Trade schools aren’t new, but a new startup called Copeland believes he can build a great business by bringing training in plumbing, drywall, cabinetry and more to the general public through high quality pre-filmed online courses that feature industry professionals and professional educators.
If this sounds like some sort of MasterClass for everything to do with construction, it’s no accident. Copeland was born from the mind of a renowned investor Michel chering, who wrote the first check to MasterClass (now rated at $ 2.5 billion) and spotted an opportunity to match underemployed Americans with home builders who can’t find enough people to hire. Meanwhile, Copeland co-founder and CEO Gabe Jewell has already spent nearly four years as a creative producer with MasterClass.
Of course, in addition to trade schools, Copeland, which charges for its content, competes with an endless – and free – number of YouTube videos on how to build and take things apart. Still, the six-year-old Bay Area-based company that produced nine separate content elements so far, investors are excited about its prospects. Indeed, in addition to early support from Dearing, the company has just raised $ 5 million in seed funding from Defy.vc and the Collaborative Fund in a cycle that brings its total funding to date to $ 7 million.
This afternoon we chatted with Jewell to find out more about what Copeland – named after an educator – comes together, and if the owners, as well as the future traders, are also target customers. Part of that conversation follows, below:
TC: You’re trying to educate tradespeople and those aspiring to work in construction – an industry that’s in the middle of a labor shortage that has lasted for years and needs people with know-how. Are you considering awarding degrees so employers know your clients have been trained?
GJ: It’s on the table – proof of aptitude or certificates of completion after successfully passing an assessment. On the licensing side, it would be complicated because [general contractor] licenses are offered regionally and you have to be a licensed electrical contractor not to burn down someone’s house, and it’s usually a four year process. We therefore focus more on general education and support rather than on [anything more tangible than that].
TC: Out of curiosity, how would you test the users, given that this is a one-to-many platform?
GJ: Some of them might involve construction math tests – taking you for an assessment to make sure you know how to calculate angles and area, etc. Other cold tests revolve more around general knowledge. We cannot with an online test guarantee that you will build a great cabinet, but it is easy to imagine [other testing] Opportunities.
TC: MasterClass relies on celebrities and stars in their respective fields. To generate more buzz, could you attract famous DIY home builders and traders as teachers?
GJ: We talk about it too. There is a healthy online community of professional builders who share what they do and they have given us a warm welcome. What is most important for us is to make sure that the quality of teaching is really high.
TC: I spent part of the day yesterday watching videos on how to dismantle a brick wall; it makes me wonder if there will be content on your platform that will be accessible to owners and even targeted.
GJ: We hope to see a DIY halo audience for this stuff. For example, patio building is an employable skill and one that we will teach you so that you can learn how to do it like a professional would. At the same time, if you really want to build your own deck, who else would you rather learn it from than from the pros who know how to teach it?
We’re also thinking about ways to bring these audiences together. You can learn how to take that wall apart, but you can also come to Copeland to find a professional renovator that you come to see as a trusted resource.
TC: How long does it take to create each piece of programming for the site?
GJ: It takes us a couple of months to put the courses in place, which currently last mostly between an hour and two hours, although we see a lot more variability in that down the road.
TC: Do you have any partnerships with home builders or commercial real estate developers who are in desperate need of help?
GJ: We establish partnerships with real estate builders. A few are [coming together now] and we’re really excited to grow this side of the business as we develop and film more stuff and add to our current library.
TC: Will subscriptions be part of the picture as you create this content?
GJ: Yeah, right now we’re charging $ 75 per class, and you have access to it forever, or a business can buy an issue or seats. As we expand the library, you will find flexibility in the pricing structure.
TC: What kind of content is coming?
GJ: Currently we are really focusing on residential construction, both practical job skills, like carpentry and cabinet making, but also blueprint reading, and we will continue to develop that by adding plumbing skills. , drywall and general contractor. , such as reading contracts and managing risk. But we are also building a commercial construction management library which is taught by university professors largely focused on the skills between the field and the office. Maybe you are an experienced craftsman and need some leadership skills, or you come into retail construction and work in an office and need to learn how to connect the dots .