review:ed Episode #3.2 – Is Udemy a Copy Cat of Sclipo and WiZiQ? What defines a Copy Cat?

Following our talk about the Groupon CityDeal deal and its possible impact on the European start up scene we went on talking about Udemy which is one of the hottest online education start ups right now.

Udemy has been largely covered on the two leading tech blogs TechCrunch and Mashable and many other blogs, including me here on KirstenWinkler.com and EDUKWEST.

Second Topic: Is Udemy a Copy Cat of platforms like Sclipo and WiZiQ?

As you know Chris worked as Senior Vice President at Sclipo, a company that has a very similar model to Udemy with the difference that Sclipo launched in 2007. Hence I asked Chris if he thinks that Udemy is a copy cat of older companies like Sclipo and WiZiQ. He says it is hard to say when the idea actually came up but you can see that Udemy directly launches with a turn key solution whereas Sclipo and WiZiQ evolved over the time from different business models.

Another advantage of Udemy it is located in Silicon Valley and hence it is far easier making good and fruitful connections. And without any doubt Gagan Biyani is one of the best networkers in online education today. Basically the conclusion is that Udemy can profit from the pioneering work of the older platforms and can save on some dead ends those companies went in. Which of course does not take away their merit of being a really hard working start up that is hungry for success. In most cases pioneers are not the winners anyway. It also shows that Sclipo’s idea of offering a web academy for online teachers was spot on, as Chris says.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/erenbali Eren Bali

    Nice I article, I tweeted.

    Just for your information, I started working on udemy June, 2007 and launched it in 2008 summer in Turkey. It was called Knowband back than and it had almost all the features we have know. Soon, I figured out I have to move to valley to make this vision real and risked losing a few years migrating to US. We teamed up with Gagan here; re-branded, improved and launched the product in silicon valley.

    I admire the works that companies like Edufire, Wiziq, Sclipo, Myngle, LiveMocha, SuperCoolSchool have been doing. I don't mind being called copy-cat but only Wiziq existed with a very simple model when we started.

    I don't think there should be a competitive environment anyways, it should be more of a collaborative effort to revolutionize the industry. We are all competing against the huge companies in institutional education. I'll back what I am saying by open sourcing and sharing most of our core technology.

    Best,

    Eren
    CEO & Co-founder, Udemy
    twitter.com/erenbali
    http://www.udemy.com

    • http://kirstenwinkler.com KirstenWinkler

      Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. It's interesting that you also started working on the project in 2007. Somehow this seems to be the year where a bunch of founders around the globe started working on edu start ups.

      What was your first version about back then (Sclipo started as video portal, WiZiQ as virtual classroom)?

      With sharing your core technology you mean that you will allow developers to take it and build their own version upon or that you will offer an API developers can use to create adons, like Gagan explained in the EDUKWEST interview.

  • gaganbiyani

    Hi Kirsten, Chris,

    First – want to say that I love what you've done at Sclipo, Chris and I admire your story. Would love to hear more about what you've found at the Startup Scene in Barcelona. Also, Kirsten, I love your blog and continue to read it. You cover this industry better than anyone else and know it inside out – I'm really impressed!

    Second, I agree with what Eren said about working together. We believe that there is a revolution going on in education and that the market opportunity is huge. That said, the current traction of all of us (including Udemy) is so small that none of us are a threat to each other. In fact, we've intentionally stayed away from language learning and test preparation to stay out of the way of EduFire, a great company with a great CEO. We should work together – not against each other.

    Finally, I'd like to do a bit of clarifying since I think there may be some misunderstandings:

    - We actually haven't taken any outside capital (the $8M was a misprint by Vator.tv). We're completely bootstrapped and have no family money, either – in fact, we both continue to dip into our savings to support our families and run Udemy.
    - The Founder Institute is based in Silicon Valley, but there are programs worldwide (including Paris and Singapore)
    - We agree that being in Silicon Valley is a differentiator. We enjoy a lot of benefits from being here; there's no doubt. However, its important to realize that neither of us were here when we started Udemy. I joined while living in Washington, DC and decided to move here for the opportunity. Eren and Oktay built the company and product in Turkey, launched it there, and then decided to switch gears and move to Silicon Valley to re-launch the company.
    - I can't speak for Eren and Oktay, but I've actually spent very little time looking at the products of our “competitors”. We do get inspired by other products to make decisions for Udemy, but those are not education products. Products such as Facebook, Hulu and Scribd represent gold standards in our mind of how to run companies and develop product. As such, we think it makes more sense to look at them for ideas regarding design. In terms of features, we build features based on what our customers ask for. Almost everything we do is based on feedback from educators using Udemy, not based on what similar companies are doing. I can't remember a time during a product meeting where we said, “look at what {company X} does” – company X is never EduFire, WizIQ, Sclipo, Myngle. Not that they aren't great companies, but it just makes more sense to ask: what do our customers want?
    - I wish I had an engineering degree, but I actually have a BA in Economics. I've been around technology my entire life (because I grew up in Silicon Valley), and definitely think that's helped my ability to work on Udemy.
    - We do have fantastic mentors – Bubba Murarka and Adeo Ressi are two of the best behind-the-scenes people in the Valley. We leverage them a lot and a lot of our progress is owed to us.

    • http://kirstenwinkler.com KirstenWinkler

      Hey Gagan. I think this question was in the room for a while so I thought better ask it in public early on so you guys can add your two cents to it :).

      I complitely agree with “What do our customers want?” as it is the core premise of my teaching business. And I agree that most of the companies in education yet asked “What can we do to change education?” which is a honorable question in itself but a question that also can lead you on the wrong path business wise.

      Not looking at other people's products is maybe a good idea and of course it is hard to say if one came to the same conclusions simply because they are obvious.

      Anyway rest assured that we don't want to take away your merit of what you have achieved and what you certainly will achieve. As I said, you are one of the hottest start ups right now so someone has to ask the mean questions ;).

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  • http://www.facebook.com/gregorgimmy Gregor Gimmy

    Hey Kirsten,
    I am excited about every startup that pursues to better education through web apps. The closer the startup's product to Sclipo's the better. VCs wisely say: “If there is competition, there is a market.” Also, such startups present great opportunities for collaboration.

    Hey Gagan and Eren, I really like what you guys do. And I specially like your openness. I very much enjoyed the talk I had with you Gagan some weeks ago. Exchanging ideas and experiences is invigorating. Wish we could meet once a month at Bluechalk in Palo Alto or the Chiringuito on the Barcelona beach.

    By the way. We just launched a new home page. It nicely describes what a Sclipo Web Academy is and how it helps teach better. Would love your feedback.

    http://sclipo.com

    Gregor

    • http://kirstenwinkler.com KirstenWinkler

      Will be interesting to watch you guys :).

      Yes, I saw the new layout when I did the preparation for the show. First I was a bit shocked as it is so different from what I have in mind when I think about Sclipo. Really a totally different design.

      Will have a closer look and then let you know ;).

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  • http://www.facebook.com/digital.altruist Christopher Grant

    Thanks, Gagan for your kind words and for the clarifications. I appreciate the chance to know more about Udemy's backstory. I'm a fan of what Udemy is doing and how it is doing it. I wish you all tremendous luck and hope the start-up gods continue to smile on you.

    I want to wholeheartedly concur with Kirsten's point of not “want[ing] to take away your merit of what you have achieved and what you certainly will achieve.” I tried to make it clear in the interview that having experienced life in a start-up the idea of several entrepreneurs stumbling on to a problem to solve and trying to solve it makes complete sense. In the end, this reinforces the importance of the work Sclipo, Udemy, WizIQ & Edufire are doing right now: teachers need your help! :)

    Personally, it reminds me of the invention of calculus, fruit of another fabulously creative time. Hopefully all of the hours of hard work by all of us will have the same lasting impact.

    Long live learning,
    Chris