Online learning platform provider Udemy bulks up with new round

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Udemy, a website where anyone can teach or take a course in pretty much anything, has closed a $32 million Series C round.

The round, which was led by Norwest Venture Partners, and includes existing investors Insight Venture Partners and MHS Capital, brings total funding for the four-year-old company to $48 million, making it one of the more heavily capitalized education startups of its vintage.

Dennis Yang, president and CEO of the San Francisco-based company, said that it’s not just the appeal of online education that’s drawing interest. It’s also that investors categorize Udemy as a player in the much-vaunted sharing economy.

That is, much like car-sharing services, such as RelayRides, clothing rental mobile app Poshmark, as well as the home rental service provider Airbnb, Udemy takes a good and creates a platform for allowing users to sell to others. In the case of Udemy, the good isn’t cars, clothes or spare bedrooms, but rather knowledge and expertise.

Particularly in fast-changing workplaces, where skill sets need constant updating, Yang said, the market for expertise is large and growing.

“We’re moving away from an old-school model of assessing knowledge and moving into this new world where it’s much more competency based,” he said.

Udemy makes money by collecting a percentage of fees instructors charge for courses. Anyone can offer a class on the site either for free or for a fee. To date, more than 8,000 people have done so.

Udemy collects 3 percent of the fees paid by new students, and 50 percent from people who have already bought courses on the site. The company has generated enough revenue that Udemy could be profitable it did not choose to keep investing in growth, Yang said.

Over 30 percent of Udemy students consume courses via iPhone, iPad and Android mobile devices, typically paying $30 to $100 for non-free courses. The company claims that the average instructor makes about $7,000 a year, though the top 10 have brought in more than $10 million. The most popular paid courses are related to technology, business and design.

This story first appeared in Reuters Venture Capital Journal. Subscribers can read the original story here. To subscribe to VCJ, please email Greg.Winterton@ThomsonReuters.com.

Photo of apple and tablet courtesy of Shutterstock.

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