Eren Bali
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Eren Bali – Question and Answer Session

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 Startup Istanbul 2014 conference, where he narrated his journey with his now global ed-tech startup.

Eren Bali founded ed-tech startup Udemy and grew it to have over 4 million students and 15,000 teachers, at Startup Istanbul 2014, he addressed the audience on his journey and answered a few questions, which were:

  • You mentioned that you had no traction in your early stage, how did you get an investor to believe in you in that stage, and how easily did you raise the first million after that?

What investors want to see is progress, because the progress before fundraising is the best indicator of the potential progress after fundraising. So, they look at what you have been able to do with no fundraising and believe that you can do 3 times more than that if they make an investment. The progress that you are supposed to have differs by the market if you are in a market which has a super high market risk, but a low technology risk, investors will expect some traction and interesting numbers. But if you are in a market which has a higher technology risk, you may not even have a live product or any users, but if you show a little sign of being able to do that, it might be good enough.

In our case, our investors did not think the market risk was that high, they thought that nobody will pay for our solution, so even if we did not have a lot of traction we had open web courses, and we had a lot of interesting data about how much people could pay for those courses, it was not very high, but due to the fact that we had data about how people learn, it was very interesting to investors, because no other company had scalable data about learning before. So, the first investor put money on that. The second investor put money because we talked to them 3 times in the space of 3-4 months, and each time we came back, we were significantly better than the last time. We were not even full-time, we had other jobs but every time we met, we had done a lot of things, solved a lot of problems, and had more data. Therefore, the investor was well impressed by the progress we were making without money.

  • You said you need students to attract teachers, and teachers to attract students?

I have a YouTube video where I explained our early traction. We couldn’t get any people to create paid courses so we organized events, each event had around 5 core subjects, we gave speakers each topic to talk about, we videotaped the sessions, and edit those videos to create the first three paid courses. we tried a lot of things which failed, we tried other things which worked, there are a lot of things you can try, we also asked other entrepreneurs to get some ideas from them and some of those ideas worked

─ February 21, 2020