Deals

School’s out! Udemy nabs $12M to drive down the cost of higher ed

Udemy, the online learning platform that offers videos and live lectures from hundreds of expert instructors, has closed its second round of venture capital funding.

The company website features over 5,000 courses on technology and business, as well as lifestyle, the arts, and sports. In the month of October alone, Udemy added 400 courses.

The courses are diverse: On Udemy, you can learn how to develop mobile applications, build pivot tables on Excel, or master the basics of photography. Simply type in a subject you’re interested in, and surf the results. As you might expect, the most popular courses are taught by renowned business leaders, such as Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer or Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg. 

There are both free and paid courses, so teachers can earn money. In 2011, the top 10 instructors garnered $1.65 million in combined sales. Last week, the company announced that one in four of its instructors will close out the year with over $10,000.

In an interview, Udemy CEO Eren Bali said the goal is to “democratize education.” For Bali, this means enabling the top experts to teach any student anywhere in the world and reduce the price point so anyone can receive high-quality education.


Related: Read our summary of a panel where Udacity and Khan Academy’s CEOs called for disruption in higher ed.


“To do this, though, we need to be big,” said Bali. The company will use the funds to drive its marketing efforts so more instructors and students sign up. They will also use the funds to build out the course catalog to include more adult education classes as well as add accredited and certified content. To accelerate the development of the mobile product, Bali brought on a new COO and President, Dennis Yang. Previously, he was the senior vice president of operations at 4INFO and has been an executive advisor to Flipboard.

The founding team does not intend to replace higher education, but Bali hopes Udemy’s inexpensive courses will “force traditional educational institutions [to] lower their prices.” On Udemy, prices typically hover at a few hundred dollars, and most of the popular courses are free.

Bali explained that education-technology startups like Coursera and Khan Academy have stimulated investors’ interest in this space. However, Udemy is doing it a little differently by enabling anyone with expertise in a subject area to moonlight as a teacher. “In 10 years, we believe every expert in the world will be teaching online,” said Bali.

The Series B round was led by Insight Venture Partners, with participation from Lightbank, MHS Capital, and Learn Capital, bringing the company’s total funding to $16 million.