Udemy wants to be the "academy of you"

Splash Box: Udemy named winning startup at May Vator Splash event in San Francisco

Technology trends and news by Ronny Kerr
May 14, 2010
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/fa1

Last night Vator hosted the May edition of its Vator Splash event for entrepreneurs and startups. Ten seed and early stage founders came out to San Francisco's Cafe Du Nord for Vator Splash, an event hosted by Vator for founders to pitch their startups to an audience of other founders, press, and investors. These 10 startups had beat out over 100 other companies competing on the Vator Splash competition page over the past few weeks and, in the end, users had cast over 2,000 votes.

Gagan Biyani, founder of Udemy, participated in a special live version of Vator Box, taking questions from regular host Ezra Roizen of Ackrell Capital, Jeff Clavier of SoftTechVC, Howard Hartenbaum of August Capital, and Jeremy Liew of Lightspeed Ventures for Splash Box.

Udemy wants to be the "academy of you." The startup has built an open platform which lets users teach or learn from one another online. All the technology is Web-based so instructors don't need to deal with any complications in setting up their virtual classes. For example, Udemy offers a live virtual conferencing and classroom tool, which can all be used simply on the site. The company says it will focus on a specific niche, poker education, before moving onto additional markets where the customers are.

Highlights from the Splash Box:

--Liew kicked things off by asking about Udemy's potential market and how it can be reached. Biyani affirmed that the question was a good one, noting that multiple angel investors had asked how exactly Udemy would get traction. According to Biyani, "Pretty soon we realized that the most important thing in teaching is branding. If we partner with teachers who have brand recognition than that's much better than going after tutors," like those already advertising on Craigslist.

--Liew also wanted to know the lifetime value of the student or teacher on Udemy, if such a value is even quantifiable. Admitting that his company has "no solid numbers to prove anything," Biyani consented that he just doesn't know yet. He did say, however, that the product should sell itself once it enters a viral loop, as long as the company gains traction with users.

--Pointing out that Megastudy, a massively successful company in Korea providing a service similar to Udemy's, made around $300 million in revenue last year, Hartenbaum said that the market is already proven. He wanted to know, though, how much money Udemy would request of potential investors if the company were looking to raise a round right now. Though Biyani says Udemy is not currently raising funds, he said $500,000 would be just the right amount to open up the markets.

Videos of the Splash Box and other Vator Splash multimedia should be making its way onto VatorNews very soon, so be sure to check back.

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Description:   Udemy is a website that enables anyone to teach and learn online. Udemy tries to democratize online education by making it fast, e...

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