Growing with a $10,000 Grant
Virtu.Academy received a $10,000 grant to grow its music education business in 2018 and took a while to find the right business growth strategy.
“Nearly a year after receiving a $10,000 grant from Oberlin College, we talked with one of our advisors about our struggles with finding customers. He asked how much of the grant we had left, and he was shocked to learn that we had barely spent any money. He told us that we couldn’t be afraid to risk a little money upfront in order to reach customers to see what worked. We took his advice and experimented with a few larger campaigns on Google and Facebook,” Bryan Rubin, co-founder and creative director of Virtu.Academy, said in an interview with Startup Savant.
Ultimately, the music startup experimented with different advertising and marketing methods for half a year before finding success.
The Part-Time Startup Company Phase
The founders of Virtu.Academy initially worked on the music education business while keeping full-time jobs to retain full company ownership.
“During the first two years, we worked full-time jobs in order to bootstrap our company without bringing in outside capital. Every night, after our nine to five jobs, we would begin our second job of growing Virtu.Academy. At first, a lot of people thought we weren’t serious about our business since we weren’t dedicating all of our time to it. However, this is the main reason we got to where we are today. Without having to rely on the company to survive, we were able to focus on growing the business sustainably without giving up any equity,” Rubin explained.
In June 2020, Bryan Rubin and Ben Steger decided that Virtu.Academy was profitable enough to justify quitting their jobs. “As the business started to grow, it became hard to juggle both jobs. We’d get constant phone calls and emails during our day jobs and would have to sneak into the lunchroom to provide customer support,” Rubin commented.
Music Teacher Recruitment
The online music education startup relied on networking to recruit the first cohort of teachers. “Even during the idea phase, we knew that recruiting teachers would be the most important aspect to making our company successful. As students at Oberlin Conservatory, we had a network of some of the best young musicians in the world. We found our first few teachers by reaching out to some of the top musicians at Oberlin. Our teachers loved working with us, and over time, they spread the word to their networks at other top conservatories, such as Juilliard and Berklee,” Rubin explained.
Startup Growth During the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has boosted demand for online education due to restrictions on traditional classes. “We saw demand from both students and teachers increase dramatically as people realized the quality and convenience that our platform provides,” Rubin observed. An Adroit Market Research report projects that the online music education industry will be worth $143 million by 2025, so Virtu.Academy has plenty of room to grow.
About the Author
Bruce Harpham is an author and marketing consultant based in Canada. His first book, "Project Managers At Work," shared real-world success lessons from NASA, Google, and other organizations. His articles have been published in CIO.com, InfoWorld, Canadian Business, and other organizations. Visit BruceHarpham.com for articles, interviews with tech leaders, and updates on future books.