Silicon Valley startup MasterClass, which is teaming with celebrities like Christina Aguilera, Kevin Spacey and Dustin Hoffman to produce and sell educational video courses, announced that it has raised $15 million in Series B funding.
The funding was led by New Enterprise Associates with participation from Michael Bloomberg’s Bloomberg Beta, Novel TMT Ventures, Advancit Capital, WME Ventures, Robert Downey Jr.’s Downey Ventures, and individual investors including Casper CEO Philip Krim.
The San Francisco-based company previously raised $4.5 million in first-round financing from Javelin Venture Partners, Harrison Metal Ventures, Bloomberg Beta, Novel TMT Ventures, Advancit Capital, WME Ventures, Matthew Rutler of MX Investments and hip-hop artist Usher. In addition, MasterClass had two seed rounds totaling $1.9 million, both led by Harrison Metal.
MasterClass, which launched in May 2015, sells online courses for $90 each, developed around individual celebs. The company has developed classes in partnership with personalities including Dustin Hoffman, Usher, James Patterson, Annie Liebowitz and Serena Williams.
“What made us excited about MasterClass very early on was they figured out how to package the knowledge and wisdom of the world’s geniuses across a broad variety of topics, making it accessible to everyone while providing tangible educational value,” said Alex Gurevich, partner with Javelin Venture Partners.
On Tuesday, MasterClass’ acting course from Kevin Spacey, who currently stars in Netflix’s “House of Cards,” will go live. In addition, Christina Aguilera’s course on singing will be available for pre-order along with the launch of a “Vocal Range Finder,” which will let students to test their vocal range and share the results.
The startup was founded by David Rogier, who has an MBA from Stanford U. and formerly worked for several venture-backed startups, and Aaron Rasmussen, who created a robotics company out of college and went to work on manufacturing and gaming projects. The two decided to partner on an online-learning venture two years ago.
“Most online education services just try to take a real-world class and turn it into an online course,” said Rogier, who is MasterClass’ CEO. “We started by asking, ‘Why don’t we do online acting class? If we can learn acting from anyone, who would that be?'” The duo started by approaching Dustin Hoffman, whose daughter was friends with Rogier, and lined up Jay Roach (director of the “Austin Power” and “Meet the Parents” movies) to produce Hoffman’s video.
Rogier said MasterClass will have 22 employees by the end of this month, and that it’s looking to recruit more. The company is hiring in all areas, specifically in marketing and content creation: “We need this to look like a triple-A movie,” Rogier said.
The company is clearly banking on the star power of the MasterClass partners. But Rogier said what is most important is each person’s mastery of a given discipline. “We strive to get the very best in the world,” he said. “This is information that has never been shared before. It’s not taught in schools.”
The classes are developed individually with each instructor to reflect their approach to their area of expertise. Each MasterClass includes 10-25 video lessons, interactive exercises, learning materials and workbooks, and is accessible from any device.