In the Fall of 2014, my friend and Stanford GSB classmate David Rogier and I were catching up over dinner, when he told me about his new venture, MasterClass — an online education site that would serve video classes from the world’s greatest minds and practitioners across as many fields as possible. I’ll be honest that my first response was a bit skeptical as I told him the idea was great but a bit obvious and I’m sure others have tried to pull this off before. I also said that it would be too difficult to get the instructors to sign up, especially at first. At that point, David looked at me with an unassuming, yet delightful grin…showed me a piece of paper with top tier instructor names typed out and said… “Alex I don’t think you understand, I already got all of these people on this list to commit.” I was stunned and dumbfounded. There was no website, no prior classes, no MasterClass or Founder name recognition. How was he able to do this?? But the answer was literally right in front of me. David is the ideal person to bring an idea like MasterClass to life and one of the top entrepreneurs I have ever met. He is genuinely passionate about education and life long learning. He wants everyone on the planet to have access to the best sources of knowledge, not just a privileged few. He also is incredibly determined, thoughtful, and has a force of personality that gives him the ability to make real human connections and inspire people to believe in his vision wherever he goes. This is not a skill that can be taught. That’s how he was able to get the early instructors to agree to teach an online class on an unknown platform. They believed in David, and so do we at Javelin.
After our lunch, I immediately brought David and his co-founder Aaron Rasmussen, into Javelin to meet my partners. A few days later we decided to make our first pre-launch, pre-revenue Series A lead investment into MasterClass. We were (and are!) excited about the prospect of building a mass market online education product that has the potential to inspire and unlock so much human potential. We are even more excited about the prospect that MasterClass is creating an online library that is built for the ages and may be a repository of the best human knowledge for centuries to come. Imagine if you could take an online course today from Shakespeare, Leonardo Da Vinci, Elizabeth I, Plato, Newton, Joan of Arc, or Julius Caesar? Centuries from now, people will be able to do just that from the best minds of today and beyond. I fully believe that MasterClass can be the platform that creates, packages, stores, and makes accessible this knowledge for generations.
3 years after our investment the company is well on its way of building that transformational and sustaining company. They have launched 16 classes with 5 more announced and on the way. Luminaries like Aaron Sorkin, Gordon Ramsay, Hans Zimmer, Dr. Jane Goodall, James Patterson, Gary Kasparov, Frank Ghery, Kevin Spacey, Christina Aguilera, Serena Williams, Steve Martin, Deadmau5, Shonda Rhimes, and Martin Scorsese are just to name a few. And there is so much more to come! Along the way MasterClass has raised close to $60m from terrific partners like NEA, IVP, Harrison Metal, WME, and Bloomberg Beta.
I recently sat down with David to talk about his journey, his inspirations, the company he is trying to built, and the lessons learned along the way. Hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed filming it. Please share with anyone you think could find this interesting or inspirational.