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Investors Continue to Back MOOC Providers

At the beginning of this week, Udemy announced they had secured another $34 million in funding. So investors continue to back MOOC providers and believe in the future revenue/profit potential of this space.

Here’s a brief look at each of the large online learning providers, how much they have raised, and who their largest backers are. All numbers/facts courtesy of Crunchbase.


The original massive, online open course provider has raised “only” $20M so far and seems to be farthest along at attempting to monetize their offerings. They currently charge a monthly fee for access to each course, that provides coaching, graded projects, and a certificate for each student. There are free options that do not include those things, but they are getting harder to find. Udacity recently announced it is dropping the certificates for free students altogether, so they are training their users to pay for these valuable things.

They are backed by two large Silicon Valley VCs: Andreessen Horowitz and Charles River Ventures. It’s been a couple of years since they’ve needed to raise money, so they must be doing OK.


On the other hand, Coursera has raised $85M so far. They too are experimenting with paid “verified” certificates, but monetization does not seem to be a priority for them. They push their verified certificates to enrolled students in the first few days of each course, but they are not trying to hide the fact that the course can be finished for free. Coursera has hundreds of courses, and have partnered with an impressive number of colleges and universities around the world. They have gone for growth over revenue for the moment.

They are backed by a handful of VCs, but two seem to be leading currently: GSV and Learn Capital. They raised a significant amount of month just 6 months ago, so perhaps they will not need to raise any more for a while.


Udemy is the platform where users upload courses to teach their peers. Just this week they raised $32M to bring their total investment to $48M. This company launched with monetization clearly in its sights, as most Udemy courses have a high price-tag ($99, $299, or higher) and Udemy gets to keep a portion of that. Since Udemy allows anyone to create and upload a course, it also seems to have the largest opportunity ahead of it – millions of teachers can be teaching billions of students on millions of unique topics. Whereas Udacity is clearly focusing on course quality, and Coursera is focusing on its professional University partners to create content, Udemy has the long tail covered where someday no doubt there will be a course covering how to create your own beer, and people will willingly pay $99 to learn how to do that.  It’s safe to assume the other two platforms will not be focused on the long tail of topics in such a way.

They are backed by a long list of investors.


Treehouse clearly only focuses on programming topics, but they have still raised $24M so far from investors. They also have their monetization strategy in place by charging students a monthly subscription fee for access to all their content. They can choose to create content based on their revenue, and I would imagine they could be profitable if they wanted to be. But still, Treehouse recently raised a bit more money, so perhaps they still want to spend more to catch some more growth.

The investor list is impressive, with a mix of major VCs and other silicon valley heavyweights such as Kevin Rose and Reid Hoffman.


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