Tech Education Startup Treehouse Looks to Bitcoin Payments for International Advantage

Pete Rizzo
Jun 12, 2014 at 18:45 UTC
Updated Jun 12, 2014 at 20:34 UTC

Orlando, Florida-based online interactive education specialist Treehouse has announced that it will now accept bitcoin for its subscription web design and web development education services.

Treehouse, which to date has raised $24.6m through six funding rounds, boasts 70,000 students who use the platform to learn valuable skills in languages and software such as Android, CSS, HTML, Java, jQuery, iOS and Ruby, among others.

Treehouse COO and CFO Michael Watson told CoinDesk that while the company has been aware of bitcoin for some time due to its tech-savvy user base, it only recently felt that the digital currency had matured enough to consider it as part of its business strategy.

Watson explained:

“Before we weren’t sure if it made sense, because we’re a relatively small company with literally 1,000 things we could be doing to advance our mission. Bitcoin was new, and it was unclear which way it was going to go. But, now that it’s been pretty well received – you see bitcoin tickers on Google and Yahoo, we felt that it made a lot of sense.”

With the announcement, Treehouse becomes the latest company to begin accepting payments through California-based merchant processor and consumer wallet specialist Coinbase.

Launched in 2011, Treehouse is one of a growing number of education startups seeking to provide alternatives to university-style education for tech-minded individuals. Notably, Treehouse’s past investors include The Social+Capital Partnership, whose team includes bitcoin champion and former CoinSummit speaker Chamath Palihapitiya and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.

How Treehouse works

Treehouse incentivizes users by encouraging them to follow tracks and work toward goals that can then be used by students to advance their education or find new employment.

Those who enroll are given a list of courses to work through in a given subject area that may use videos, quizzes and code challenges.

Treehouse offers a Basic monthly package for $25 that features access to more than 1,000 videos, live practice tools and members forums. The Pro package, available for $49 per month, includes the aforementioned tools as well as exclusive workshops and a personalized training curriculum.

Today, Watson says online payment options such as PayPal and traditional credit cards – which can charge 2-3% per transaction – remain the most popular ways for students to pay for services on the site.

International advantage

Watson suggested that while he doesn’t know the full impact bitcoin will have on his platform, he believes the digital currency’s value proposition for consumers in the developing world is perhaps its most exciting advantage.

Echoing points that were also raised in the company’s official blog post, Watson said:

“Our students abroad who don’t have access to credit cards or PayPal because they don’t have bank accounts, those students now have another way to pay for Treehouse.”

As the CFO of the company, Watson was also excited about the potential cost savings Treehouse may reap, noting that bitcoin’s reduced transaction fees could help it allocate more money to improving its content and teaching services.

Image via Treehouse