Udemy wants to be the "academy of you"

Ronny Kerr · May 14, 2010 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/fa1

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

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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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.