Coursera, the online education startup, has raised a $43 million round to further propel its burgeoning growth as it takes its platform international and multi-lingual.
The Series B round was led by GSV Capital Corp. (GSVC), Learn Capital, Laureate Education Inc. and International Finance Corp., the investment arm of the World Bank, with participation from Yuri Milner, . the Russian investor who manages DST Global.
“Demand for education in developing countries is growing rapidly due to population growth and the rising share of students seeking university education,” said Elena Sterlin, IFC Senior Manager for Health, Education and Services. “Coursera’s innovative model is a breakthrough in delivering low-cost university and continuing education to students through online courses.”
Coursera hosts free online classes taught by professors. Universities partner with the service to license the courses with their own students in exchange for a fee, saving valuable classroom time for discussion rather than a rote lecture. The company began offering the classes as a supplement to higher education, but then achieved ACE approval to offer accredited education. Antioch University, for example, offers credit for a Coursera web class taught by University of Pennsylvania faculty.
“We created Coursera in response to real and pressing demands for quality, accessible education around the world, and today we are proud to be part of a growing movement that is making a tangible impact on this global challenge,” said Andrew Ng, Co-Founder of Coursera.
The investment brings Coursera’s total funding to $65 million, an impressive sum considering the company is barely a year old. The brainchild of two computer science professors, Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, the company collaborates with 83 educational institutions on four continents to offer about 400 college level courses for free online. The company has an enrollment of more than 4 million students.
Coursera will use the funding to double its staff to 100 over the next several months, as well as expand its mobile apps and Signature Track offerings, which charges students a fee to provide certification of the education. It also plans to invest in international expansion and multi-lingual platforms.
Education investments have been a rising trend, and this investment is the latest example. Venture investments in education grew 41 percent in 2012 to $632.3 million, the highest since the Dot.com peak in 2000, according to the National Venture Capital Association.
The company competes against Udacity, which also launched out of Sanford. Udacity has so far raised $15 million in October from investors including Andreessen Horowitz and Charles River Ventures.
“Coursera is on the forefront of transforming the $4.5 trillion dollar learning industry,” said Michael Moe, Chairman and CEO of GSV Capital. “In the global marketplace, knowledge is the currency that provides people the opportunity to participate in the future. Coursera is democratizing access to the best universities and professors in the world.”