Chicago Based Classfill Hopes To Become the Priceline For Local Classes

July 3, 2012

1:00 pm

What does Jazz, a performing arts studio, and AirBnB have in common?

They’re the inspirational ingredients behind the creation of Classfill, a marketplace for vacant class listings.

“ClassFill was inspired after a visit to Y-combinator in Silicon Valley last summer. One website in particular, AirBnB, was my muse. I admired their ability to define and monetize stagnant space so effectively,” says Matthew Conway, Classfill co-founder and CEO.

According to Conway, more than 90% of classes don’t reach capacity.  He adds, “Incidentally, I just married someone who has co-owned a performing arts studio for several years, so all this stuff hits really close to home.”  With Airbnb’s simple, yet brilliant model for monetizing unused space, coupled with his wife’s struggle fill vacant class space, the idea for Classfill quickly became a calling.

Classfill Co-Founder and CEO Matthew Conway

Like Priceline, Classfill works as a name your price service.  Users can bid up to three times on a particular class or set of classes.  If the bid is too low (as determined by the business), the system will reject the bid.  If within the business’ acceptable range, the bid serves as an automatic purchase.

As of now, there is no cost for a business to list classes in Conway’s service.  “Our goals at this point are brand building and driving traffic, and I think that all starts with having a ton of classes to offer users.”  Although, Classfill’s CEO is quick to add that they will eventually take a commission on sales, somewhere in the 20-25% range.

Starting Up and Jazz Music

Prior to starting Classfill, Conway spent the better part of the last decade working as a jazz musician, making ends meet by building websites on the side.  When asked what similarities exist between Jazz and starting up Conways says, “There’s definitely one main parallel between founding a startup and playing jazz: having to improvise regularly.  Improvisation is the foundation of jazz; it sets jazz apart from most other forms of music.  Coming into work at ClassFill, I’ll often have a to-do list that gets thrown out the window by noon.  Whether we reveal a bug in the code, or dream up a vital new build, or get a call from an influential coupon blogger who wants to grab coffee, there’s always something changing your agenda. Many days are full of organized confusion, which is sort of like a jazz musician’s comfort zone.”

Currently, Classfill has more than 500 classes listed in the Chicago area with hopes of expanding nationwide in the near future. 



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When Zach Davis isn't getting lost in the mountains, he is hustling from Boulder, CO as Tech Cocktail's Director of Marketing. He is the author of Appalachian Trials, a book chronicling the mindset necessary for thru-hiking all 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail, a feat he accomplished in 2011. Zach is a green tea enthusiast, die-hard Chicago sports fan, and avid concert-goer. Follow Zach on Twitter: @zrdavis.

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