Eren Bali

Growing An Ed-Tech Startup In An Unfavorable Ecosystem

This article is written by Jeremiah Uke, a Contributor Author at Startup Istanbul.

Eren Bali is an entrepreneur, CEO, and co-founder of Carbon Health, for 9 years and counting he has also served as a co-founder and CEO of Udemy, an online learning platform used all over the world, Eren was present as a speaker at the Etohum San Francisco 2017 conference, where he narrated his journey with his now global ed-tech startup.

Education technology  is a field that has seen a lot of successful startups in the past decade, people are constantly trying to learn new things and acquire skills by using platforms such as W3schools which teaches various web programming tools and languages, Coursera offers courses on different concepts including business and technology, Duolingo teaches languages including English, French and Spanish to its users.

According to a joint report released by Google and KPMG, the ed tech market is set to grow to USD 1.96 Billion and around 9.6 million users by 2021 from USD 247 Million and around 1.6 million users in 2016. The numbers are quite favorable for both already existing ed-tech startups and new startups.

 Udemy, founded by Eren Bali, serves as a platform that allows instructors to build online courses on topics of their choosing. Using Udemy’s course development tools they can upload video, PowerPoint presentations, PDFs, audio, zip files, and live classes to create courses. Instructors can also engage and interact with users via online discussion boards.

Eren Bali first launched Udemy in Turkey in 2006, he started Udemy because he realized that the internet would one day become the primary destination to learn anything, born in a small village, Eren was motivated by the extent his contemporaries would go to make sure they did not miss classes, sometimes they had to walk miles to get to school.

Eren talks about the advent of the internet reducing the inequality to access to resources. While building Udemy, Eren adopted a model which would work as a marketplace, allow users to act as teachers to other users, initially it was a live teaching platform so both the teacher and the student had to be online at the same time, this didn’t work out well, fueled by the poor structure of the ecosystem in 2006, this led to the shutting down of Udemy, after which Eren moved to San Francisco and restarted Udemy, but this time using an “on demand” model, they gained traction but could not raise money at some points so they had to keep operations running with their own personal funds.

Eren talks about working 2 full-time jobs to be able to fund the company, his first job was with the Udemy team, while the second one was as an engineer, he literally had to work with Udemy from 11 am during the day and resume his second shift at 7pm-5am at night.

Udemy was eventually able to receive its first million-dollar funding in 2010, this enabled them to launch full-time and grow users, with over 300 employees, Udemy currently has offices in San Francisco, Ireland, and Turkey, Udemy has over 60,000 instructors and 20 million users, quite a way to be successful.

─ July 17, 2019