The journey to starting Virtually began last year while I was trapped in a winter storm. I was playing around with some video conferencing software and was very impressed by how far it had come in recent years. With not much else to do, I started brainstorming about what could one day be possible with better conferencing technology.
An obvious use case seemed be education. I thought perhaps the best teacher for any niche topic might not actually be someone in the same city or state as you, but, instead, could be someone across the globe. Better video conferencing could lead to more accessible as well as more affordable education.
The thought was powerful enough that I decided to quit my job at Facebook to start working on Virtually the next month. My main mission was to enable infrastructure for live online education. The very first iteration of the product allowed for content creators to monetize their time by selling 1-on-1 appointments. I don't know if it was the product or the execution, but it didn't gain much traction. I was lucky to be invited to interview at YCombinator for the summer 2019 batch but didn't make it further in the process.
I started to explore other applications of the same technology. One place where it seemed a live component could have added more value was in the world of online courses. In 2019, almost all online courses were pre-recorded. There were a select few experimenting with the live format (Building a Second Brain for example) and it seemed like these courses were receiving significantly higher levels of engagement than traditional online courses. When I dug a bit deeper, I discovered that building live online courses was inherently difficult. Either you were a venture-backed startup and could afford to hire engineers to build out custom technology or you had to "duct-tape" Zoom, PayPal, Calendly, and a dozen different tools together. I pivoted the product to help make this easier.
Fast-forward to today- my team and I are working to build Virtually, a React web app (powered by Next.js) that allows individual to build live online courses with built-in support for conferencing, payment processing, and student management.
Current course hosting platforms (Teachable, Kajabi, Thinktific, etc.) primarily focus on pre-recorded content. We decided to focus on live online classes as our research showed that live classes generally have higher completion rates. In addition, we hypothesized that live learning would help drive higher content retention through virtual meet-ups, office hours, mastermind groups, etc.
We primarily use http://daily.co/ for video conferencing but allow users to substitute Zoom or any other conferencing link. We also integrate with Google Calendar to make it easier to schedule live sessions.
One notable feature is our "Live Room" which is an always-on conferencing room that is embedded within your Virtually classroom. With the tool, you're able to manage multiple concurrent live classes at the same the same time each with its own "Live Room."
If you or someone you know is trying to build a live online training program, we'd love to talk to you. Feel free to reach me at [email protected].
I'd absolutely love to hear any feedback that you might have and will be around all day to answer questions!