Posted on Monday, Apr 4th 2016
The rise of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) has given rise to several startups like Coursera, EdX, and Udacity with a mission to provide high quality education to students anywhere in the world. However, MOOCs came with its own set of problems like low course completion rates and monetization. Udacity has come up with solutions to these problems and is one of the first MOOC startups to join the Billion Dollar Unicorn Club.
In 2011, Stanford University Computer Science Professor Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig offered an online, free course in Artificial Intelligence for which over 160,000 students from all over the world enrolled. In January 2012, they decided to launch Udacity in order to democratize education and make it affordable and accessible. Its first two courses launched in February that year taught how to build search engines and program robotic cars.
Udacity went on to offer courses in algebra, statistics, computer science, etc. It also launched a three-year online degree course on the MOOC platform in collaboration with Georgia Tech that cost just $7000 in January 2014. It had 1.6 million users in 12 full courses and 26 free courseware in April 2014.
In June 2014, Udacity pivoted its strategy to bridge the gap between real-world skills, education, and employment using MOOCs. It collaborated with AT&T and Georgia Tech to launch a Nanodegree program, which is designed to teach programming skills to qualify for an entry-level position at AT&T. The course takes about a year to complete and costs $200 per month.
Udacity has experimented with several business models. It currently offers free versions of all its courses but invites students or their sponsoring companies to pay fees for these nanodegrees. It collaborates with industry giants like Cisco, Google, AT&T, and Facebook to develop its courses. Its target customer is now someone already working in the field and looking to upgrade skills to win promotions or a better job. While the academic courses had only a 2% completion rate, the nanodegrees were a more successful venture with a completion rate of 60%. It has 4 million registered users and 11,000 paying students.
Udacity does not disclose its financials but has revealed that it is growing at rate of 30% per month and is profitable. Its annual revenue run rate is believed to be $24 million.
In November 2015, Udacity raised $105 million in Series D round led by international media, services and education company Bertelsmann at a valuation of $1 billion. Till now, Udacity has raised a total of $160 million in funding from investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Peter Levine, Baillie Gifford, Bertelsmann, Cox Enterprises, Charles River Ventures, Drive Capital, Emerson Collective, GV, Recruit Holdings, Steve Blank, and Valor Capital Group. Udacity plans to use the funds from this latest round to expand into China, the Middle East, and India where the demand for this kind of platform is very high.
Coursera’s Business Model
While Udacity is betting on a business model in collaboration with industry giants, rival Coursera is betting on content and certificates from top universities. Coursera was founded by Stanford alumni Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng in 2012. It offers Course Certificates for a flat fee of $49 on successful completion of the course. Reports suggest that Coursera earned $8 million -$12 million from Certificates in 2014. Earlier coverage on Coursera’s business model challenges is available here.
Another revenue generating offering from Coursera is Specializations. Launched in 2014, they cost $300-$600 and feature a series of 3-10 courses followed by a capstone project where the student applies the newly acquired skills to earn a certificate. Coursera has partnered with companies like SwiftKey, Google, Instagram, and Shazam for the capstone projects. Early this year, Coursera announced that when students enroll for Specialization courses, they will be asked to either pay a fee or apply for financial aid. Free access will allow them access to videos, discussions, practice assignments and view-only access to graded assignments.
Coursera offers 1,100 courses from 121 universities, about half of which are outside the US. It has 15 million registered users, of which about 75% are also from outside the US. Coursera has received a total funding of $146.1 million from investors including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, New Enterprise Associates, Black River Ventures, EDBI, GSV Asset Management, GSV Capital, International Finance Corporation, Laureate Education, Inc., Learn Capital, Times Internet, World Bank, and Yuri Milner. Its latest round of funding was held in August 2015 when it raised $49.5 million in a Series C funding round led by New Enterprise Associates.
The problem with the MOOC segment is astronomical amounts of funding has so far resulted in relatively low monetization. How investors will make money remains a looming question.
More investigation and analysis of Unicorn companies can be found in my latest Entrepreneur Journeys book, Billion Dollar Unicorns. Unicorns will also be discussed with some special guests during our 1M/1M Roundtable programs over the next few weeks. To be a part of the conversation, please register here. The term Unicorn was coined in a TechCrunch article by Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures.
This segment is a part in the series : Billion Dollar Unicorns
. How Marketo Is Faring In The Public Market . Workday's Ramp to Multi-Billion Valuation . Gaurav Dhillon, Founder of Informatica and SnapLogic (Part 1) . ServiceNow's Expanding Market Opportunity . Gaurav Dhillon, Founder of Informatica and SnapLogic (Part 2) . Gaurav Dhillon, Founder of Informatica and SnapLogic (Part 3) . Gaurav Dhillon, Founder of Informatica and SnapLogic (Part 4) . Tableau's Valuation Increases to $6 Billion . A Rare Media Venture Called Vice . Gaurav Dhillon, Founder of Informatica and SnapLogic (Part 5)More »» . Gaurav Dhillon, Founder of Informatica and SnapLogic (Part 6) . Gaurav Dhillon, Founder of Informatica and SnapLogic (Part 7) . Will Box Implode Post IPO? . Net-a-Porter Cracks The Luxury Fashion Market . Outbrain Prepares for an IPO . Palantir's Skyrocketing Valuation May Be Justified . Online Education Player Lynda.com . Pluralsight's Impressive Rise . Snapchat Explores Revenue Generating Options . Analysts Project Revenue for Pinterest . The Market Awaits Etsy's IPO . Taboola's Content Marketing Growth . Egnyte Eyes IPO in 18 Months . Web 3.0 and E-Commerce Investment Thesis of 3 VCs . Cleversafe's Unique IP Strategy . Cloud Investment Thesis of 5 VCs . GoDaddy Shying Away from IPO, Yet Again . Can Square Sustain Its Valuation? . Zulily Tumbles . MuleSoft Will Be Joining Soon . Bootstrap First, Raise Money Later . ShopClues in India Shows Unicorn Characteristics . What Have You Learned? . ASOS Shines From London . Xiaomi Overtakes Samsung in China . eClinicalWorks Bootstraps With A Paycheck . Strategies From 5 Entrepreneurs . Lending Club Focuses on Growth Post IPO . Slack Speeds Its Way To The Mark . Eventbrite Shies Away from an IPO . Meituan Leads China's Group Buying Market . Gilt Groupe Delays IPO . Veeam Wants To Stay Private . Nextdoor's Valuation Skyrocketing With No Sign of Revenues . Stripe Exploring Tie-Ups for Growth . HubSpot Sustains Solid Growth Post IPO . Shazam Makes it to the Club . OnDeck Scoring in Small Businesses Instant Loans . Fat Startup Adaptive Insights Leading in Cloud CPM . Cloudera Leverages Open-Source Hadoop to Create a Multi-Billion Dollar Business . Evernote Cracks the Freemium Model . Rocket Fuel Crashes on Results . MongoDB Rises High on NoSQL Databases . Shopify Preparing for an IPO . JustFab Getting Ready for an IPO . Kabam to Stay Private? . Adyen Bootstraps to Multi-Billion Valuations . RetailMeNot Worries About Mobile Monetization . Elance-oDesk Taking on the Freelance World . Farfetch Connecting Designers with Consumers . The Impressive Story of Airpush . athenahealth Enters the EHR Market . Privalia Dominates the Latin America Markets . Niche E-Commerce Works for Fanatics . Powa Puts London on the Map . RealReal Shows How to Consign Luxury Products . Vancl On A Roller Coaster Ride . Didi Dache is China's Uber . Dafiti Leading E-Commerce in Latin America . ServiceNow Expands Addressable Market . Flipboard Focuses on Monetization . Hootsuite Eyes an IPO . GoodData Riding High on Big Data Analytics Market Growth . Cheetah Mobile Part Of Chinese Contingent . Hortonworks Needs To Deliver Results . Clarabridge Wins by Analyzing Customer Sentiment . Tableau Continues its Precise Execution . Will Cloudera Sustain $5 Billion Valuation Post IPO? . Freshdesk is a Prospect . InMobi Wants to IPO in India . Zendesk Targets the Live Chat Market . New Relic Getting Ready to Battle with Microsoft . Twilio is Revolutionizing Telecommunications . Funding Circle is UK's Latest Entry to the Club . Luxury Retailer Moda Operandi on the Club's Runway . Splunk is Now Targeting the SMB Segment . Capital-Efficient StartApp Is A Prospect . AppNexus In The IPO 2015 Pipeline . Druva Poised to Produce an Indian Unicorn . MapR Readies IPO . Lookout Getting Ready for an IPO . Anaplan Gets Ready to Enter the Club . Blue Apron Simplifies DIY Gourmet Cooking . GoFundMe Bootstraps till the Half-Way Point . Containers Gives Docker Entry into the Club . Can Kaltura Be A Public Unicorn? . The Ride-Sharing Industry Continues to Deliver Unjustifiable Valuations . MarkLogic Making Waves in Enterprise NoSQL . CloudFlare Offers Website Security over the Cloud . Mixpanel Provides Advanced Analytics for SMBs . Spotify Gearing up to Face Apple Music . Auction.com in Expansion Mode . Nutanix Gives VMWare Tough Competition . Houzz Bootstraps in a Niche Space to Join the Club . Rapid7 Delivers a Successful IPO . Coinbase Tries To Capitalize on BitCoins . Expect Acquisitions From ServiceNow . Zendesk and Freshdesk in Expansion Mode . Zulily Attempts to Make a Turnaround . Etsy Continues to Fumble . Lufax May be Risky, But Valuations Remain Lofty . Will IBM Acquire FireEye? . Mode Media Takes on Video Streaming . New Relic Moves Deeper into Enterprise . Delivery Hero Gets Multi-Billion Dollar Valuation for Food Delivery . Splunk Beefs Up Cyber Security . Garena Secures Singapore's Entry to the Club . Dianping is Thriving in China with its Local Reviews Business . Box Struggles in its Public Avatar . Coupang Raises the Banner for South Korea . InsideSales.com Bootstraps First, Raises Money Later . Pinterest Eyes E-Commerce . Klarna Takes the Risk out of E-Commerce . VNG Grows While Remaining Focused on Vietnam . Good, Bad and Ugly . Sprinklr Rolls up Social Media Management Software Before IPO . ContextLogic Marries Wish Lists to Vendors . Beepi Disintermediates Used Car Dealerships . Snapchat Experiments With Revenues . Tanium Simplifies Cyber Security . Avant is Revolutionizing Consumer Credit . Adyen is on a Roll . Apttus Ready for IPO . ZScaler Takes Security to the Cloud . Bullhorn is in the Making . Sogou a Unicorn, But Yet to Find its Mojo . Evernote Trying to Recover Lost Ground . Modernizing Medicine Is A Prospect . Instacart Looks Shaky . Mogujie's E-Commerce Pivot Pays Off . Zalando Takes the Lead in European Etail . BlaBlaCar Expands Internationally with Acquisitions . Square Files for IPO Below Last Round of Financing . Secretive Infinidat Makes its Way to the Club . FanDuel Creates a Billion Dollar Company out of Fantasy Sports . Kabbage Latest Unicorn in Slowing Online Lending Sector . Atlassian Now Prepping for a US Listing . Match.com Looking to Court the Stock Market Now . Ele.Me Shows Online-2-Offline Works . Alteryx is a Prospect . Machine Zone Translates Multi-Player Games to Multi-Billion Valuation . ZocDoc Should Be Able To Withstand Public Market Scrutiny . Thumbtack Joins the Ranks . Beibei the Baby of the Club . Online Lender SoFi Puts Off IPO Plans . Warby Parker Joins the Club . DraftKings Looks Worried as Fantasy Sports Come Under Scrutiny . Tujia Offers Vacation Rentals in China . Hortonworks Struggles to Stay in the Club . Atlassian, A Legitimate One, Delivers A Great IPO . Reconsider Your Aspirations . Will Docker Sustain? . Veeva Delivers Strong Fundamentals . OfferUp Still Needs to Figure out Revenue Model . Mozido Delivers Mobile Payment to Non-Banking Customers . SimpliVity a Prospect . WePiao Succeeds in Online Ticketing in China . Uptake Joins the Club . For Magic Leap, Unicorn Status No Longer Virtual . Udacity Leans on Industry Giants for Monetization . ForeScout Does Not Want To Go Public Yet . ShopClues Joins the Club . Age of Learning Monetizing in Educational Apps . Square Post Its IPO . Decolar is the Latin American Entry to the Club . Japan's Mercari Joins the Club . Yello Mobile Acquires its Way into the Club . TutorGroup Enters the Club . Souq.com the Middle East Entry to the Club . WeWork Riding the Sharing Economy Wave . Moderna Therapeutics A Promising, Unproven Bet . GitHub Faces Growing Pains . Africa Internet Group the First African Entry to the Club . Paytm Plans Rapid Expansion . Oscar Plans to Expand Its Network . Razer Leads the Gaming Accessory Market . GuaHao Targets China's Healthcare . AUTO1 Group Plans International Expansion . TransferWise Makes Money Transfer Simpler and Cheaper . Ping An Good Doctor Is Largest Chinese Healthcare Unicorn . MindMaze Channels Virtual Reality into Healing . Driverless Car Startup Zoox Joins The Club . Cylance Uses Machine Learning as Cyber Security Tool . SMS Assist Brings a Lackluster Industry to the Club . Unity Technologies a Strong VR Gaming Bet . Square Eyeing Large Sellers . Airbnb Continues to Soar . Xiaohongshu Leverages Social Commerce to Join the Club . iCarbonX Wants to Create a Digital You . Liepin, China's Homegrown Recruitment Platform . Hike is the Latest Entrant from India . Go-Jek Hails its Way into the Club . Quanergy Rides Into the Club . Aiwujiwu Rides High on Chinese Real Estate Sector . Zeta Interactive Counts on Inorganic Growth . Line Delivers a Successful IPO . Grab from Singapore is the Next Big One . Didi Chuxing Monopolizing Chinese Ride-Sharing Market? . Blippar Bets on Its Visual Browser . Two Years Post the IPO, Globant Continues to Soar . Nutanix Delivers a Strong Performance in the First Week of Listing . Coupa Has a Successful IPO . Online-to-Offline Focus Helps Huimin Enter the Club . Real Estate Platform Compass Joins the Club . LeSports Cashes in on Niche Video Streaming . Flipkart's Valuation Bodes Unsteady Future . Russian Avito Gearing up to go Public . Guazi Leading the Chinese Online Used Car Market . Slack Delays IPO to Next Year . Sprinklr Acquiring to take on Big Brands . Infor Accumulates ERP Providers to Build an Empire . Royole Corporation Flexes its Way into the Club . Rong360.com Joins the Club . Stripe’s Skyrocketing Valuation . Hulu Gears up to Stream Cable . Nutanix Delivers Upbeat Performance, Stock Still Down . Procore Joins the Club . JetSmarter Flies Into the Club . Opendoor Labs Opens the Door to the Club . Neo Technology Takes Databases to the Next Level . Kabam Struggles to Stay Alive . Careem is the Latest Middle East Unicorn . Huochebang is the Uber of Trucks in China . SimpliVity Exits in HPE's Arms . Kendra Scott Shows that Women CAN Build Unicorns . Zhihu Imitates Quora to Build a Valuation Without Revenue Company . Putting Flipkart's Struggles in Perspective . BlackLine Continues to Grow Post IPO . Global Switch Wants to be Leader in Data Centers . AppDynamics Sold Before IPO . MuleSoft Delivers Successful IPO