people should have access to that. Gusto wants to make it available to you.

They make it super easy for you to pay your people. Yes. They make it super easy for you to manage your people, regardless of whether they decided to move from one state to another, make some other change. And even if they’re contractors right. They could take care of them. I want you to go right now and create this for your team, and then you’ll recognize the benefit for you as you can handle these issues so quickly in, uh, in operating your business.

So here it is, it’s Gusto go Google them. You’re going to see how great they are. And then once you Google them, do me a favor. Use my URL. Yes. They’ll give you three months for free, but I’ll be honest with you. It also gives me credit for. Turning you onto Gusto. So here’s that URL that will give you three months for free.

And give me a nice Pat on the back from them for turning you onto them. It’s gusto.com/mixergy, G U S T o.com/m I X E R G Y. Gusto. Thanks so much for sponsoring this a killer company here. Um, I was so happy when they wanted to sponsor, what did you tone down when you were toning down your e-learning.

Panos: We had some quite unique tools. One of the things that I can remember now is that in our first, the first iteration of our ebook on top of all the note taking tools that we had and being able to add port speeds, we also had. The possibility of adding little code simulations. So as I mentioned, we had started for aspiring course sellers for eh, HTML programming and stuff like that.

So in your e-books where you were reading something about how to write code, you could embed. Eh, a simulator where you could write code and see right next to that, how that translates into an actual page and actual battle or an actual design. So these are, these were some of the things that we have inside.

And, uh, at some point we said, okay, it will just. It’s not easy for, for people to use that, or they’re not understanding right now how to use that. So we started, uh, removing some of those tools or not making it available to everybody. So at that point also we realized how. He bought on UBS for the platform to be super user-friendly, to be able to own board cell phone board super easily and be able to create their first online course in a matter of minutes, once they see how their online school can look like and look like and how easy it is to create an online course, they’re much more willing to, uh, to stay tested and up the end convert.

So from this day, We always started. We kept improving the platform, adding more ready-made tools right now in our platform. You can go in and you can start with seven different web e-learning website templates. Full ready right out of the

Andrew: What

Panos: you have a new

Andrew: or what comes in a template?

Panos: design and the pages, even we have the co-PI, but obviously you can go in and change the copy or change the images.

So we have a ready-made template for yoga teachers and the ready-made template for marketing courses and the ready-made template for photography. Courses. So you can just, or art, you can just pick one of those, customize it to your own needs. And you have a full e-learning website. E-commerce enabled out of the books and mobile friendly right out of the books.

And you have it in, I don’t know, four or five minutes, and then you can just play around and optimize your content, your marketing copy, and then you can create your, your actual courses. So we knew we, we, uh, we understood how important the season we kept. Megan, super easy for people to create their courses and, uh, and as easy as possible.

Andrew: I find that a lot of times people don’t even know how to teach what they’re good at. We do. We we’ve got courses on Mixergy premium. And one of the things that we do is we, we ate it for them and we’re talking about smaller masters classes where we bring an entrepreneur on, we interview them, we create the content.

And the reason we do it is because even the best experts I found. They freeze up when it comes to teaching, they, unless they’ve done it a lot, they feel a sense of writer’s block almost about where to start, how to do it. They feel doubt. They feel, um, they, they feel inadequate. Are they? Who are they to teach is a big thing that comes up.

How do you get people past that? Do you even bother getting teachers pass that?

Panos: Yeah, it happens. Uh, we see different depending on from their background and from where people come there might be several roadblocks. There might be some amazing teachers who have done this before have taught thousands upon thousands of hours. So for them it’s super easy to create the content others while they’re super experts in their subjects.

Have no idea about how to. Poke to make popular. There are no religion how to call it, to explain it in a, in an easy way. For example, one of the first mistakes that people do is they say, okay, I know the subject, let’s say how to do Facebook ads, whatever, let’s record a 60 minute video. And we say, no, this is the last thing that you should do.

There is ample research that student attention falls rapidly after 12 minutes. So there’s no reason why you should create a 60 minute video. It’s super easy, difficult to produce 60 minute of talking and like how you can, how will you edit this thing? Once you need to do is break fee, break this thing down, create six.

10 minutes videos, 10 minute videos, which are much easier to produce much easier to update much easier to add something in between if the demand arises for some, for something new. So these are some of the things that we suggest and how we do that. We produce lots of content and we do lots of customer education and customer training.

We produce, for example, some Grady books where we have ready-made templates of courses. Like, do you want to do at masterclass? Do you want to do a fast clap? Do you want to do a hybrid course with live class self-paced courses? We give to those two people, these kinds of options so that they can think what is possible.

They can take the, the, the template that fits their audience and their own situation, and they can work with that.

Andrew: I do see templates now becoming a bigger and bigger thing like notion their whole business seems to be growing because these are not because of that. But largely I’d say. Because people are creating templates, notions pretty fricking complicated. You know, there’s no taking up. I’ve used it,

Panos: Yeah. Yeah, I know. I know. I know you can do lots and lots of things, so, well, templates. People need some kind of guidance, some kinds of certainty in order to start building, this is what we’re doing. Also with our, with our websites, we are, people get already made website and obviously once they are, they start using it, then they can realize how easy it is to adapt it to their own situation.

This is the same thing with the courses. We give them some blueprints and we help them. Then this helps them to structure their own knowledge, create the prototype. We’ve seen people getting bloke, not only in the course creation, but also even after they finalize their core, their course, for some of them it’s super difficult to launch it.

They are perfectionist. And I think that one of the nice things that we are getting out of it, perhaps only handful of good things we can get out of 2020 is that people stopped being so perfectionist. Now everybody goes on zoom. With, uh, Bob Hare, cats, kids coming on, uh, before we have met so many people worrying about having the perfect sound, the perfect lighting, the perfect framing of the picture.

It’s not important if you’re conveying value with your online course, if your students get an experience, a life-changing experience or even something, I don’t know, they understand how to perform a certain skill. They, they grasp a certain content then sometimes it’s good enough. So just go out and launch your course.

And one of the great events that we did, uh, two months ago was the, just launch it challenge a four week training course where we took people step by step. Some experts, amazing experts with great knowledge. Who has no idea about how to create an online course? So we took them step by step and we helped them launch their very first online course.

And that was super satisfying also. So for us to

Andrew: how did you promote

Panos: through the process,

Andrew: That seems like one of the ways that you get teachers on your platform, how did you promote it?

Panos: that was an amazing lead magnet, that’s one of the things we’ll do, we’ll say any kind of the best types of lead magnets that we use for our business, our online courses,

Andrew: Yeah. So what, what did you w what did you do to get people to know that this was happening and to get them to sign up, to do it?

Panos: Created a landing page with our own platform that probably took some, some 20 minutes. I showed the 32nd video.

Andrew: But how did you get people to come to the landing page?

Panos: We use Facebook ads, super easy. The cost of the acquisition cost is immensely low. Once you have something that is appealing and you obviously, we’re not starting from nothing. We already have some audiences, so we can do work with lookalike audiences, and then we target creators.

You can target.

Andrew: target creators, bring them in for this, for this free course, free training, people learning how to do it. And if they’re learning to do it on your platform, they’re more likely to stick with your platform. Got it. The other thing that I’ve heard that you did is, um, you saw that there are lists online.

For course platform, uh, platforms for publishing courses. You started reaching out to them. Was it you panelists who was reaching out to them and saying, Hey, you should know about our site. You should know that learn worlds allows this to, and what our benefits are.

Panos: initially we did emailing cold emailing people on a, let’s say on you dummy trainers who already have courses and you dummy in many cases, change their business model. Always. And making it harder for people to make money, giving them a smaller share of the, of the, of the profits of the, of the revenue.

So lots and lots of people were dissatisfied and we’re trying to find a different platform to host their online courses. So we’ve been reaching out to you. Dimmi. Creators ski share all sorts of all sorts of different of, of people who, as I mentioned, the idea, at least people who already have the audience and already have the content.

If they have both, that’s amazing. If they have one of the two, they have the content. So they’re perhaps already teaching in a platform then for them, it would be a nice idea to see and test a better platform and see how successful they can be

Andrew: So you’re figuring out who’s already on those other platforms, getting their contact information, messaging them and saying, look, if you’re on Skillshare, why are you sending people to Skillshare? You should have your own standalone course. Lets Skillshare send people to you. You’ll make money from that or, and have your own

Panos: Yes, you can, you can always use Skillshare or you, me as a channel for having, let’s say the basic or usually light and cheaper version of your online course. For example, in Udemy, you don’t control your pricing. So usually UME puts their own offers so that you don’t have any control. And then you can have the premium version of your own land hosted on, uh, on, on learn worlds.

But I have to admit that. The best channel working that works for us is the, is the inbound channel. We produce lots of content, lots of articles, how to articles about how people can create and sell online courses. So organic is by far the best channel that we have for getting new people into the plan.

Andrew: What about you have an affiliate program too?

Panos: Yes, we have enough feed program.

Andrew: is that?

Panos: But I will checking the numbers the other day. They, our affiliate program grew by 450% in 2020. So some people have effectively, some of our top, a couple of our top affiliates are startups on their own just by sending people over to over, to, to learn.

Andrew: Yeah, I saw that. So it looks like one of your affiliates from what I can see is a guy named Adam and Freud, Adam and Freud teaches people. Here’s the headline from a site, learn how to scale your influence at startup speed. Join me and half a million monthly. And leaders to shift from blogger to business owners, scale your blog, like a startup, et cetera.

And what he’s doing is teaching people how to do it. And also from what I could see recommending that they sign up with you, right? So that they could publish on learn world’s their course and make money from their blog. Am I right?

Panos: Uh, yes, Adam, an amazing story. He started as a blogger teaching people how to create an audience, how to monetize their audience. At some point he was not just dealing with online courses, but at some point he sold up online courses were becoming a hot thing. So he started working more with online course platforms and evaluating course platforms.

Initially we weren’t his first option. I think initially we weren’t even in any of his options. So we approached him. He tested learn wolves. He saw that it was good. He put it somewhere in his list. I don’t know, eighth, eighth position, seventh position, but as he started getting customers over from us and some raving reviews and ask, he was saying that the customer that he was staying over to us.

We’re staying more, making more money and not churning. He understood that he was onto something. So he started putting us in a higher and higher positions. Probably. Now we were on, I don’t know, first or second Dickies, uh, in his, in his choices. So that’s an amazing story. And obviously his revenue and his audience skyrocketed also in 2020, this is.

The, the, the tail, the tail winds that, uh, online business to crumb from COVID. So he, he now I think we were all were always super happy. Although I feel it can be an expensive channel because, you know, you pay people, but actually you pay people who bring you customers. So you are very happy with the success of your affiliates or your, this is the kind of money that we are happy to pay in the kind of partnerships that we value.

Very very much. So, uh, a failure. These are second after the organic affiliate is our second biggest channel.

Andrew: I think now he’s, he’s recommending one of your competitors. All of a sudden too. I mean maybe the number

Panos: was always these guys, as you know, from affiliates unit, you don’t have to put all your eggs in one nest sole you always, uh, suggest two or three different platforms and no two platforms are alike. Other platforms work best for other kinds of businesses. So we don’t have any problem of being co promoted by any.

Uh, by any affiliate or PR or any person who has allowed you to

Andrew: and what you’re doing is you’re paying EV you’re paying an ongoing commission, right. For the life of the creator.

Panos: lifetime commission. And this is where affiliates can really see whether the customers that they’re sending over to you. If they stay and keep paying even more commissions, because they have upgraded, then they realize that they’ve chosen the right, uh, the right partner.

Andrew: Right. All right. How much did your business grow after COVID? Let’s say from 2019 to 2020, what percentage?

Panos: We, we grew by we more than tripled

Andrew: More than tripled.

Panos: in 20, in 2020.

Andrew: 2020 was the year of the creator, right. People who’d never created before, suddenly had time urgency and also the world was ready for them. Right. There are more platforms to get customers for free. There was more platforms to express yourself.

Panos: I think we, we haven’t bet on the creators. That’s why we built . We bet on the creators, we bet on the, on the teachers, on the, on the value of knowledge and how you can monetize knowledge. What COVID did is didn’t much didn’t show much foment changes out of the blue, but rapidly accelerated the trends that were already there.

So the, the growth that we would probably see in five or six or seven or eight years, We show it in six months or one year within 20, 20, 20. So in the first few months, the real shift happened, started on the 15th of March of 2020. That’s one when most of the countries, uh, started some kind of log down. So almost overnight our funnel tripled and hasn’t, uh, 8,000.

It slowed ever scenes. And at that point we were seeing the, the consumption of online courses, skyrocketing. So people were staying inside. These were extreme conditions and we really, really hope that we don’t have to see that again. Obviously it was one of the most stressful periods for, for all of us and our, all our families and all our known ones.

So people were consuming Netflix. Gaming and online courses and our customers, those are already had the, the first movers, those that already were already there and already have a well-functioning online course in a well-functioning new funnel. They were selling their, there are sayings from, from February to March.

More than tripled. And in some cases, quadrupled because people were didn’t have anything to do. They wanted to stay sane. They wanted to acquire some skills or just spend some quality time online learning how to massage your wife. So these are very useful

Andrew: that was really

Panos: pay off. So people were consuming online courses and we still see that continuing to this day.

Obviously we understand that there is a post COVID era. And some things we change. And eh, obviously we hope that all these terrible situation will go away soon, but we also understand that people will not go back. In many cases to the old days of doing things. I cannot imagine a business that wants to train their employees.

I don’t know, putting 300 people in a hotel for five hours of PowerPoint. This will never go. It will be done again. We will meet again in a hotel, do a reception, have fun, drink, coffee, drink wine, but five hours of PowerPoint. This is not how people will be trained in the future. Hopefully this is a thing of the, of the past.

Andrew: Yeah. I’d like to even see conferences go light, light, light on content. And. Heavy on experiences. So just a little bit of content. So I get to know what the person’s about and maybe so I can justify it. But in reality, all we want to do is do stuff with other people. All right. Learning though we’ll stay online and continue to grow.

I can see it. I can see it in my own life. Now my wife is doing a meditation course online. Right? It’s just, it’s part of our lives. It’s not even such a big thing. All right. For anyone who wants to go check out the website, it’s learn worlds.com. World’s like a w O R. L D S learn worlds.com. I want to thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen.

The first, if you have not started your blog, your site, this is the year to do it. Go to hostgator.com/mixergy. And the second, if you have a team, you know, you should be checking out Gusto. All you’re doing by throwing that slash Mixergy at the end of the URL is saying, Oh yeah, Andrew reminded me. I should be checking them out.

It’s gusto.com/mixergy to get those three months free and to really make your life and your team’s life. Happier. Thank you so much panels.

Panos: Thanks, Andrew.

Andrew: Thanks, bye.

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