Udacity nanodegree

Sebastian Thrun raises $35 million Series C for Udacity’s nanodegrees

Former MOOC platform Udacity raised a $35 million Series C to double down on its new path of creating the nanodegree and aiming to address the skills gap ranging from computer science to finance.

The round was led by Drive Capital, with participation from Bertelsmann, Recruit Holdings and Valor Capital. Existing investors Andreessen Horowitz and Charles River Ventures also participated in the new funding round.

According to Forbes Thrun is in it for the long run and does not plan to hand over the CEO role to a more experienced executive like the founders of Coursera did, for example. His resignation as VP and fellow at Google X, the lab responsible for Google’s moonshot projects including the self-driving car which Thrun founded, points towards a longer term and more involvement at Udacity as well. A Google spokesperson confirmed the resignation to TechCrunch and added

“In Udacity, Sebastian has his own more-than-a-full-time-job moonshot to take, and we wish him well.”

And it seems that Thrun finally found a working business model. Udacity which launched with the premise to become the university of the future struggled more than its competitors edX and Coursera and eventually abandoned the MOOC project. The launch of the first nano degrees was financed by AT&T who paid Udacity $3 million to develop a series of courses.

About 3 million students enrolled to Udacity’s free courses since its launch, 50.000 enrolled immediately after the nanodegree had been announced earlier this year. More than 100.000 of Udacity’s students are paying for premium services like personal tutoring, certification and job placement. In an interview Thrun told WSJ.D

“When we started out it wasn’t clear that there would be a sustainable business model, but I believe we’ve nailed it. Since March, paying students have been increasing by 2% day over day.”

According to Reuters Udacity’s biggest market is the United States, followed by India, the United Kingdom and Germany. For Bertelsmann this is the first large investment in an education technology startup based in the United States. The German media company aims to make education its third mainstay of revenues, alongside media and services states Thomas Rabe, Chairman and CEO of Bertelsmann.

Further Reading

  • Udacity CEO Thrun Cooks Up $35 Million Of New Instruction | Forbes
  • E-Learning Startup Udacity Raises $35M to Launch ‘Nanodegrees’ | WSJ.D
  • U.S. online-education company Udacity raises $35 mln for ‘nanodegrees’ | Reuters
  • Its Audacity Undiminished, Udacity Raises $35 Million To Train A New Generation of Developers | TechCrunch
  • Google X Founder Sebastian Thrun Has Left His Role As Google VP And Fellow | TechCrunch
  • Udacity picks up $35 mln | PE Hub
  • Bertelsmann Buys a Stake in Online Education Provider Udacity | Bertelsmann

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Kirsten Winkler is the founder and editor of EDUKWEST. She also writes about Social Media, Digital Society and Startups at KirstenWinkler.com.