MasterClass, a San Francisco-headquartered online learning platform that is attracting some of the most respected professionals in arts and entertainment to teach its courses, has raised $15 million in New Enterprise Associates’ Series B funding. Investors in the company include BloombergBeta, Harrison Metal, and Advancit Capital, while Robert Downey Jr., Usher and Casper CEO Philip Krim have also confirmed their financial participation.
In comparison to other online learning platforms such as edX, MIT Courseware and Stanford Online, MasterClass offers something different. It specializes in selling arts, music and entertainment courses to students priced at under $100 each.
Currently, the platform features five options including five hours of acting class read by Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman, writes Connie Loizos of TechCrunch. There are also 22 creative writing lessons available by bestselling author James Patterson.
Usher shares his experience in 16 video lessons on the art of entertainment, while Serena Williams is teaching advanced tennis techniques for two hours.
Those who have already attended Dustin Hoffman’s class and want to expand their knowledge in the field of acting may wish to join the newest class by actor Kevin Spacey.
Christina Aguilera will soon debut online singing lessons especially for MasterClass students. In an interview with Chris Gardner, the Grammy winner said that she believed in the MasterClass concept. Her tutorial called “Christina Aguilera’s Vocal Range Finder” is available for pre-order. As the name suggests, it will help student define and examine their vocal range.
Aguilera confessed that when she started her career, she was not sure what kind of artist she wanted to be. She admitted she met a lot of people on the way who helped her define that, and now it was her turn to share her experiences:
“Every student can learn from this course how to better trust yourself, what to look out for, what to listen to, when to project, when to be silent.”
As Georgia Simmonds of the Marrie Claire notes, Aguilera’s class will include life advice as well as new singing skills.
The competition in the field of digital learning is strong, and many institutions offer courses designed for lifelong learners. MasterClass also targets that segment, but it has priced courses to be affordable to most people, writes Lora Kolodny of The Wall Street Journal.
MasterClass founders Aaron Rasmussen and David Rogier were introduced to each other years ago on a friends’ date. They revealed the idea for the start-up came after they attended a small dinner featuring as its special guest the computing pioneer Alan Key. Rasmussen and Rogier were impressed by the effect of the conversation despite the limited number of participants.
The new funding will help them expand the business and attract more influential people to teach classes. The start-up currently has 22 employees who are hoping to film between 10 and 15 classes in 2016.