Web-based ed finds home in real estate

When entrepreneur Ed Sattar was tossing around ideas for an Internet company last year, he had two requirements.

“I didn’t want to spend much on marketing, and I wanted a captive audience,” he says.

The result is 360Training.com, which provides accredited, mandatory Web-based courses for trade associations and colleges. The associations promote the courses, and the students enroll because “they need the certification for their jobs or to clear traffic tickets,” says Sattar, whose successful earlier careers in oil and gas and commercial real estate leasing are funding his tech venture. 360Training is a tiny player in the fast-growing industry known as e-learning. Companies spent more than $1 billion last year on e-learning systems, and the market is expected to grow to $11 billion by 2003, according to DC, a research firm in Framingham, Mass.

While dozens of startups are competing for lucrative corporate customers, 360Training has few head-on rivals. But there’s a reason for that, Sattar and his co-founders, Ron Farshler and Albert Lilly, quickly learned.

Most venture-backed companies can’t afford to wait 18 months for approval for one course. But because 360Training is backed by Sattar, who has put about $500,000 into the company so far, it can afford to be patient.

Here’s how the process works: 360Training teams with a group such as the Silicon Valley Aassociation to offer online certification courses. (In most states, realtors are required to take 15 hours of training every two years to maintain a license.)

The association pays a small portion of development – typically 10 percent – and provides content for the online courses. 360Training creates the courses, using in-house developers for the multimedia design and programmers in Pakistan for the nitty-gritty coding. It then seeks approval from the state to offer the courses, which cost about $1,000 per credit hour to create.

When it receives approval, which can take from several months to more than a year, 360Training offers the courses over the association’s Web site. It takes a 60 percent cut of registration fees, which usually cost between $75 and $100 per 15-hour course.

“Realtors love this because rather than devoting an entire day to training, they can log on whenever they have a free moment,” says Rick Gould, president of the Real Estate Video Educational Institute of Calabasas, Calif., which has joined with 360Training to market courses.

For 360Training, which has offices upstairs from Dan Mc-Klusky’s Restaurant on Sixth Street, offices upstairs from Dan Mc-Klusky’s Restaurant on Sixth Street, persuading associations to take a chance on a startup hasn’t been easy.With dot-coms disappearing at record speed, proving its durability could be 360Training’s biggest challenge of all.