It’s been a watershed 18 months for edtech startups, from unprecedented growth to a handful of successful public debuts.
One of edtech’s frontrunners, Udemy, is the latest to explore its IPO options, and could go public as soon as October. The company hit a $3.3 billion valuation in November after raising a $50 million round, and will be aiming for an initial valuation of between $6 billion and $8 billion for its IPO.
Silicon Valley is already buzzing about the news, which Udemy itself hasn’t commented on yet. Darian Shirazi, a partner at Gradient Ventures, tweeted, “Bet on amazing founders like @erenbali & @gaganbiyani and a decade later, the result is an $8B company.”
Reach Capital’s Tony Wan tweeted, “There will be more US #edtech IPOs this year alone (Coursera, Duolingo, Instructure (again), PowerSchool, Varsity Tutors/Nerdy & now Udemy) than all of last decade (Cornerstone, Chegg, 2U, Instructure, Pluralsight).”
The online learning platform, founded by Eren Bali, Octay Caglar, and Gagan Biyani back in 2009, had a long way to go before reaching unicorn status and amassing millions of users. In fact, the founders couldn’t get an investor on board for months.
In a tweet about Udemy’s early days, Biyani recalled that it took over a year for the founders to realize that bootstrapping was the only way to move forward. After pitching to over 200 investors unsuccessfully, and being ghosted by a Turkish billionaire, the founders realized that nobody wanted to invest in a startup that hadn’t launched yet.
Udemy ultimately launched in early 2010, and once its product was a proven success, investors came trickling in. Three years later, Udemy had $16 million in funding from the likes of Keith Rabois and Russ Fradin. But it wouldn’t be until February 2020 that the company would achieve unicorn status.
Biyani, who oversaw Udemy’s marketing and investor relations, left in 2012 to serve as a growth advisor for Lyft. Now he’s the co-founder and CEO of Maven, a relative newcomer to the edtech scene focused on business lessons from some of the brightest minds in Silicon Valley, including Sahil Bloom, Li Jin, and Anthony Pompliano. Eren Bali, Udemy’s original CEO, is now the head of Carbon Health. Caglar, the only original founder to stay with Udemy, still serves as the company’s CPO.
Like the rest of the edtech industry, Udemy’s popularity exploded as a direct result of the pandemic, with children left with no choice but to learn remotely. The company’s weekly course enrollment increased by 425% from February to March 2020 as parents and teachers alike embraced the platform, according to The Information.
Udemy’s 40 million users can take courses using the platform’s 155,000 videos on everything from computer science to drawing. The company makes its money through instructor fees and contracts with major clients like Apple and Nasdaq. The platform also offers free courses as a way to bring in news users, many of whom find out about the discounts through Twitter.
According to our data, Udemy currently has 307 job listings, a 141.7% increase from this time two years ago.
Our data also shows that Udemy’s employee headcount has steadily risen 76.9% to 5,150 over the past two years. Udemy follows a handful of edtech companies that went public this year, including Coursera and Duolingo, both of which have shown strong growth since their public debuts.