I knew the moment I heard an NPR story featuring Udacity co-founder Sebastian Thrun that we’d soon hear news about some significant fundraising. The digital university has raised $15 million in a round of financing led by Andreessen Horowitz and included existing investors Charles River Ventures and Steve Blank, a startup wizard who teaches at Thrun’s native Stanford University.
In the last year, Udacity has raise $21.1 million, putting it in the same category as a number of online education startups to attract significant venture capital this year.
Bloomberg featured an article which included a quote from Peter Levin, a partner at Andreesen Horowitz and soon-to-be member of Udacity’s board:
“Around the world there’s a supply and demand problem. This makes Stanford-quality content and coursework available to millions of people who don’t have access to any higher level of education.”
I wasn’t able to locate a URL for the NPR story I mentioned at the beginning of this post, but I’ll recall a question that was raised during the feature: How does a free online university make money? Well, there’s the venture capital, but there’s also a few other ideas. A Udacity staff member theorized that the class content could be free, but students could pay Udacity to receive a certificate of completion.
An even better idea includes Udacity’s plans to work with employers directly, allowing business to use Udacity to essentially go shopping for qualified candidates for open positions based on the talent they possess and the courses they’ve taken.
But at the moment, Udacity’s primary focus hasn’t shifted from its core roots, which is the delivery of quality educational content. Sebastian Thrun is focusing on adapting the content to make it more enjoyable in order to entice even more students into the online education movement.