Earlier this month, Fluent City, a NYC-based experience company and modern day culture school, raised $2.5M in funding from well known investors. In conjunction with the announcement, the CEO, James Rohrbach, answered our questions about the company, the funding and future plans.
FinSMEs: James, can you tell us a bit more about you?
James: I am an entrepreneur working at the intersection of education, technology, and culture. I have always been passionate about the mission of enriching people’s lives and expanding their worlds through the Liberal Arts and cultural education. Almost 10 years ago I started my first company with that aim (Gulliver, “Trip Advisor for College Study Abroad programs,” acquired by Noodle Education in 2010). And I feel particular urgency around this mission today, given both the dismal reputation of the Liberal Arts and the rapidly rising close-mindedness evident in our contemporary politics.
FinSMEs: Let’s speak about Fluent City. Which need do you want to satisfy?
James: Investing in Experiences over Things and continuous self-improvement are central to the zeitgeist of our time. People are spending their money less and less on the shiny new object and more and more on learning something they’ve always wanted to know how to do, or going on that unforgettable trip. It even has a name – the “Experience Economy.”
But no one’s yet built the premium brand you can trust to provide those enriching experiences. That’s what we’re doing. We’re building a modern day culture school that teaches you what you need to know to be a well-rounded, globally-minded person today: art and design, food and drink, languages, travel and culture.
FinSMEs: Which is your current offering?
James: Our first courses are in Mixology (how to make and order great cocktails), Interior Design (how to have an Instagram-worthy apartment), and French Culture (how to make your next trip to Paris the best ever). We also run courses in modern languages – French, Spanish, and 8 others. Courses range from 4 to 12 weeks and are unlike any other experience out there. We merge education, entertainment, and hospitality in a way that is totally new and unique. Our courses are led by influential creatives and local experts, and they happen all throughout the city–from downtown warehouses to artist studios.
FinSMEs: Where are you in terms of growth?
James: Our internal team is growing quickly, going from only eight to more than 20 since the beginning of the year. We also have over 280 instructors who are all experts in their respective industries. And we’ve had over 23,000 students take Fluent City courses. On the back of that success, we recently raised a large seed round of $2.5M.
FinSMEs: You just raised a funding round….Who are the investors? Are they supportive? How are you using the funds?
James: I’m really humbled by the terrific group of investors we have, including Lerner Group Investments, Spindrift Equities, Learn Capital, New Ground Ventures, and 1776 Ventures. We also have a fantastic set of angel investors, including founders of EdTech powers 2U, General Assembly, and Noodle. Our investors are very supportive of what we’re doing – many are education leaders who have a deep understanding of the landscape and share our assessment that we are filling a major gap. We’re using the funds to support the development of our new courses and build technology to further extend the Fluent City experience.
FinSMEs: Future plans?
James: We’re very focused on making Fluent City a must-do in our current markets: New York, DC, Boston, and Philadelphia. From there, we’ll be bringing Fluent City to other communities. We are also further expanding our product offering and, as mentioned, building some pretty exciting technology to allow people to engage with Fluent City digitally as well.