Udemy co-founder Gagan Biyani (pictured left) had to get used to the word “no” for a while when he first took a shot at raising money for his online education platform Udemy. About 30 of them, he said, and then the Udemy team decided to wait about six months to launch the site before trying again.
But the second time around, with the help of AngelList.com and investors Keith Rabois, of Yelp and LinkedIn fame, and Russ Fradin, Udemy raised $1 million in less than a month to hire additional staffers and attract triple-A educational talent to its online education platform. This time, it got 15 “yes” responses, he said.
Within two weeks, the site was overcommitted from its original $500,000 and had to convince investors to allow it to raise up to $1 million — which it secured about a week later. Biyani said it had a lot to do with actually listening to their adviser, Adeo Ressi of the Founder Institute.
“The first time we didn’t listen to even half of his advice, and you saw how successful that was,” Biyani said. “The second time we listened to 100 percent of his advice, even if we didn’t agree with it, and it worked out.”
Investors in Udemy include Rabois, Mark Sugarman’s MHS Capital, Rick Thompson, Fradin, Benjamin Ling, Larry Braitman, Jeremy Stoppelman, Naval Ravikant, Paul Martino, Josh Stylman and Dave McClure’s 500 Startups Fund.
With the money in hand, Udemy will hire a front-end designer and developer and an additional coder. Part of the funding is also pegged for bringing in well-known and well-respected educators to provide either online course materials or use the live platform.
Udemy is among a handful of online teaching platforms, but offers a dynamic user interface for online instructors and users in a live classroom setting. The interface allows for up to 20 live video streams, chat rooms, audio streams and video and PowerPoint-like presentations. Each app can be customized and placed within the Udemy web client to a user’s preference.
In addition to the live learning classroom, Udemy also offers a number of other educational platforms — such as discussion boards, self-hosted and YouTube-hosted videos and slideshow presentations.
In addition to offering customized classes from users, Udemy pulls from a number of online courses already offered by MIT, Stanford and other well-known universities — dubbed open courseware. Udemy Academic compiles all the classes and presentations into a slightly more accessible chronological format within the Udemy platform.
Udemy launched on May 11, and has since attracted more than 1,000 instructors and 2,000 custom courses.
Companies: The Founder Institute, Udemy
People: Adeo Ressi, Benjamin Ling, Gagan Biyani, Jeremy Stoppelman, Josh Stylman, Keith Rabois, Larry Braitman, Mark Sugarman, Naval Ravikant, Paul Martino, Rick Thompson, Russ Fradin