“There are different elements involved in the decision of being an entrepreneur. First comes a natural need for entrepreneurship. The challenge of creating something of your own, of making projects happen. Also we think it's better to spend your efforts in something you really like doing, and this is not so easy to find when working for third parties. Overall it's a great experience, whether a particular project succeeds or not, it gives you tools and experience to start new ones, and this is what entrepreneurship is all about,” says Sebastian Crispo, founder, JukeBoxLessons, a startup from Barcelona, Spain.
Sebastian was born in Switzerland in 1976, of a Swiss mother and Uruguayan father. He grew up in Uruguay, and after finishing his graduation in literature in Montevideo, he moved to Barcelona in 2000. Sebastian has worked mainly as a language teacher and in the tourism industry. He has also studied music and is a guitar and saxophone player and teacher. A creative person and an avid internet user, Sebastian often found many possibilities to develop creative projects with business opportunities.
After a trip to Bali in 2009, he met his friend Federico Zabaleta who is from Argentina. Sebastian had the idea of starting a website for Spanish Skype lessons. Federico, a consultant at Deloitte, immediately liked the idea and agreed on a partnership. Based on his teaching experience, he thought it would be an interesting project. “As we dug deeper, we came up with a sudden revelation. Why only one subject? Why provide the lesson plan? Why not any possible subject, with any possible provider. Many people have something to teach, and everyone has something to learn. Let's create a tool,” says Sebastian.
The main difficulty in the beginning was the coding of the project. They hired external coders, and two times the results were not satisfactory but they finally got the beta version out and JukeBoxLessons started in November 2012. Though the site was up since November 2012, they started working on a regular basis on it only this July. Currently, they are a team of 5 people working out of Raval, a district in the old city of Barcelona.
Sharing his thought process behind JukeBoxLessons, Sebastian says that you no longer need to depend on finding someone close to your location to solve your learning or consulting need. You can hire a real person, thousands of miles away. Maybe you are interested in price, you'll find teachers with low rates, maybe you are interested in specialization, and you’ll find a saxophone teacher from Boston Berklee School that you won't be able to reach in your village. There are people who choose learning via video conference even in the same city, saving time, transport costs, etc. So we provide choice, as the whole world is available, and versatility. Learn what you want, with whom you want and when you want.
Learners pay directly to teachers, they don't intermediate in this process. Teachers pay them for some services like premium account, higher visibility etc., while always having a free account choice. Learners can contact teachers directly to arrange for lessons, using internal mailing. People can negotiate with their teachers about the price, schedule, etc., without settling for restrictive booking mechanisms. At this stage their interface is still fully free and they are in a growing stage. They get about 250 monthly registrations from all over the world. About 70% of these are teachers. Currently they have teachers for 5 broad categories - languages, music, arts and lifestyle, design and academic support.
Sebastian says, “Our strategy was to focus first on registering teachers. We have about 1,300 teacher registrations so far, and about 500 students. Visitors to our website go from 200 to 500 daily. Between 5 and 10 teachers are contacted daily about their courses. Figures are still low, but we still have not invested in paying advertising, a fundamental step to boost revenue. We'll soon translate the platform to Spanish, to access more of the Spanish and Latin-American market directly.”
The challenge today is to get access to investors. He adds, "Our means come mainly from our own entrepreneur pockets, and small investors who believe in the project and decided to participate, and own a share of the company. We are now looking to find more resources to ensure the proper growth and success of our company, since we believe we still have to grow more before we enter the next stage where revenues are possible.”
About the startup ecosystem in Spain
Sebastain shared that it is soon going to become a hotspot for entrepreneurship. There are a good number of projects starting up in Spain. The economical situation of the country is not the best, but at the same time there is opportunity. Costs are lower now and when regular work channels don't function, many people are looking to entrepreneurship and partnership as a good way to direct their efforts. A network of co-working spaces, meetups, conferences, associations which spin around entrepreneurship is rapidly developing.
If compared to the US, people are less willing to take risks, mentality in general is more traditional when it comes to business. But the ecosystem is growing and there are many successful startups from Spain like Anaxonics, Anboto , Incita, Justinmind, Sustainable Reference, TTR, Tuenti, Infojobs, Trovit etc., to name a few. There are some important accelerators such as Wayra. There are a number of seed and venture investors as well. However, in general, access to investors is not easy, and bank credit is not healthy.