Think of creativeLIVE, Seattle photographer/entrepreneur Chase Jarvis' three-year-old web venture, as adult continuing education on steroids.
The company truly earned that distinction in early December, when creativeLIVE started broadcasting live online courses 24 hours a day, seven days a week from studios in Seattle and San Francisco. A roster of A-list instructors - Pulitzer Prize winners, bestselling authors, top business leaders - teach classes in five subject areas: photo/video, art/design, music/audio, maker/craft and business/money. Those interested can watch the courses for free when they are live, and can pay anywhere from $30 to $150 if they want to own copies of the content.
creativeLIVE represents an ambitious investment in the staff and technology needed to broadcast live web content around the world. The company has raised nearly $30 million in series A and B funding from investors such as Greylock Partners, and its board/team members include people who helped put Flickr, Netflix and AtomFilms on the entrepreneurial map.
For Jarvis, it's not just about proving that his business model can work.
"We believe that creativity is the new literacy," Jarvis said. "We wanted to propagate that idea by sharing it, sharing the ideas and the tactics of the people who have actually done this stuff - the world's best - with the global population."
The results after two weeks has been encouraging, Jarvis said. creativeLIVE has reached more than two million people in 200 countries. One "mind-blowing" data point: the average watch time is just over three hours. Despite that kind of viewer engagement, Jarvis said the company will resist the temptation to place advertising around its content.
Jarvis believes the early results validate his belief that the company's brand of online education can exist in a world where broadcast and web networks narrowcast content for topics such as sports, comedy and food all the time.
"There isn't something that is specifically for creative-based education, and now we're filling that niche. We're very optimistic about where it's going," he said.
Live programming is the key differentiator, he adds.
"It's a huge advantage to be able to connect with a global audience. Nobody watches the Super Bowl the day after the Super Bowl," said Jarvis. "There's a huge audience that pours into creativeLIVE every day as we broadcast on these five channels 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
That content is focused on creative skills for artists, makers/craftspeople and business types/entrepreneurs because they are all part of what Jarvis says is a $100 billion dollar a year market in continuing education. (That figure includes everything from community colleges to seminars and other web-related companies).
"The future is skills-based," he said, "and having a wide range of life experiences is going up on the value chain relative to where research shows the other four-year institutions - the traditional paths - are really eroding. So by providing real skills, I think we're adding a ton of value."
Jarvis admits that none of that means future employers will start disregarding educational basics. But the kinds of skills creativeLIVE teaches can help people deal with problems they encounter in the workplace, he said.
"The future of all problem solving has a very strong creative component to it, so we intend to help people take those first three, four steps in reaching their maximum human potential."