Why We Invested: Skillshare

Rob Veres
Rob Veres
Jun 21, 2016 · 3 min read

A big change is underway in education. Improvements in broadband and mobile devices, among others, have powered new accessibility to digital content. People are turning to the internet to learn new skills, and even universities are embracing digital learning by adding online courses to their curriculums. These innovations in technology have led to an unprecedented democratization of learning that clearly intersects with Omidyar Network’s core belief that people are inherently capable. Given opportunity and access to information, they can fully realize their potential and create positive returns for themselves, their families, and the world at large.

That’s why we invested in Skillshare, an online learning platform for teachers and students. Built on the belief that everyone has something to teach, in five short years Skillshare has evolved into a global learning community of 2,000 teachers and 1.7 million enrolled students from 180 countries.

And Skillshare membership is affordable. In addition to the 500 free courses, a $10 monthly fee buys unlimited access to over 5,000 available online courses. 50 percent of membership fees are distributed to teachers, who can build a following of thousands of students around the world. Classes are project-based so students learn by doing.

The community is geographically diverse — 20 percent of teachers and 40 percent of students are from outside the U.S. — and supports our goal of empowering individuals in both developed and developing countries to improve their lives through the power of technology. Skillshare’s core principle that access to education is a basic human right provides an alternative to relentlessly rising education costs that prohibit access to only the wealthy or those willing to take on the burden of debt.

Described as “redesigning education for the masses” by Inc. magazine, Skillshare’s model has emerged at an important time. Trends such as globalization, artificial intelligence, powerful and pervasive collaboration tools, and a multi-generational workforce are reinventing the workplace, requiring that we change the way we learn. Skillshare has responded by offering continuous learning, skill development, and retraining, employing a model with broad appeal to populations of learners across the board:

– Millennials with fresh expectations around work who want to continue learning without the burden of additional debt;

– Middle-aged workers retraining to advance established careers who can’t and won’t stop their lives to attend a brick-and-mortar institution;

– Older learners enthusiastic about staying engaged, informed, and relevant;

– Remote learners in geographically-dispersed locations with limited choices for education.

We’re excited to be participating in Skillshare’s Series B alongside Amasia and existing investors Union Square Ventures and Spark Capital. With the new funds, Skillshare will expand course offerings and continue their global expansion.

Their success is proof that digital learning is revolutionizing access to education and transforming lives in the process. Any subject, anytime, anywhere, is the new normal for education — the only prerequisite is the desire to learn.

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