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Edtech startup Teachable wants to democratize knowledge

The Williamsburg startup just raised $4 million.

The Teachable team celebrates a recent $4 million investment round. (Courtesy photo)

Online education platform Teachable raised $4 million last week off a promise to make online education work better for content producers.

The Williamsburg company created a platform to aide people in creating and selling online courses. Teachable users have the ability to create their own curricula and charge whatever they like, from courses in computer coding to How To Write A Novel, by an author who’s written 12 novels. After two and a half years, more than 3 million students have taken more than 20,000 courses, according to the company.

“We’re trying to create a new market here,” explained Teachable founder and CEO Ankur Nagpal by phone. “In the past, if people wanted to monetize their expertise, they could try to do it themselves and start a blog or they could try Skillshare, but you have no ownership of your prices, your brand, your students, your data.”

Teachable has raised more than $8.5 million to date. Its latest round included investment by Accomplice Ventures, Naval Ravikant and Winklevoss Ventures.

Nagpal is young and talks fast. He was born in the Arabian Peninsula nation of Oman and when he came to the United States for college in 2006, it was only his second time in the country. As an undergrad at UC Berkeley, he started a business as a sort of dev shop for Facebook apps. You’re forgiven if you don’t recall Facebook apps. In the earlier days of Facebook, the platform had an open API and people could develop apps in the platform. OG Facebook heads may remember MafiaWars or FarmVille.

Eventually, in 2012, Nagpal moved to New York. He taught classes on his now-competitor Udemy and at General Assembly. He started what would become Teachable as a side project, as a way for him to go off on his own as an online instructor. It worked and he shared the program with friends.

Soon his program was generating thousands of dollars a month and Nagpal thought he might have something real. In 2014 he went to Silicon Valley to ask for money, and venture capitalists agreed that he did, in fact have something real, offering Nagpal $1 million in seed funding.

Now headquartered in Williamsburg, at the Bedford Avenue WeWork, Teachable has 25 employees. Nagpal said the company is looking into getting its own space but may well stay in Brooklyn.

“The advantages I find are, personally, after having lived in Manhattan, I find the change of pace suits me better and most of our employees better,” he said. “Even small things like pricing is also usually more affordable here and the spaces are nicer and have better atmospheres.”

When asked what the disadvantages were he said he thinks “It hurts our hiring radius a little bit. It’s much harder for people from, say, Jersey to come work here, reducing our number of candidates.”

Series: Brooklyn

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