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Billion Dollar Unicorns: Pluralsight Goes Public

Posted on Monday, Jun 18th 2018

Last month, Billion Dollar Unicorn EdTech company Pluralsight listed successfully on NASDAQ under the ticker PS. Utah-based Pluralsight focuses on the corporate e-learning market that is expected to grow 11% annually to reach $31 billion by 2020. We’ve been covering the company for a long time, and are thrilled to see its success.

Pluralsight’s Offerings

Founded in 2004 by Aaron Skonnard, Keith Sparkjoy, and Fritz Onion, Pluralsight was set up with a mission to change the world through online professional training. Aaron, along with his partners had years of experience in the professional software developer training market and they leveraged their experience to build a cost-efficient training solution. In 2011, Pluralsight shifted its business model from offering in-person ILT to an entirely online delivery model. Unlike other training services providers that rely on individual trainers, Pluralsight went on to develop training packages that could be sold worldwide and help scale its business.

Today, Pluralsight has over 6,700 on-demand and online courses on its platform and is adding about 80 new courses each month. As of December 31, 2017, over 695,000 users in over 150 countries had access to its platform. Its content is developed and sourced from a network of over 1,400 authors. The company has 890 full-time employees and also engages contractors and consultants.

Pluralsight makes its revenue from subscriptions. Pricing and subscription periods vary for business customers and individual customers. Its pricing ranges from $499 to $699 per user per year for business subscriptions. Subscription periods for business customers generally range from one to three years, with a majority being one year. Pricing for individual customers range from $29 per month to $299 per year. It also offers free trials. Subscription periods for its individual customers range from one month to one year.

Pluralsight’s Financials

As per its SEC filing, Pluralsight’s revenue in 2017 was $166.8 million, up 26.5% from $131.8 million in 2016. Net loss increased to $96.5 million in 2017 from $20.6 million in 2016.

Billings were $149.2 million in 2016 and $205.8 million in 2017, a y-o-y growth of 38%. Billings from business customers grew 55% in 2017 to $163 million.

The market for professional skill development is highly competitive, rapidly evolving, and fragmented. Competition is expected to continue to accelerate in the future as competitors bundle new and more competitive offerings with their existing products and services, and as products and product enhancements are introduced into the market. It competes directly or indirectly against instructor-led training vendors, such as Global Knowledge, General Assembly, and New Horizons; legacy e-learning services, such as Skillsoft and Cornerstone On Demand; individual-focused e-learning services, such as LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, and Udacity; and free solutions such as YouTube.

Prior to going public, Pluralsight was very prudent with its funding. It bootstrapped its operations for nearly a decade before going in for venture funds from 2013 onwards. It had raised $239 million from investors including Felicis Ventures, GSV Advisors, Sorenson Capital, Iconiq Capital, and Insight Venture Partners. Its last round of funding was held in December 2016 when it raised $30 million at an undisclosed valuation. Prior to this round, Pluralsight had raised $135 million in August 2014 at a valuation of $1 billion.

You can read more about Aaron’s journey to set up Pluralsight in my interview with him in 2012 and watch this more recent roundtable recording where he speaks about his bootstrapping strategy, as well as financing and roll-up strategy:

Through the IPO, Pluralsight raised $310.5 million. It priced 20.7 million shares at $15. The stock is currently trading at $27.17 with a market cap of $3.67 billion.

More investigation and analysis of Unicorn companies can be found in my latest Entrepreneur Journeys book, Billion Dollar Unicorns

This segment is a part in the series : Billion Dollar Unicorns


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