itting in a fluorescently lit appointment allowance dressed in a apprenticed gray assignment shirt, jeans and gray suede sneakers, Jeff Maggioncalda, the deeply anguish 49-year-old CEO of Coursera, doesn’t blow his bowl of apparent spaghetti, edamame and artichoke hearts from the aggregation cafeteria. By the end of our hour-and-a-half cafeteria meeting, he is still talking nonstop.
First, he goes on at breadth about the two years he spent traveling the apple afore aing the Abundance View, California-based online apprenticeship aggregation in June 2017. “I climbed Kilimanjaro with my average daughter, I went to Cuba for a week, I went to Uganda to see the abundance gorillas,” he says. “In Indonesia we went scuba diving and saw the Komodo dragons. In Borneo we saw the orangutans.”
But in Kyoto his adventures had been cut short. Lounging at a acceptable ryokan in a bathrobe and one-toe socks, he apprehend an email from a headhunter who declared his dream job: booty over a fast-growing tech startup with a amusing mission—to awfully aggrandize admission to academy apprenticeship through massive accessible online courses, accepted as MOOCs, accomplished by the best advisers from the world’s top universities. He was chanting the aggregation mantra afore he’d alike announced to Coursera’s board: “I said to my wife, Anne, ‘The band-aid to our best acute animal problems is education.’”
Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda: “I see a apple area Coursera is fabricated accessible to every apprentice in every academy in the world.”Eric Millette
Maggioncalda didn’t allegation a job. In 2014 he had stepped bottomward as CEO of Financial Engines, a retirement planning website he launched 18 years beforehand with two high-profile Stanford professors, Nobel award-winning champ William F. Sharpe and above SEC abettor Joseph Grundfest. In 2010 he took the aggregation public, and by the time he larboard its bazaar cap was aing to $2 billion and his net account was arctic of $50 million.
After Kyoto, he and Anne had planned to appointment Israel, Machu Picchu, the Galapagos and Antarctica. Instead, he flew aback from Japan and became Coursera’s third CEO. He has back additional the company’s cachet as the world’s biggest, best acknowledged MOOC provider, with 150 all-embracing university partners, 36 actor registered learners, $210 actor in advance capital, an $800 actor appraisal and accepted 2018 acquirement Forbes estimates at $140 million, landing Coursera on Forbes’ account of Aing Billion-Dollar Startups. (Coursera’s aing MOOC competitors, nonprofit edX and for-profit Udacity, accept beneath than 30 actor registered users amid them.) Coursera would be assisting were it not pumping so abundant banknote into growth, Maggioncalda says. He expects to aggrandize Coursera’s arch calculation of 325 by added than 100 aing year. Within the aing two years he will acceptable booty the aggregation public.
When he finishes talking about his campaign and the added passions he pursued during his time off, including music and sailing lessons, the 42-foot Jeanneau yacht he docks in adjacent Santa Cruz and eight-hour binges arena the Wild West-themed video adventurous Red Dead Redemption, he launches into his admirable affairs for Coursera: “I can see a apple area Coursera is fabricated accessible to every apprentice in every academy in the world.”
The three genitalia of Coursera’s business anniversary drives the others, he says. It provides 3,000 courses absolute to consumers, sells classes through 1,400 action barter like Adobe, Goldman Sachs, L’Oréal and India’s Axis Bank, and offers 12 online amount programs for ally including the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Michigan and the University of London. “When any bulge grows, the added nodes benefit,” he says. “When we get addition learner, our educators benefit. Back we get addition employer, the added two benefit.”
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Coursera’s founders, Stanford computer science assistant Daphne Koller, now a aggregation co-chair and the architect of biotech startup Insitro, and co-chair Andrew Ng, who has led AI teams at Google and Chinese tech behemothic Baidu, couldn’t accept absurd what Coursera would become back they launched it in 2012. The two had spearheaded an accomplishment to action three Stanford computer science courses for chargeless online. The classes were interactive, with abbreviate video lectures, altercation forums, assorted best quizzes, and appointment assignments graded by added acceptance application a explanation provided by professors. Though acceptance becoming no bookish credit, the courses were a hit. “With no marketing, anniversary of those courses had added than 100,000 learners,” Koller says. “It was a wake-up alarm about the appeal for this blazon of apprenticeship about the world.”
In abbreviate order, she and Ng abiding Princeton, Penn and Michigan to assurance on. “We capital to advantage not alone the best that Stanford had to action but the offerings from added universities as well,” Koller says. Though Coursera had no monetization plan, investors jumped on board.
“It had the capacity I attending for in a monster venture,” says Kleiner Perkins’ John Doerr, a advance broker in Coursera and a affiliate of the board. “Higher apprenticeship costs too much, and it’s not accessible to abundant people.” Doerr recommended Koller and Ng argue with Rick Levin, an economist who had served as admiral of Yale for 20 years. Levin aing as CEO in 2014 afterwards Coursera began charging $30 to $70 to acceptance who capital advance achievement certificates. Acquirement trickled in.
Coursera cofounder Daphne Koller co-chairs the board: “I anticipation the advertising and the afterlife allocution [about MOOCs] were appropriately funny.”Ramin Rahimian
Meanwhile Coursera and added MOOC purveyors had gone through a bang and apprehension in the accessible imagination. The New York Times declared 2012 “the year of the MOOC,” and columnist Thomas Friedman breathlessly wrote, “Nothing has added abeyant to alleviate a billion added accuracy to break the world’s better problems.”
Shortly thereafter, Koller says, “the anecdotal was the afterlife of the MOOC,” afterwards abstracts from two University of Pennsylvania studies showed that 80% of the bodies who registered for MOOCs already had degrees and alone bisected of them agitated to attending at a distinct lecture. A atomic 4% completed their courses.
The Coursera aggregation abandoned the chatter. “I anticipation the advertising and the afterlife allocution were appropriately funny,” Koller says. “Higher apprenticeship involves a actual apathetic set of institutions. And back you’re actual successful, you don’t appetite to about-face on a dime.”
Levin, now 71, had said at the alpha that he would break alone three years. Back he angry the aggregation over to Maggioncalda, it was on an upswing. Its action business was demography off, tripling acquirement in the year back Maggioncalda took over. Barter accommodate Adobe, which paid Coursera an estimated $150,000 this year to accommodate a apartment of bristles machine-learning courses, one accomplished by Ng and the blow by two University of Washington professors, to 1,500 of Adobe’s top developers and engineers. (Coursera splits its fee for the University of Washington courses with the school.) A additional for Adobe is the abundant letters Coursera provides on employees’ achievement in the courses. “It allows us to apperceive absolutely who has what abstruse ability in what abstruse domain,” says Justin Mass, Adobe’s all-around arch of abstruse aptitude development.
Coursera additionally makes money confined as a belvedere for companies like IBM and Google that action classes such as IBM Blockchain Foundation for Developers, accomplished by IBM staffers. In an accomplishment to admission acceptance of its products, IBM is blame to alternation developers, administrators and chump account workers in IBM technology. Coursera accuse $39 to $49 a ages for these courses, which booty three to six weeks to complete. Graduates get certificates and IBM agenda badges that can advice them acreage jobs at IBM or at IBM applicant companies like Wells Fargo and Exxon Mobil. Corporate courses can be abnormally advantageous for Coursera, which in some cases keeps 100% of allegation revenue.
Maggioncalda is additionally action on a above amplification in Coursera’s full-degree programs, launched beneath Levin. It now offers a bachelor’s in computer science from the University of London and 11 master’s degrees, including an “iMBA” from the awful ranked Gies Academy of Business at the University of Illinois for $20,000, compared with $82,000 an out-of-state apprentice pays on campus. Its university ally say the online degrees aren’t siphoning abroad brick-and-mortar acceptance but rather alluring nontraditional acceptance who contrarily wouldn’t enroll. “We’ve broke into a accomplished altered market,” says Gies administrator Jeffrey Brown. While Gies’ on-campus affairs can accept alone 100 MBA acceptance at a time, back the online analysis launched two years ago it has registered about 1,800 students, best of them in their 30s and able-bodied into their careers.
Coursera cofounder Andrew Ng co-chairs the lath and still teaches Coursera classes on bogus intelligence and apparatus learning.Nhat Meyer
In alms abounding degrees, Coursera is arduous an accustomed competitor, 2U, a about traded aggregation based in Lanham, Maryland. 2U has congenital a bazaar cap of $3.7 billion on acquirement of $350 actor developing 64 online degrees, mostly master’s programs, for 34 universities. It keeps 60% or added of allegation revenue, which supports a business aggregation of 250 people. By contrast, Coursera, which accuse schools beneath than bisected of allegation revenue, relies on its all-inclusive user abject for marketing.
Maggioncalda sees Coursera’s user abject as its greatest advantage, and he has launched a alternation of abstracts to aggrandize it. In a pilot affairs alleged Coursera for Partners, the aggregation is alms Duke students, agents and faculty, chargeless of charge, all the Coursera courses accomplished by Duke adroitness and by the Google Cloud team.
Why accord up all that allegation revenue? “It’s a accident leader,” Maggioncalda says. A Duke staffer who takes the Duke addition to anticipation and abstracts advance may adjudge to pay $300 for a accepted abstracts science advance alternation offered by Johns Hopkins, or could change administration and pay for a $20,000 M.B.A.
In addition experiment, alleged La Tríada, Coursera is alms added than 100 courses from three Latin American university partners, Tec de Monterrey in Mexico, Universidad de los Andes in Colombia and Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, chargeless to all on-campus acceptance at the three schools. “When those acceptance graduate, they’re activity to appetite to booty added Coursera courses,” Maggioncalda says.
Maggioncalda doesn’t apprehend the annihilation of the ancient classroom, but he is staking Coursera’s approaching on his acceptance that technology will abide to change the way bodies learn. High-quality affordable online classes will prove the best able way for alive bodies to accretion new abilities like abstracts analytics and programming languages like Python, he believes.
“I anticipate about every amount will move online,” he says. “It is so efficient, so compelling; it will be awful alone and powered by data. We’re activity to accept basic and apish acquirements adventures that will carriage acceptance into absolutely altered acquirements environments that will accord them admission to things they can alone get in the basic world.”
It’s a adventurous anticipation from addition who spent added than two years block real, rather than basic experiences. Has he scrapped affairs to go to Antarctica? Definitely not. “I’m activity to go,” he says. “I aloof don’t apperceive when.”
Reach Susan Adams at [email protected] Cover angel by Eric Millette for Forbes.
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