Udemy is a website that enables anyone to teach and learn online. Udemy tries to democratize online education by making it fast, easy and free to create online courses. Udemy is an open platform, so anyone can build an online course by posting videos, presentations, writing blog posts, or hosting live virtual classroom sessions.
Udemy tries to solve a simple problem: there are millions of smart people in the world (authors, speakers, coaches, trainers, subject matter experts and teachers) who want to teach over the internet. Currently, it costs $10,000 to create a website to teach, and there are thousands of instructors doing this (we've talked to them; they hate it). We provide instructors with the ability to create their own course without any up-front costs. That way, they no longer have to deal with the technology and can focus entirely on teaching.
Udemy Live is Udemy’s live virtual conferencing and classroom tool. It is entirely web-based and built on component architecture. Each component was built separately, and there is an internal API so third party developers can build components on top of Udemy’s virtual conferencing tool. The API is not currently public.
Udemy was founded by MobileCrunch writer Gagan Biyani, Eren Bali and Oktay Caglar. Eren and Oktay worked at SpeedDate.com, an online dating site that has received over $8M in funding from Menlo Ventures.
Udemy will start by focusing on a specific niche: Poker education. We will roll out Udemy to enter the $100M business of online poker education. Udemy has deals with more than 15 extremely popular poker instructors to teach on Udemy Poker over the internet. After that niche, Udemy will begin to enter additional markets in which there is a willingness to pay by consumers and a clear set of high-quality instructors interested in teaching.
Eren Bali, CEO, was the first employee of SpeedDate.com, and is currently the Engineering Lead. He oversaw the site’s growth from 0 to 9 million users and profitability in its first two years. Eren graduated from the Middle East Technical University with dual degrees in Computer Engineering and Mathematics. He demonstrated extraordinary math skills at an early age, winning many national and international accolades, including second place at the International Mathematical Olympiads.
Gagan Biyani, Co-Founder, grew up in the Silicon Valley and graduated from UC Berkeley in 3 years with a degree in Economics. He previously worked for Accenture Strategy Consulting, and writes part-time for TechCrunch’s mobile site, MobileCrunch. He also interned at Microsoft and Robert Half International during his time in college. Gagan has taught over 300 students in Speech and Debate, English and test preparation.
Oktay Caglar, Co-Founder, also graduated from Middle East Technical University with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. A close friend of Eren, he quickly became an adept developer, and has extraordinary product planning, development, and design skills. He has been integral to SpeedDate.com’s viral marketing and user acquisition strategy. His campaign converted over 5 million users from Facebook to SpeedDate.com.
Udemy provides online course creation and webinar tools for free. Educators can build their own course for as many students as they want, and can provide both recorded and live content to their students. We provide these services free because we believe in encouraging as many users to come to our site as possible. Udemy makes money when our instructors make money. We will do a 20% revenue share with those who charge for their course.
Over $52 billion will be spent in online education in 2010, and there are millions of people learning over the internet. Furthermore, the basic infrastructure we've built is great for many other markets such as corporate education ($134 billion), online tutoring ($1 billion), etc.
Udemy has two primary US-based competitors: Edufire and Supercool School. Both are companies with strong founders and a great marketing team. Fundamentally, we are a company with a strong engineering team and we think that makes a huge difference. Here are some other ways we differentiate ourselves:
- Udemy provides both synchronous and asynchronous tools. Edufire and Supercool School only do live education, and we do both recorded and live education. There's too much friction with scheduling a live class. A student comes on your site and then has to wait 2-3 days to meet with the teacher they want. This results in attrition rates that are too high to retain users in a profitable manner.
- Udemy can leverage any content put on its site forever. In this way, even if a teacher stops teaching on Udemy, we can continue to drive traffic to his/her course and monetize it. This is a huge reason why content sites are inherently more valuable than marketplace sites: we keep the content forever and can always drive traffic to that content. Specifically, we can properly leverage viral channels and SEO to drive traffic.
- Edufire and Supercool School's users spend 90% of their time in a product that they themselves do not own. They both license a 3rd party software (Adobe Connect) to conduct the live education sessions. This is a huge problem because it means they cannot scale adoption easily, nor improve the user experience. We can build Twitter/Facebook features into our product so that users who are in a live session can share that with others. We can also better optimize SEO and distribution channels because we own our own IP.