Lacklustre debut for online learning marketplace Udemy

Online learning platform Udemy made a disappointing showing in its trading debut on Nasdaq on Friday after raising $421m (£308m) on its initial public offering (IPO) on Thursday. Shares that had sold for $29 in the IPO opened Friday at $27 and skidded down to a low of $26.01 mid-day before rallying to close at $27.50.

It was a subdued foray into the stock market for the San Francisco, California company that saw an explosion in demand for its services in recent years, a trend that’s been fuelled by people seeking virtual activities to keep their minds occupied while they waited out pandemic lockdowns.

From 2019 to 2020, Udemy’s revenue grew by 55.6% to $429.9m, but the company incurred net losses of $77.6m in 2020, up from a $69.7m loss in 2019. In the first six months of 2021, Udemy experienced net losses of $29.4m.

Bell tolled for Udemy

Friday started out as an exciting milestone in Udemy’s history when CEO Gregg Coccari and co-founder Eren Bali rang the opening bell at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York City’s Times Square to mark the occasion. Bali didn’t make a speech, but Coccari recounted the genesis of the company. The seeds were planted when Bali, who grew up in central Turkey, yearned for more advanced learning opportunities.

“His parents, both of them were schoolteachers in a one-room schoolhouse, and Eren quickly got frustrated because he was a brilliant student – he was good at math, he was good at chess – but he really outgrew the resources available to him,” Coccari said at the event.

Founder inspired by used computer, internet access

That frustration was alleviated when his parents purchased a used computer and set up internet access. Bali promptly went online to search for challenging math problems, but they were more difficult than anything he had ever experienced. He soon found online communities and professional mathematicians to help him work his way through the problems, and an entrepreneurial idea was born.

“Online learning profoundly changed his life,” Coccari told the crowd gathered at Nasdaq. “And that’s when he started forming his vision of wanting to open up access to knowledge to everybody.”

Bali moved to the USA in 2010 with two friends and founded Udemy. He launched the first course in 2011, and the company had “more than a million learners within a couple of years. It just took off from there,” Coccari said.

Courses in 75 languages

Udemy maintains a catalogue of courses that have been taken by 44 million customers. The company serves both businesses and individuals. The global marketplace offers 183,000 classes taught by 65,000 instructors in 75 languages.

Customers can study various business topics such as software, web development, graphic design, project management and public speaking. They can also veer into more personal topics such as meditation, parenting, speed reading and conflict and anger management. There are even courses exploring love and relationships.

Read more: Udemy IPO: A guide to the online learning platform’s listing

Read more: Udemy sets terms of Nasdaq IPO, targeting $4bn valuation

Read more: Online learning site Udemy plans Nasdaq IPO

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