eProf was asked to blog about its biggest struggle with decision making thus far at JOLT:
At eProf, we’re trying to liberate the world’s best teachers by allowing them to conduct classes in a virtual classroom. Our goal is to disrupt the education system with a synchronous learning platform that enables our eProfs to connect with students from around the world.
In the summer of 2011, our founding team was at a Tech Stars accelerator in China. We built our site in Ruby on Rails and integrated open-source software for our virtual classroom experience. The open-source software was great because it was highly customizable, but there was no quality control. It was on us to ensure that the audio and video quality were top notch. Quite simply, we bit off far more than we could chew.
Coming into the JOLT accelerator, we knew we had to make some changes. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, we decided to outsource our virtual classroom experience. After some thorough market research we had a list of close to 30 virtual classroom providers. Each company had varying pricing plans, feature sets and levels of maturity. For example, well-established companies such as Adobe and Citrix had rigid pricing structures and were hesitant to offer discounts to startup businesses. Unfortunately, their virtual classroom technology is top of the line and we knew we could get quality control from their software.
On the opposite end of the spectrum we were calling startup companies such as WizIQ and BlueJeans, who were receptive to our ideas and extremely hungry for our business. They offered flexible pricing and were ready to start integration right away, but after taking a step back, we could clearly see their offerings just weren’t a fit. Given that the virtual classroom is an integral part of the eProf experience, we had to be very calculated with this partnership decision.
After many phone calls, demos and negotiations, we stumbled upon New York-basedWatchitoo Inc. After going through the Watchitoo demo with a sales rep and uttering the word “wow” for 10 minutes, we knew we were on to something. Watchitoo is right in the sweet spot between startup and mature company — they were excited to partner with us and gave us a flexible pricing model, but they also have technology superior to anything we had seen.
We struggled for a while with the virtual classroom decision, but in the end we found a partnership that proves to be very beneficial going forward. As it turns out, Watchitoo is the virtual classroom provider of choice for Harvard, Yale, and now… eProf.com.