Coursera is the pioneer and leader of the emerging MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) trend. Founded in 2012 by Stanford professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, the company has been able to attract more than 18 million users. Coursera works with universities, schools and organizations to provide online courses to the masses for free. It also offers course credits for select courses, charging a per course fee to students.
Coursera fits square in the middle of the three uber-trends we see in the $4.5 trillion education market: KaizenEDU (continuous learning), Return on Education (ROE), and Knowledge as a Currency (KNAAC). Increasingly, it’s going to be about what you know, not where you go—it’s knowledge, not college. ROE is about creating stronger outcomes, but at the same time lowering cost and increasing access.
Co-founders Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng are both from Stanford University and specialize in Artificial Intelligence. Daphne founded the CURIS program, the Stanford Computer Science Department’s undergraduate summer internship program, and the Biomedical Computation major at Stanford. She pioneered many of the ideas that are key to Stanford’s massive online education efforts. Andrew developed the Stanford Autonomous Helicopter and STAIR (Stanford Artificial Intelligence Robot) projects and authored over 100 papers on Machine Learning. He is one of MIT Technology Review’s top 35 innovators, was awarded the Sloan Fellowship, and is working with researchers at Google on the “Google Brain,” one of the most ambitious artificial-intelligence systems to date.
John Doerr (KPCB); Scott Sandell (NEA)
Coursera offers free online courses, as well as online degrees from a large and growing number of top universities from around the world. Courses are video-based and include video lectures, pop-up quizzes, digital books, discussion forums, and learning sections. Many universities are beginning to offer specializations with credits, charging students on a per course/specialization basis. Additionally, Coursera is beginning to offer an online MBA program, the iMBA.
Coursera has the potential to democratize education as we know it, essentially giving access to the best universities in the world to everyone. Its transformative and disruptive approach can easily attract hundreds of millions of learners, resulting in billion dollars of revenue.
Internet; Knowledge; Social; Globalization; Brands; Free; Outsourcing
Coursera could become the go-to platform for anyone wanting access to top quality content in any category. We believe Coursera will be the leading platform for online learning (the Facebook of learning), with a massive user base and a significant share of the higher education and continuous learning market.
Given how Coursera enables access to best-in-class courses to people around the world, we expect it will change the higher education landscape. We believe we will start to see people with a portfolio of courses from different universities competing for jobs against those with traditional university degrees. Being a leader Coursera will be driving this trend in the foreseeable future.
While already having attracted millions of students, Coursera is an early stage company with little operating history. The MOOCs space is attractive but also relatively young and unproven. Coursera’s management has yet to prove its capabilities to grow a multi-million/billion dollar business. Creating and developing strong relationships with top universities around the world will be essential to Coursera’s success. Given the increasing competition, it will be a marketing driven business and Coursera will have to have the right talent to capitalize on the market.
GSVC percentage figures are based upon the fair value of each holding as of the quarter ended September 30, 2016, or the cost basis of the holding (exclusive of transaction costs) if the investment closed subsequent to September 30, 2016. In either case, these values are divided by the fair value of total portfolio investments of GSV Capital as of September 30, 2016.