The Winner takes it all? Udemy raises $12 million


About a year after their $3 million Series A round Udemy announced the completion of a $12 million Series B round earlier today. This round brings the total funding to $16 million.

One might argue that this is a sign of times given to the hype of MOOCs and the big rounds Udacity, Coursera and edX received right from the start. But we must not forget that up to this point the team at Udemy has been pretty clever about spending their funding, investing in people and their product.

And, probably even more important, Udemy is generating revenue for itself and the experts who publish their courses on the platform. Back in May Udemy shared that its top 10 instructors collectively earned more than $1.6 million and in November we learned that 25% of all approved teachers on the platform earn $10k or more.

I always like to point out that Udemy is clearly a niche service at the moment and that most of this revenue is probably tied to a tech audience that knows it needs to invest in critical skills like coding, design or social media skills in order to get better jobs. I am not sure if the same success can be recreated in other verticals like let’s say language learning or more classic topics like business administration.

And that’s what Udemy and its new COO Dennis Yang are now going to test, I suppose. According to the press release, which you can find below, Udemy is planning to expand the range and types of its content offerings as well as expanding across new platforms. Udemy just released an iPad app and I am pretty sure that Android and Windows 8 apps will follow, soon.

For a dash of nostalgia, here is my interview with Gagan Biyani, co-founder of Udemy who took care of business development and PR in the very early days of Udemy.

It’s kind of sad that the early stories of hustling tend to fade away in the burning light of VC investment announcements. Who remembers that the Udemy team and some interns spent the whole summer vacation to curate and catalog tons of free video lectures in order to offer people something to learn on the platform?

But that’s exactly what made Udemy into what it is today. The hustle and the initial content the team put on the platform. There were enough other players in the space before Udemy started, yet they seem to be the winners in the race for now.

Press Release

Udemy, the leading online education marketplace, today announced the completion of a $12 million Series B financing round led by Insight Venture Partners, with additional support from existing investors Lightbank and MHS Capital, bringing Udemy’s total funding to $16 million The new capital will be used primarily for expanding the range and types of Udemy’s content offerings as well as extending the content catalog across new platforms. Udemy will continue to bring on the best content from the world’s leading experts, publishers and universities. In addition, the company announced the hiring of Dennis Yang as president and chief operating officer.

Launched in early 2010, Udemy is democratizing education by making top-quality content from the world’s experts dramatically more affordable for anyone, anywhere. The site currently offers over 5,000 courses – with over 400 courses added in October 2012 alone – covering a wide range of subjects, including professional, business, technical, academic, creative and lifestyle. Courses are delivered on demand, so adult learners in particular can take them at their own pace when and where it is convenient for them. Those teaching via Udemy are able to build a curriculum based on videos, slide presentations, PDFs, documents, articles, links, photos and live conferences with their students.

Yang, who previously served as executive advisor to a number of start-ups and held leadership roles with 4INFO and Good Technology, will lead Udemy’s business and operations-related activities, working closely with chief executive officer and co-founder Eren Bali.

“Our marketplace model has allowed us to double our course offerings in just 12 months, grow our user base to over 500,000 students, and increase our revenue 400% over last year,” noted Yang. “Udemy is already a top destination for online learning. This round of funding will allow us to continue to build the most amazing and unique content library in the world, expand our content and platform offerings and capitalize on the disruptive market dynamics of MOOCs and other online learning platforms.”

The Series B investment is Udemy’s third round of financing, having previously raised $3 million in October 2011 and $1 million in August 2010. The company recently announced a strategic partnership with The Jack Welch Management Institute at Strayer University to offer online leadership development solutions, and last month launched an iPad app, making its content even more accessible to students who want to learn anytime, anywhere. In May 2012, Udemy reported that its top 10 instructors collectively earned over $1.6 million.

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