Online education platform Udacity has announced plans to expand out of the technology market, branching out in an effort to meet the new demands for digitally-skilled workers in a variety of areas, including banking and the car industry. The decision came at the same time that the company launched in Germany.
Now worth over $1 billion, the Silicon Valley startup has decided to focus more on vocational courses for professionals. In addition, the company also plans to increase its work for global companies such as Google in an effort to come out ahead in the ever-expanding online education industry.
Research and Markets expects the market to more than double, going from its current $43.3 billion to $97.8 billion in 2020, reports Harro Ten Wolde for Reuters.
In addition, publishers like Pearson are beginning to move their focus to the online market as the traditional education textbook business begins to shrink in size. German publisher Bertelsmann is the main financial banker for Udacity.
"Among the company CEOs I talk to, there is a very crisp and clear understanding that their future depends on their own workforce's ability to master contemporary technology — things like artificial intelligence, big data, cyber security and mobile," Thrun said in an interview in Berlin, where Udacity may hire additional workers in the near future. "We're talking to the automotive industry specifically to build self-driving car nanodegrees so people can learn the latest technology."
He went on to say that carmakers in Germany were experiencing trouble when it came to hiring software engineers to meet the increasing demand for high-tech features. For example, Bernd Osterloh, the company's top worker representative, said that as Volkswagon plans to increase their production of electric cars, as well as self-driving and internet-connected cars, programs should also be implemented that retrain staff in the positions that will become obsolete as a result of the shift, writes Stefan Nicola for Bloomberg.
BMW recently suggested the company would experience a complete overhaul that would result in half of its research and development staff being comprised of computer programmers.
Currently, the majority of Udacity's clients include technology firms such as Facebook and Google. The company offers courses in a variety of topics, including nanodegrees in subjects such as data analytics, software development and artificial intelligence.
The company operates in a number of countries including China, India, Egypt, and the United States, and has just opened a new office in Berlin.
Last year, $105 million was raised in a financial round including Bertelsmann. As a result of that round, the company was valued at over $1 billion. In total, Udacity has raised $165 million.
Thrun said that the last round of funding would be enough for the company to properly roll out the new strategy, adding that it should last for the next three years.
No comment was made as to whether the company would remain private once the funding runs out.
"In the end we want to list our shares. That is our goal, but for us it is not so important. At the moment it is important to build our name," he said.