Udemy: Democratizing Online Learning With Video

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While many online video startups are working on ways to profit from the distribution on content, others are working on more nobel goals — like connecting teachers and students online. One such startup, Udemy, makes it easy for online instructors to create an online learning course using video and slide presentations, and to host that course for anyone that might be interested in viewing the videos.

The platform is based on technology built as part of a Turkish government program, with intellectual property brought to the U.S., and formally launched last year. Udemy enables instructors to set up classes that viewers can tune into and interact with virtual students live, but Biyani says it is actually gaining more traction from instructors that are posting on-demand videos and slide presentations and letting students tune in in an asynchronous fashion. Not only is the on-demand model more scalable, but it enables instructors to reach a wider group of students that might not all be available at the same time.

Anyone can start a course, but Udemy is focusing on specific verticals to build its course catalog. Since Udemy is deeply entrenched in the startup world itself, much of its time now is spent on recruiting entrepreneurs and founders to teach the basics and give tips and tricks for building successful companies. That focus is paying off, as it has partnered with Startup Digest and the Founder Institute, among others.

But what Udemy really wants to enable is the democratization of online learning, letting instructors reach students and charge for their lessons directly. Not just that, but the hope is that at some point students will be able to attend — and get credit for — courses from multiple instructors and learning institutions, so that credit isn’t tied just to one school or university.

Udemy has raised $1 million from angel investors Keith Rabois, Mark Sugarman’s MHS Capital, Rick Thompson, Russ Fradin, Benjamin Ling, Larry Braitman, Jeremy Stoppelman, Naval Ravikant, Paul Martino, Josh Stylman and Dave McClure’s 500 Startups Fund. The company has just three employees now, but has plans to add four more workers over the next few months.

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