Kara Swisher

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Chegg's Dan Rosensweig Talks About the Next Wave of Online Textbook Rentals and More!

Earlier this week, BoomTown went down to Santa Clara, Calif. to the offices of Chegg, the online textbook rental leader, to pay a visit on longtime Silicon Valley exec Dan Rosensweig.

The voluble Rosensweig has had a series on interesting posts, from stints at CNET Networks and Ziff-Davis before a top job at Yahoo (YHOO). After that, it was as a partner at the Quadrangle Group and then running the Guitar Hero division of Activision Blizzard (ATVI).

Now he is CEO of Chegg, where he arrived in February.

After raising $144 million in funding, Chegg has become the front-runner in the increasingly competitive online textbook rental space.

Venture firms, such as Kleiner Perkins, Foundation Capital and, most recently, Insight Venture Partners, have presumably handed over that money to co-founders Osman Rashid and Aayush Phumbhra in hopes of big returns.

And, of course, the inevitable IPO.

Chegg got its start in 2005 at Iowa State University as a classified rental service, where books were the dominant item, but evolved its business to focus on actually doing the textbook rentals.

The company’s unusual name, Chegg, is a mashup of chicken and egg and its model is similar to that of innovative video rental outfit Netflix (NFLX).

Chegg now serves close to 7,000 schools across the U.S., with 120 employees in Silicon Valley and more at a warehouse operation in Louisville, Ky.

Typically, a rental costs a fraction of what buying a book outright does. It is ordered online and then sent to a renter, who then returns it.

All this activity has attracted a lot of interest from both big and small players, especially given the $10 billion college textbook business.

That makes for lots of competition. The Barnes & Noble (BKS) College division recently began testing a textbook rental program, for example, and is rolling it out to 25 U.S. colleges. And BookRenter is a smaller competitor.

Today, in a bid to expand its offerings beyond books, Chegg said it had acquired CourseRank, a Mountain View, Calif. start-up that helps students “share their course schedule, take classes with their friends, read and write reviews on classes and professors as well as find out how professors grade.”

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Rosensweig talks about all that and more, such as digital downloads, in the video interview below, which includes a tour of Chegg:

And here’s the official press release about Chegg’s acquisition of CourseRank:


Popular college course planning site that helps students with course and professor selection, hopes for rapid expansion

SANTA CLARA, Calif., August 19, 2010–Chegg.com, the number one online textbook rental company, today announced that it has acquired CourseRank, the Mountain View-based start-up that provides college students an easy and convenient way to create and share their course schedule, take classes with their friends, read and write reviews on classes and professors as well as find out how professors grade.

“We are excited about adding CourseRank to the portfolio of content and services we can offer students to make college easier and more affordable,” said Dan Rosensweig, President and CEO of Chegg.com. “We all share a commitment to saving students time, money and making them smarter. It’s amazing how popular CourseRank has become on campus, having nearly 100,000 users and growing every day.”

Founded by five college students and already being used on 175 colleges and universities across the U.S., CourseRank helps students manage and plan their academic careers. CourseRank’s scheduling, planning and course review system guides students by arranging relevant course information in an easily accessible display where they can track their progress towards the goal of graduation, mapping courses taken, and grades received. A feature for students to find textbooks for their courses using CourseRank is currently in beta for select schools.

“We’re excited to be part of the number one online textbook rental company in such a hot space,” said Filip Kaliszan, Co-Founder and CEO of CourseRank. “We share Chegg’s commitment to using technology to make life easier and cheaper for college kids, and we are excited about expanding our reach to more schools, adding many new features in the next few months.”

CourseRank, founded in 2007 by three Stanford University students, has seen tremendous growth in the past year. To date, the company has achieved adoption by some of the country’s top schools including Stanford University, the University of California, Berkeley, and Cornell University.
Students can sign up for free and the first 5,000 will be entered for a chance to win cool prizes. For more information, visit www.courserank.com.”

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— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google