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No-code startup ideas 🔮 Issue #2: Learning Marketplaces

Christian⚡️
Christian⚡️
Welcome to issue #2 of No-Code Startup Ideas. This week’s idea: Learning Marketplaces. Read on to find out why this is such a massive opportunity, how to build it with zero code, and how to get your first 10 customers.
I’ve been blown away by the response to this lil newsletter. This time last week there were maybe 2 subscribers, and now we’re up past 60. Thanks for making me a part of your startup journey! 🙏
This is the FINAL free full issue!
Full issues like this one will soon be available to paying members only, so become a member now ($19/mo) while the price is low! Every 10 members I’ll increase the price to reward early members. ❤️
(Free subscribers will still receive abridged issues each week.)
What is this newsletter about?
After bootstrapping my first company (a software recruitment platform) to $20K+ per month using no-code tools, I started having way too many no-code startup ideas to ever pursue myself.
So each week, I send out a deeply researched business plan for a validated, profitable startup that you can start with no coding and very little money.
My goal: To help you start a bootstrapped business that pays $10K+ per month and lets you live the life you want. 🚀

The methodology
For each idea, we go through:
  • The opportunity
  • JTBD (Jobs to be done)
  • Why now
  • Companies that have proven the market
  • The niche
  • Pricing and revenue projections
  • How to build the no-code MVP step-by-step
  • Startup costs and time to profitability
  • Tactics to get the first 10 customers
Let’s go!
The Opportunity: Learning Marketplaces
Udemy: the Amazon of online learning (cheap, big selection, but impersonal)
Udemy: the Amazon of online learning (cheap, big selection, but impersonal)
You might think “online courses” has been done, and you’d be right. With Coursera, Udemy, and others, online courses are saturated. However, there are a few adjacent, niche markets that are significantly underserved:
  • One-to-one tutoring or coaching in a niche
  • Local in-person courses
  • Cohort-based online courses
JTBD (Jobs To Be Done)
Here are some jobs that are not done well by the incumbents:
Students want to:
  • Get personalized instruction tailored specifically to them
  • Have accountability to complete the course (async online courses have notoriously low completion rates)
  • Feel part of a community
  • Have a real relationship with the instructor
Instructors want to:
  • Sign up students, organize their classes, take payments, and send out reminders
  • Plan course content and deliver it
  • Build relationships with students and feel embedded in the community
Why now
Many schools are still closed. Extracurricular activities are canceled or severely limited, and kids have been stuck inside for months. That’s why one of the most promising niches right now is local in-person courses for kids.
Enterprising teachers are already hacking these together, recruiting through their networks and using spreadsheets or worse, physical paper. They’d gladly give someone a cut of their revenue to make it easier.
Plus, adults stuck at home are looking for stimulation too. Many will pay to learn new skills, whether it’s a dance class, chess tutor, or minimalist entrepreneurship course.
With lockdowns ending, now is an unprecedented opportunity to help people rediscover their communities while building hobbies and skills.
Companies that have proven the market
Outschool's live online classes for kids made it the newest edtech unicorn
Outschool's live online classes for kids made it the newest edtech unicorn
MOOC platforms
(Massive Open Online Courses) are where you can not only list your course, but they will drive students to you. The top platforms are:
SaaS courseware platforms
Then there are the SaaS courseware platforms designed to let instructors and coaches create online courses and drive their own students to them.
One-on-one tutoring
Some have dominated a large one-on-one tutoring niche like language, homework or fitness:
Live online courses
Some companies have started serving live online courses. The biggest so far are:
These are big numbers, but don’t be intimidated. Venture-backed companies cannot justify going after smaller niche markets, even if it could net them $10+ million ARR. They need to go for bigger markets or they won’t return enough to their investors.
The result is that smaller niches are ignored and ripe to be served by indie hackers.
The niche
As I see it, there are niche opportunities in 3 areas:
  • One-to-one tutoring or coaching in a niche
  • Local in-person courses
  • Cohort-based online courses
You could also focus on a small niche. Here are a few examples:
  • Tutoring for dental students
  • Gardening classes
  • Musical theater coaching
Pick a niche you have access to. Talk to people inside it about their aspirations, learning process, and annoyances to see if there’s an opportunity.
One-to-one tutoring or coaching
When you’re looking for a private tutor for anything outside schoolwork and fitness, where do you go? How do you find a chess tutor, or a public speaking coach?
No idea. But you can bet there’s demand. Superprof does this well, but it is only big in France.
Local in-person courses
If your kid wants to take a pottery class or play kickball, is there a site for it? No way. Teachers and parents are forced to organize local, in-person activities manually. This is a massive opportunity.
The same goes for adults. Want to take a dance class or a cooking class? It’s virtual or bust, and believe me, online dance classes are just not the same. You could try an Airbnb experience, but they’re meant for tourists.
Cohort-based online courses
Maven’s “for instructors” button still points to a typeform. There is clearly still room for a new live or cohort-based courses platform.
Pricing and revenue
Outschool's average gross volume per hour is over $70
Outschool's average gross volume per hour is over $70
What incumbents charge
Depending on your niche, you can earn revenue in one of two ways:
  1. Monthly fee (think SaaS)
  2. Take rate, AKA revenue share (percentage of each sale)
We’re going to stick with #2, take rate. Here’s what the incumbents charge:
Your revenue
A bootstrapper can confidently charge anywhere from 5-30%. The major input to this calculation will be: Who is bringing the students?
Udemy and Preply can charge so much because they drive students.
Teachable, on the other hand, only provides the platform. Instructors have to bring students themselves.
And Outschool is somewhere in the middle. They drive initial demand then rely on instructors to keep classes on-platform.
For our idea, we will stick to a 15% take rate. Let’s say the average class costs $15/week or $60/mo per student. You’d make $9/mo/student.
Now let’s say instructors can each bring an average of 20 students to the platform. Your revenue would be:
  • 1 instructor = 20 students = $180/mo and $2,160/year
  • 50 instructors = 1,000 students = $9,000/mo and $108,000/year
  • 100 instructors = 2,000 students = $18,000/mo and $216,000/year
  • 300 instructors = 6,000 students = $54,000/mo and $648,000/year
Plus there’s a straightforward way to double revenue. Increase your take rate to 30% or more by finding ways to drive students.
The upside?
I think it’s very realistic to hit $100k/year in revenue in the first year. Once you have momentum teachers will likely refer each other, accelerating growth.
And that first $100K will likely be the hardest. Growth from there should come more quickly, and you could hit $1 million/year in revenue within year 2.
Building the no-code MVP: Overview
Now let’s jump into building. The exact MVP you build should follow from the niche you pick.
If you want to do an online courses marketplace, you can’t find better than this step-by-step on how to create a Udemy clone in Bubble.
If you want to do a one-on-one tutoring or coaching model, you could get your MVP up and running in an afternoon with Sharetribe, a white-label marketplace builder.
For our purposes I’ll choose the most under-served niche I see: Local, in-person classes.
So let’s break this down into its major components:
  • Instructor-facing interface with the ability to make courses, sign up students, take payments, send out emails, and manage attendance.
  • Student-facing interface with the ability to view the course, sign up, pay, and access any materials needed.
Since the classes are in-person, we actually have to build a bit less for v1.
No code stack
For your website and signup, you can use the following:
For the product itself you’ll need something a bit more powerful, so I would recommend going with:
Startup costs and time to profitability
Using the stack above, you shouldn’t pay more than $41/mo with Webflow + Bubble, plus an extra $5-20 for email/SMS sending if you use ClickSend.
And profitability? At $9/mo per student, you would need to get 5-7 paying students and you’re at break-even. That could be just one class!
Time to profitability
How quickly could you get to profitability? That depends on how quickly you can get those 5-7 paying students, which in turn depends on finding your first instructor (assuming it won’t be you).
Let’s say it takes you 1 month to talk to instructors and decide what to build, then another month to build it and launch the first course with 10 paying students.
You will have spent $82 so far, but now you’re making $90/mo (10 students * $60/mo * 15% take rate). By the end of month 4, you’ll have paid back your initial investment and the rest is profit. 😎 This is assuming you don’t sign up any new students – which I know you will.
Payback period: 4 months (conservatively)
Building the no-code MVP: In detail
The below could apply to any of the niches you pick, with some features added or subtracted if you’re running online or cohort-based courses.
Signup, Payment, Creating courses
Since our classes are in-person, they are actually a lot like events. So we’ll start by creating an Eventbrite clone in Bubble, then add stuff on top of it.
Alternatively, start by creating a Udemy clone in Bubble and ignore stuff you don’t need, like video course modules.
There are even templates you could purchase for this (from $199).
The basic building blocks are all here: Signup, payment, courses, and course discovery.
Sending emails
You’ll want your instructors to be able to send emails to their students. Here’s how to do that in Bubble.
  1. Set up SendGrid with Bubble or integrate ClickSend with Bubble so that users can send emails/SMS to multiple recipients.
  2. Set the “To” field as a dropdown menu that pulls student emails from the list of courses for that instructor.
Bubble is tough, but if you stick with it you’ll get there much sooner than if you’d learned to code. And you’ll have spent much less $$ than hiring a developer (or time finding a tech cofounder).
If you get stuck, check out this Makerpad tutorial.
Tactics to get the first 10 customers
You’re building a marketplace, so your #1 goal is to short-circuit the chicken and egg problem. How? Secure the supply side. Focus on recruiting instructors first.
The key to product-market fit is to build audience-first. This means that before you build anything, you should be out talking to potential instructors about what annoys them most about running courses.
So the formula for getting your first 10 customers is:
  1. Find an instructor who needs what you’re building to run their existing courses
  2. Give them the platform so they can sign up their 10+ students for you.
Sounds almost too easy doesn’t it? This part is easy only if you have access to a pool of instructors who would use your thing.
Start here: There are a ton of Facebook groups focused on coaches & course creators and on teachers. Use these to listen and learn, not to pitch your startup. Build relationships in the group first, learn their language, then reach out.
Recruiting your first instructor
I just called up a teacher who is running after school programs for kids in her neighborhood. I asked her what the most annoying part was. She said, basically, organizing the whole thing. Here is her current process:
  • Sending an email to her mailing list of parents with a PDF attachment presenting the classes on offer
  • Every time a parent responds yes, entering their details into a spreadsheet
  • Emailing each parent back asking for required information and payment
  • Collecting actual checks (!) from parents and depositing them at the bank
  • Chasing parents who haven’t replied or paid
  • Sending out another email reminder manually before each class
  • Sending out a thank you email after each class
Obviously, there are many things here that can be automated. If you could present her with a single platform where each of these steps is effortless, she would be all in. She’s running classes with 30+ kids each, and could do much more if she had these time-consuming tasks automated away. Seriously, if you decide to build this, I’ll intro you to her.
Ask instructors about their classes and the parts they hate. Learn about their workflow. Chances are you’ll find something you can build to help.
Now go get building! 🚀
Thanks for reading! Full issues like this one will soon be available to paying members only, so become a member now ($19/mo) while the price is low! Every 10 members I’ll increase the price to reward early members. ❤️
A free way to show some love is to tell me on Twitter. I’d love to hear from you! 🍻
Looking for a cofounder to build with? @ me and we’ll find someone for you 🤝
Bonus: 3 more no-code startup ideas
And because I came across a ton of great ideas in my research, here are a few more ideas to stimulate your creativity:
  • A “find your co-founder” marketplace
  • Product Hunt for new crypto projects
  • A recycling center management platform
Might pick one of these for the next issue. Hmu if you have a preference!
Don’t miss out on the other issues by Christian⚡️
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Christian⚡️
Christian⚡️ @christpetron

Each week, I send you a validated, profitable startup idea that you can launch with no coding and very little money.

I bootstrapped my last company to $20K+ per month using no-code tools, and I want to help you do the same.

Each email includes:
- Pitch and value proposition
- Target audience and their problem
- How to create version 1 step-by-step
- Specific tactics on how to get your first 10 customers
- Pricing, startup costs, revenue projections, and payback period

Ideas matter. Jump in, find your idea, and build your profitable business faster!

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