They took a bold idea and brought it to life.
MasterClass, an online learning provider which uses world-famous masters of the topics being taught, announced recently that they had raised $35 million in a series C funding round led by IVP. This brings the total amount raised by MasterClass to $56.4 million.
While it doesn’t approach the $1.5 billion that LinkedIn paid for another online learning platform, Lynda.com, $56.4 million is a lot of money for an EdTech startup. I had never heard of MasterClass until this announcement, and I have no idea if they are profitable or if they will be in the future. But what I do like is the concept.
A Clear Differentiator
Many EdTech start-ups are “me too” companies. Well-meaning founders and CEOs that have had success in other industries think they can break into EdTech and get their little piece of the huge education industry pie without doing any research on whether their product is unique, or at least different in a meaningful and valuable way. What happens is they go to trade shows and cold call schools and districts and find out they are just another LMS or classroom management tool, and educators and administrators have no interest in changing from what they already use.
MasterClass is clearly different from other online learning platforms because of one feature: The classes are run by celebrities who have been wildly successful in their chosen field. To me, this is an outrageous idea that could actually be a home run. Without celebrities like Gordon Ramsey teaching cooking and Frank Gehry teaching architecture, MasterClass would be just a “me too” online learning platform.
Being First Counts
When you have a home run idea like this that nobody has done before, being first actually matters. Because this isn’t something that is patentable, MasterClass needed to come out of the gate strong, which it appears they have. There is nothing stopping someone else from copying the idea of Lynda on steroids, but MasterClass has a clear head start and the funding to expand their roster of master teachers into a real powerhouse of a learning platform.
Home Run Ideas are Rare
It’s not everyday that someone comes up with an idea that is a true game changer, especially in education. Granted, MasterClass isn’t targeting the K-12 school and district market, but it is a twist on education that is both novel and exciting. Not only did they come up with the idea of having Steve Martin teach comedy or Kevin Spacey teach acting, they got the funding and got it done.
Try to come up with a home run idea for your education technology. Even if you don’t have one Eureka moment, the process of brainstorming for big ideas could lead you down a path to truly differentiate your EdTech product or service.