It's been a year in the making...

Today, @wes_kao and I are announcing a $4.32M seed round led by @firstround for our new company

We're building a platform for Cohort-Based Courses (CBCs):

The backstory 👇🏾
In 2009 @erenbali, @caglaroktay shared the Udemy vision w/ me. Back then it was a marketplace for live online classes.

They wow'ed me with a Zoom-like product that was ahead of its time (built on Adobe Flash 😅)

I tried to market it for 1 year but couldn't get any traction.
In order to get traction, we pivoted into video-based courses (now known as “MOOCs”). They took off and the rest is history.

I'm really proud of what the Udemy team has done - 400M course enrollments and counting! 👀

I spent 6 yrs away from education: built @Sprig, closed it () and took a sabbatical.

In 2019, I started to explore online courses again.

Everything had changed. Zoom + Slack offered new possibilities, and live education is ready for prime time.
In an effort to improve my writing, I took "best in class" courses from @TuckerMax and @david_perell.

These courses were different. I cried on a Zoom during a session with Tucker. I made friends during David's Write of Passage.

Immersive, community-based education works.
I also partnered with @matthlerner and @theSamParr to teach a course, which I later shared at @beondeck.

OnDeck was an incredible inspiration. What @david__booth and @eriktorenberg are building is dope.

A seed was planted in my head...

It was like peering into the future!
These are "Cohort-Based Courses" (CBCs)

CBCs are different from MOOCs because they are highly interactive and have clear start/end dates.

They are more akin to MBA courses: full, immersive experiences.

Turns out it's more engaging to learn with a community of peers!
Yet almost all CBC providers build their own technology and the experience feels pretty janky.

I scoured the Internet to find a good tech solution and nobody had one.

So I decided to build it. That's my next company.
While looking for experts to learn from, one name came up over and over...


I knew that name. We went to high school and college together, and had lost touch since then.

I looked her up. Holy shit. @alt_MBA was like the godfather of all of these courses.
After spending a few months with Wes, I realized there was nobody smarter on Cohort-Based Courses out there. On top of that, I felt like talking with her was just fun, easy, fluid.

We decided to co-found the company together.
I wrote up a memo (I felt so 2020) and started to talk to some investors, including the inimitable @btrenchard at @firstround.

We signed a term sheet and then reached out to some of our favorite online influencers and angels to invest.
We have so much more to do, and yet it feels like the start of something.

We created this doc on our story and company:

And TC's @nmasc_ has an amazing post here:…

P.S. We're looking for a product/technical co-founder! DM me! :)

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More from @gaganbiyani

22 Oct
I’ve been thinking about co-founders a lot lately.

In 15 years of building companies, I’ve had >10 different co-founders.

They’ve fired me. I’ve fired them. But I’m still friends with 100% of them to this day.

... 15 Rules on Co-founder Relationships

**Read On**
Rule 1: You don’t have to know each other in advance.

@erenbali and @caglaroktay didn’t know me when we started @udemy, but I think all of us would agree the company wouldn’t have happened without any one of us.
Rule 2: Create a pre-nup through role definition.

99% of companies should have a clear CEO. If you are not that person, you report to them.

Co-founders firings should not be done lightly, but if it happens, the CEO decides.
Read 17 tweets
7 Oct
At Udemy, we were 3 first-time entrepreneurs trying to raise seed capital. We made every mistake in the book.

We got 200+ no’s and wasted 12 months fundraising.

We eventually pulled through, just barely. 😅

This thread shares our mistakes as lessons for founders.

**Read On**
We built an impressive product, but we were nobodies.

We thought: we need money to build our vision, so let’s go talk to some investors.


Nobody gave a fuck that we needed money. We needed to prove we deserved their money.
We met some associates and intermediaries who might introduce us to investors.

Few decision-makers wanted to meet with us.

We should’ve stopped there.

If getting meetings is hard, it will take you forever to raise.

Instead, spend your time building product + getting traction.
Read 12 tweets
30 Sep
Most investors add no value, but when they do, it can be company-saving.

In 2010 as @udemy was just picking up steam, eBay-owned PayPal was cracking down on marketplace businesses for violating ToS. Without warning, they shut our entire payments system down.

**Read On**
We had a few months of runway and were starting to raise our Series A. It would take weeks to implement an alternative system, and that would've killed our traction story.

It was all-out panic mode.
We asked everyone for help - many were experiencing the same problem.

PayPal was notoriously bureaucratic at this time and was completely inaccessible to small startups like us.

The "best case" scenario, we heard, was 3 months of downtime.

That would've been a death blow.
Read 7 tweets
23 Sep
Yesterday I made a major life announcement: I’m starting a NewCo after 3 years of exploring

More of you cared than I expected; thanks for the support! 🙏🏾

What the hell did I do for 3 years?

Thought I’d share the back-story...

**Read On**
In 2017, my life blew apart as I shut down @Sprig. Shock + relief.

Even as we shut down, new opportunities were coming my way.

Funders for new ventures. Hotshot CEOs asking me to be an exec.

There’s always opportunity in SV.

What opportunities would I miss by stepping away?
After some good advice, I needed to resist the FOMO.

I know people who grinded for 20 years straight, constantly chasing more success and more money. That wasn’t for me.

I decided on the first rule of my transition: GET AWAY.

I packed my bags, left SF and went nomadic. Image
Read 14 tweets
9 Sep
In the 2001 recession, my parents lost everything, marriage included.

My dreams felt like they were slipping away; I was depressed, angry and had nowhere to turn.

This is a story about how I turned crisis into opportunity by fusing education and entrepreneurship.

**Read On**
I was in a tough spot. We didn’t grow up wealthy, but I certainly had enough. I went to good schools, traveled internationally, and had all the tech and books I needed.

The crisis threw a wrench in everything.

Like many people today, I started to question the status quo.
Slowly, I started to get pissed off. The world felt like it was out to get me. I questioned if the “adults” in the room knew as much as they purported.

My grades slipped and my rebellious nature came out.

It's so easy to devolve into anger when times are tough.
Read 19 tweets
30 Jul
Recently I've shared some heartfelt tweet-stories about entrepreneurship. Your support has been so encouraging 🙏🙏🙏

Now I'm doubling down with a personal mailing list: - please help spread the word!

**A thread on what will make this newsletter unique**
1. I'll talk about firsthand experiences.

There are great newsletters that opine about tech, startups, vc. Instead, I'm going to talk about in-the-trenches realities. Real shit that most newsletter writers haven't experienced or aren't willing to share.
2. Global.

Silicon Valley is an extremely insular place. I love it actually, but it isn't for everyone and isn't relatable. I've spent almost 4 years of my life abroad and been to 60 countries.

We're going to get outside the bubble.
Read 6 tweets

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