By: Ingrid Lunden
Online education has been one of the hotspots in the tech world this year, as people turn to e-learning tools to fill in the gaps variously arising from closed schools, closed offices, social distancing and more time on our hands at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And that is giving a big bump to education startups, which are raising money to capitalise on the growth opportunity.
In one of the latest developments, Udemy — which provides a marketplace currently numbering some 130,000 video-based courses across 65 languages, ranging from learning Python or how to photograph better, through to mastering mindfulness and business analytics — is raising up to $100 million in a Series F round of funding that would value the company at up to $3.32 billion.
(Update: the company has now announced that it has closed $50 million of this: Learn Capital is among the investors, alongside Chinese internet company Tencent, owner of WeChat and various gaming businesses, as well as a prolific investor in US tech companies. It’s not clear if Udemy will raise more, or if it has now closed the round; nor is it clear why it filed for $100 million but only raised $50 million in the end.)
The company has filed paperwork for the fundraise in Delaware, first discovered by Justin Byers and the team at Prime Unicorn Index. It’s not clear if the round has closed, and whether the full amount was raised (or indeed, more).
Contacted for a response, Udemy didn’t deny the report but also declined to say anything for the moment. “We have a company policy where we don’t comment on speculations,” a spokesperson said to me via email. “We don’t have a comment at this time but I’ll reach out if anything changes.”
The fundraise would be a strong move for Udemy, which only closed its Series E earlier this year — a $50 million round that catapulted the company to a $2 billion+ post-money valuation.
But that was in February, before the novel coronavirus really took hold of the world. Since then, startups focused on education have been seeing a surge of business starting in the spring of this year, and as a result, also a surge of attention from investors who see a good moment to back rising stars.
Just looking at some of the most recent deals, last week, Udacity announced a $75 million debt round and said it was finally profitable. In October, Kahoot announced a $215 million round from SoftBank. And in September, Outschool raised $45 million (and is now profitable); Homer raised $50 million (from an impressive group of strategic backers); Unacademy raised $150 million and the juggernaut that is Byju’s picked up $500 million from Silver Lake.
And these are just some of the bigger deals; there have been many smaller fundraises, new edtech startup launches and other signs of momentum alongside this. (And Prime Unicorn, incidentally, also noted that Duolingo is also raising money, up to $35 million at a valuation of $2.21 billion if all shares are issued. We’re still digging on that lead.)
When Udemy last raised money, earlier this year, the president of the business division told me it had clocked up 50 million students that purchase courses in an à la carte format, while enterprise customers — which include Adidas, General Mills, Toyota, Wipro, Pinterest and Lyft in a list of some 5,000 in all — use a subscription model.
It looks like its business users have grown and now number over 7,000, according to figures on its site, with total course enrollments now totalling 400 million to date. That could point to the opportunity that Udemy is now exploring with more capital.
But to be clear, the filing does not detail who is in this latest round, nor what the purpose of the fundraising is.
As we wrote at the time of the round in February, that fundraise came from a single, strategic investor, the Japanese educational publisher Benesse Holdings, which partners with Udemy in Japan. Benesse’s bigger business includes developing educational content for children and courses for adults, both online and in-person, and for other educational brands that it owns, such as Berlitz, and Udemy helps Benesse develop content for those various efforts.
Other investors in the company include Stripes, Naspers (now Prosus), Learn Capital, Insight Partners and Norwest Venture Partners, among others.
Prime Unicorn Index notes that the terms surrounding this latest Series F include a “pari passu liquidation preference with all other preferred, and conventional convertible, meaning they will not participate with common stock if there are remaining proceeds.” It also noted that Udemy’s most recent price per share is $24.13, an up round from the Series E, which priced shares at $15.57.