The Early Days of an Ed-tech Titan

Former client David Rogier came to us with an ambitious goal: to create an online platform where users could learn from top-tier professionals for any avocation. After validating product-market fit, Rogier was ready for the next step. I lead the consulting team that helped Masterclass design, build, and launch the virst version of the platform, as we worked alongside the growing Masterclass team.


Platform Design & Build; Team Bootstrapping


Consulting Team Lead

The Challenge

The challenge was to build and release multiple iterations of the platform within eight weeks, while ensuring the product was robust enough for early market testing and attractive to both users and celebrity instructors. In my capacity as the team lead for the consulting group working with the budding Masterclass team, I was lucky to have a front-row seat and contribute to the foundational stages of the platform. The project required a fast-paced development approach to enable quick market entry. Additionally, the platform needed to attract top-tier celebrity instructors and engage users effectively.

The Approach

We adopted a strategic approach to meet these challenges, leveraging open-source tools and off-the-shelf services, as we built on top of Rails for rapid back-to-front development. The design team focused on creating a sophisticated, dark-mode brand identity, aligning with Masterclass's positioning as a high-end, exclusive platform. We initially launched the platform under a pseudonym for additional market testing and refinement, culminating in a 2015 release that still largely matches the overall platform design and software architecture seen today.

The Results

The alpha version of the platform was successfully launched within the tight deadline, enabling the Masterclass team to start testing the market quickly. While initial user traction was modest due to ongoing content production, the platform's brand and user experience received high praise. The strategic approach to celebrity acquisition paid off, with early instructors helping attract more high-profile talent. Subsequent iterations, such as the shift to an annual subscription model, further boosted user engagement and revenue streams. Masterclass is now valued at more than $2B.