How Coursera Has Accelerated Growth While Helping 65 Million Learners Gain New Skills

Episode 30 August 27, 2020 00:50:27
How Coursera Has Accelerated Growth While Helping 65 Million Learners Gain New Skills
The Breakout Growth Podcast
How Coursera Has Accelerated Growth While Helping 65 Million Learners Gain New Skills

Aug 27 2020 | 00:50:27


Show Notes

With more than 4000 course offerings on its online education platform, over 65 million people have found opportunities to learn new skills and improve their lives through Coursera. That demand is growing rapidly as Covid-19 changes how we work and interact with the world around us. In this episode of The Breakout Growth Podcast, Sean Ellis interviews Shwetabh Mittal, Coursera’s Senior Director of Product Management to learn how the company has built a 3-sided platform in its mission to provide universal access to the world’s best education.

Coursera offers learners access to high-quality classes from top universities at no cost, as well as more structured fee-based learning programs. At the same time, businesses can use the platform to re-skill and upskill their workforces (4:37), and university partners provide full degree programs to extend their reach beyond their campus footprint. To support these solutions, Coursera has developed a pedagogy designed to help learners stay engaged and retain knowledge in an online format (6:49). And powering growth is an obsession with creating learner value and driving successful learner outcomes (22:45).

As Sean digs into the business with Shwetabh we learn how the company’s B2B growth engine taps into the strategic agenda of companies looking to develop the skills their workforces will need to compete into the future, and how Coursera’s Global Skills Index Report helps in that process (40:27). In addition, we will gain insight into the team structures that facilitate collaboration and experimentation in the growth process, and we will find out more about how the company has met the challenges of Covid-19 for its University partners.

We discussed: 

Learn more about Shwetabh Mittal, Coursera’s Senior Director of Product Management at

Learn more about Sean Ellis at

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:08 Welcome to the breakout growth podcast, where Sean Ellis interviews, leaders from the world's fastest growing companies to get to the heart of what's really driving their growth. And now here's your host Sean Ellis Speaker 1 00:00:25 Episode of the breakout growth podcast. I interview with Todd Mittal the senior director of product management at Coursera. So of course, Sarah was founded in 2012 by two Stanford professors. And since that time they've reached unicorn status and they've helped to educate over 65 million learners. It's a really fascinating conversation. We dig into what makes their learning platform unique and what are the keys to their growth. It's both a B to B and a B to C story on the B to B side Coursera powers, corporate learning, but it also powers distance learning for universities. So not surprising, that's a really important space with COVID and all of the disruptions to university students around the world. So, uh, <inaudible> talks about there's 1.6 billion students around the world. And, uh, of course there is really playing a role in trying to help bridge the gap so they can continue their education. Speaker 1 00:01:19 I personally have been passionate about the online education space for a long time. I've worked with a couple of VC backed startups in the space. And in fact, yesterday I announced the launch of a new growth simulator called go that I built with a former Facebook data scientists. <inaudible> so you're probably wondering what the heck is a growth simulator. Um, probably the best way to think of it is how pilots learn to fly via a flight simulator. This is a simulation for learning how to grow a business. It's particularly a VC backed startup. So the simulation takes place. You get hired into a VC backed startup, you're running data queries and amplitude. You're making decisions around those queries. And over time you get promoted to where you get more and more responsibility have to deal with challenging colleagues. And then we've got built built in mentorship throughout the program to help you understand where you make mistakes and learn from those mistakes and just get better at data-driven product growth. So you can check it [email protected]. But for now let's jump into my interview with Coursera senior director of product management with top Mattel. Welcome to the breakout growth podcast. Hi Sean, thanks for having me excited to be here. Yeah, I'm very excited to have you on and learn more about Coursera. So before we really dig into how you're growing, can you give us a little bit of background on what Coursera is and maybe how it's different from other online learning platforms? Absolutely. So the company was Speaker 2 00:03:00 Founded in 2012 by two Stanford professors, Andrew NG, and Daphne Kohler. They put a few courses online and sign overwhelming interest from students across the world to take these courses. And so the rest is history. A lot of universities joined and the platform became bigger. And what really started as a B to C business has over the years really turned into a much bigger platform. Today we look at Cosa as a three sided platform. On one side, we have, uh, educated partners who are the top one 65 universities in the world. And in addition, we also have 40 industry partners that alter courses on our platform. So the likes of Google IBM and Amazon web services to name a few, and they offer courses, uh, to train an ecosystem of developers to develop on their platform. And so together, uh, university and industry partners have created a about 4,000 courses on Coursera, which has really attracted more than 65 million learners on our platform from all around the world. Speaker 2 00:04:10 And about 80%. Yeah. And about 80% of the learners who registered on Coursera are actually outside of the United States and the top five countries that are represented on, uh, on Coursera as a count of learners are United States followed by India, China, Mexico, and Brazil. Oh, wow. So, yeah, so that's the second sort of node of a T sided two sided platform. And the third, uh, node of, uh, our platform really is the, the employers. So we started a B to B business a few years back, and I can talk more about it later, uh, during the talk, but, um, that's the third part where we have more than 2,500 employers who, uh, who engage with Coursera to upskill reskill, their employees, as you know, skills are changing. They need to change their employee skills to continue to thrive in a very competitive environment. Speaker 3 00:05:09 Is it mostly their own, are they creating the courses that they're providing for their employees or are they curating Speaker 2 00:05:16 From what you have? They are essentially using our courses on our platform that have been created by a university and industry partners to upskill their employees. Okay, got it. And then how do you go ahead? I was just going to say, and then another thing that we have is actually fully online degrees on our platform. We now have 19 fully online degrees on our platform coming from top universities around the globe, university of Pennsylvania, Michigan university of London, to name a few and they offered it on Coursera, but we are really the platform that really helps them run the degree. But essentially everything comes from the university, from the professors, all the, all the education and the actual degree is all provided by the university themselves. Speaker 4 00:06:06 And then how open is the platform? Can, can anyone offer a course on it or do you go through an approval process? How does, how does that site work? Speaker 2 00:06:14 Yeah, a great question. So our platform is what we consider considered as like a highly curated platform where, um, uh, uh, industry partners or university partners have to go through, uh, approval process of, you know, that we want to add them to our platform. And then once that happens, then they can publish courses in our public catalog for anyone in the world to come and, you know, take Speaker 4 00:06:39 Then, is it, is it all video courses or is it a hybrid of video and, and, uh, text or how what's sort of the learning process? Speaker 2 00:06:49 Right. So I think we're really proud of the pedagogy that we've created for online learning over the years. And the very early on, we realized that just having videos, which are, you know, 45 minutes, one hour videos are actually not very engaging because just you remember in your class when a professor is talking after sometime, you tend to get those off. And so it hasn't happened to best of us sitting sometimes even in the first row. So what we've done is we've actually created a different pedagogy where, you know, you generally would have like videos that are seven to eight minutes long. And within the videos, you would have an Invideo quiz that will check on the concepts that you're learning during the video. So keeps you engaged. And generally then we divide up a course into modules and lessons, and each lesson will generally have a small quiz at the very end of it. And so as you continue to make progress throughout a larger course, you are continuing to learn that knowledge and test it as you build them towards finishing the course. Speaker 4 00:07:51 Very cool. So you're, it's, it's much more engaging. It sounds like. So you don't have the, a doze off that, uh, I was very guilty of. Speaker 2 00:08:00 Yeah, definitely very engaging, very meaningful. And have you seen that this, this pedagogy actually increases retention in the students as they learn along rather than doing sort of a big test at the very end you are learning in chunks and you're continuing to test your knowledge on it. So that keeps you, keeps it fresh in your mind Speaker 4 00:08:21 Asynchronous or do you have any synchronous stuff? Speaker 2 00:08:24 Yeah, so we, so for our public MOOCs, um, that are available to anyone who can, who comes, they're all asynchronous courses, um, that you can take at any point, we do have a synchronous, uh, teaching, uh, uh, uh, methodologies for students who are in a higher engagement, uh, uh, product. So, so degrees have synchronous pieces where, you know, faculty or TAs are actually directly interacting with students maybe for office hours or for question hours or meeting with a professor and so on and so forth. Speaker 4 00:09:00 Interesting. So you probably never assumed that zoom would be a competitor and then suddenly in that kind of space, it bleeds in a little bit, obviously, obviously not, it's not purpose built for education like you guys are doing, but it's clearly gone into the synchronous education spaces. I sit next door to my daughter, who's at UC Berkeley and hear her lectures being streamed all the time next door. Speaker 2 00:09:26 Right. And actually, I'm glad you asked it. Actually, we use zoom as an integrated part of our platform to actually, um, you know, deliver that, uh, synchronous functionality, Speaker 4 00:09:38 More of a cooperative partner than, than a competitor in that case then. So how do you guys actually make money? Speaker 2 00:09:46 So Mo multiple ways. I like so on the consumer side, uh, individuals who want to come and watch a lecture can watch it for free. Uh, we provide supervisory education to everyone, but if you want a certificate to represent the learning on Coursera or to put it on LinkedIn, or show it to a prospective employer, uh, you pay about $49, uh, for that certificate or for a CD or certificate, a series of courses that we call a specialization, you can pay about $49 a month to finish that specialization and then get a certificate for it. So that's on the consumer side. And then on the degree side, as I mentioned, you have 19 fully online degrees and, you know, they have tuition ranging from great thousand dollars up, but very affordable compared to, you know, going to a campus learning there and, you know, the opportunity costs and so on and so forth. So that becomes a second part. And the third big one is our B to B side where we are working with businesses, governments, uh, universities and teams around the globe where it's a per user license. Uh, Speaker 4 00:10:55 Okay. And then, um, so you have been there since 2016. Um, what, uh, what's growth look like during that time? So like for example, how many employees were, were in the company when you joined and approximately how many today? Speaker 2 00:11:09 Uh, yeah, uh, very interesting, uh, uh, you know, the political, uh, the number of employees, I think we're less than 200. Um, it may have been around one 50 when I joined in 2016 and we had just one office here in mountain view, and now we have more than 500 employees. Um, and our offices are in Martin view, Toronto, London, Bulgaria Dhabi, and new Delhi. Speaker 4 00:11:39 Wow. Wow. So that's definitely a, definitely a very different company than the, than the day you went in, at least in terms of, um, at least in terms of scope of people who were attacking the, uh, the learning challenges that are out there, what you to Speaker 1 00:11:54 The role, um, in the first place. Speaker 2 00:11:57 Right. So, uh, so I've always, I mean, all of my career has been in tech, so I've, I was an engineer at Google and then I went to business school and then, you know, did a series of role in corporate strategy and corporate development at several large companies. And my last role before Coursera was at LinkedIn, where I was doing, you know, BizOps and also, uh, product management. Um, and that's when LinkedIn actually was acquiring And so the buzz around education technology was, you know, really hot. And I was thinking, you know, that that's a good place to be. It's an up and coming place. That industry hasn't been disrupted in a very long time. And it's about time that Silicon Valley, you know, starts to do things in their way. Uh, and so that's, you know, just when someone from Casa reached out, if I would like to join a growing team and the rest is history. Speaker 1 00:12:51 That's great. That's great. And, um, what, uh, so, so tell me then about the role that you're in and has it, has it changed since you've been there? Speaker 2 00:12:59 Uh, it has. So I initially was bought on, uh, in Coursera to actually lead corporate strategy and corporate development. And I did that for about a year and a half before going back to my roots, uh, in product management and product development. And so today I lead product management and development for all of our B2B products, which is, as I mentioned earlier, of course I have a business course I for, for government or for campus and Coursera for teams. Um, and, uh, and so the, the business has been rapidly changing on the B2B side. So four years ago, we added the Bubi channels initially for companies that wanted to upskill their employees, primarily in the domains of data science, computer science and business. And then a year later, we launched Coursera for government, which is, uh, governments across the globe are actually using us to upscale their population, to make sure that they are ready for the rapid change in skills. Speaker 2 00:14:00 That is, you know, that happening these days so quickly. And then last year is when we launched the protocol set up for campus. And now when we look back at it for you, that it was great timing that time. Exactly. And so we launched that to sort of provide universities, any universities around the globe, not just one 65 university partners to get access to online material, to teach their students for things, uh, for topics, for which maybe they cannot find faculty or topics that have been growing pretty rapidly and they cannot scale, uh, on campus experience so easily. And so for all those reasons, we launched that then, and then, you know, this year it has become sort of a very, very, very big thing for us. Absolutely. Speaker 4 00:14:52 No I can, you know, for, for better or worse, there's obviously, there's obviously a lot of suffering that's that's happened with, with COVID, but there's certainly some businesses that, um, have yeah. Ultimately, you know, the, the, the kind of product market fit where something was a nice to have suddenly becomes a must have. And, and, um, so there's definitely some businesses that in the, in the short term at least will benefit and hopefully, hopefully longer term we'll get some changes in the overall way that, uh, that people work. So there's less commuting and, you know, and people can do things in a way that's, that's better. And so learning is definitely one of those things that, uh, that, that, that can benefit when you've got a good remote platform. And it sounds like, uh, sounds like that timing was perfect on, on, on the universities. So what else, in terms of the, um, kind of COVID-19 crisis has had, how has that affected the business in other ways? Speaker 2 00:15:45 Yeah. Um, as you wrote a guide, me hinting that universities, uh, and students around the globe have really been deeply impacted, do the due to the impact that COVID has on campuses and how they've been shut down. And then in, in, in late March or early March, UNESCO actually disclose some striking numbers. And according to their data, 1.6 billion students across the globe had been impacted, have been impacted by COVID-19. And as those campuses closures were happening, we just saw the number of learners coming to our platform, increased multifold. So just to give you an example, just enrollments from new learners, what 12 times from the same time last year, and we saw the distractions sort of like grew pretty rapidly enrollments from existing learners rapidly, just think about it, students, the full time job of a student is actually to learn, and if they don't have access to those opportunities, they're going to find other places where they would go and look. Speaker 2 00:16:45 And so that's what was happening. And so, as we sort of like step back as a company, and I give a lot of, sort of kudos to our leadership team here, that Coursera, that we look back and said, we will be going to do something and try to see where, where we can help. And on March 12th, uh, we launched a Corona virus response initiative, which basically allows at no cost any university in the world to use our Coursera for campus product through, uh, September. Wow. It's, uh, it's a lighter version of the paid of, for campus product. And, and we are glad that we were able to help, and we've seen more than 6,000 universities sign up for this. And the students have been learning amazingly. It turned out to be a fairly useful way to help, uh, and impacted universities to be able to provide online material versus having to create it themselves. Because, you know, online teaching is still fairly new to a lot of faculty, and it's not as if you can a button and they could start teaching online the next day. It kicks in Speaker 4 00:17:54 The procurement process for universities take so long in a crisis. Obviously they're going to try to go faster to be able to keep going, but the fact that you could offer for free for six months, lets them continue with the learning while the figure out, you know, is this right for us and how do we buy it and all of those things. So that seems like a really a, a good way to make a fast impact, how you guys approach that. Speaker 2 00:18:15 Can I can be the vent to sort of our internal growth pains, right. What we had, I think about before that time, we had about maybe 50 call center for campus, uh, instances that have been launched. And then suddenly overnight, we were seeing hundreds of hundreds and thousands of requests. And so what used to be like a 60 to 90 day launch process before covert head, um, we had to automate the whole thing to make it fully sell so that any college or university could register and then gain access to the offering almost instantaneously. And so the big shift we had to make internally about how to get them to sign all the and CS, how to make sure that they can find this tool learns how to figure it out, like where to put in the domain. And so all of that was fairly interesting and we had like long working days to make it happen, but I feel, I feel very satisfied that we were in a position where we could help and beyond helping, you know, hundreds of thousands of students across the globe. Speaker 4 00:19:15 That's, that's fantastic. And so I think it's actually a good kind of transition point to think through, like in your role, obviously what you just described is, is massive impact on growth impact on the problem, the progress on the mission of the business. Um, but in your role, are you, are you thinking in terms of growth in your role, or are you thinking more in terms of, uh, you know, what are the market needs and how do we fulfill those needs at a, at a faster pace? And so they're kind of the same thing, but you know, two sides of the same coin, but I'm, I'm curious, um, how much you specifically think about growth versus versus think about product and market need. Speaker 2 00:19:59 So, so there are multiple aspects, I think, as sort of a PM in a being in a product leadership role. I think they're all thinking about growth all the time. Like we're thinking about how to grow the value of the, how to grow the value that we're delivering to our customers. How do we grow the value that we're delivering to our learners? How do we grow this course overall within the online education space? So we're constantly thinking about it. I think that tactics and actions change depending on the problem that you're solving. So for example, if it's a more typical like, you know, Silicon Valley sort of like growth point coinage stone, which is you're looking at acquisition and you're looking at growth loops, that becomes a different way of kind of thinking about it. Versus when we're thinking about like, to grow our value delivered to our customers, then you're thinking more around product market fit and the things that we're launching and the value that it's delivering. So it's all part of that, that, that makes that, you know, you wear different hats for different parts of growth. Speaker 4 00:21:01 Right? Right. And obviously like, you know, whether, whether you're thinking in terms of loops and tactics, or you're thinking in terms of product market fit and, and getting just the right product and accelerating value delivery, ideally the outcome is going to be the same. So that it's, it's, you know, we, we want to attract and retain many more satisfied customers and provide lots of value to those customers. And, uh, I, it's interesting that you, how you described that. I actually think that companies don't probably think enough about the product market fit side. I mean, if I, if I were to estimate based on all of my conversations so far on this podcast of talking with fast growing companies, probably 70% of their growth, you know, something around 70% between 60 and 80% of their growth is probably a function of product market fit even more than, than sort of day to day execution of tactics. Yup. Yeah. Growth teams, but almost all of their effort into the end of the tactical side. Um, so, uh, it's really refreshing that you talk about, um, you know, product market fit is really being an engine of growth. So I, but I'm curious when you, when you look at the big picture of what's driven your growth, what, what are the other factors that have driven that growth? Speaker 2 00:22:19 Yeah, I, I think, um, if I, if I look at this and kind of stepping back, I think the first and foremost is, is, is our partners, education partners who truly believe in Democrat democratization of education and providing universal access to education. Like they believe in it. So they come on our platform and, you know, teach this valuable set of courses that are available to the learners across the board. I think obviously the close second to that is, uh, is that obsession about creating learner value and learning outcomes, right? Affordable, online learning can really change the learners, access to opportunities and change the overall sort of life opportunities and living style. Right? So, so we keep a very close tab on how our learning and credentials are making an impact on their career opportunities and quality of life. And then the third one is comes to, is that when we are performing in this and we have a duty to our partners and our learners, we really developed a learning platform that makes it easier to learn online. Speaker 2 00:23:22 That makes it engaging to learn online. I mean, learning is hard by the very virtue of that. You're forcing your brain to learn new concepts, right? So creating a pedagogy, making it, uh, that, that that's great for online learning, uh, for making it accessible on all devices. Uh, making sure that we provide like things like not just to our learners to make sure they get their learning objectives or sinking deadlines that just make things easier when you're in that environment. That's where we focus a lot of our time. And most, most recently, when we talk about B2B skills has been sort of the big, big place where we'll put, we've been putting a lot of our energy because ultimately for any employer or for any company, that's thinking about being competitive in a, in a, in an environment, they're really thinking my employees need these kind of skills if they had the skills and I'll be able to try in that environment. And of course, nobody wants to like, you know, fly it half of their workforce and just high. All of them knew they would rather, you know, all of them, right. Because they have these loyal employees and by when they invest in them. And so that's been like the new big piece where we've been driving with a lot of our customers. Speaker 1 00:24:34 Yeah. And so is that, is that usually driven from like an education initiative inside the companies or sort of who's, who's the champion inside the company who's pushing for that education and how do you, how do you connect with them? And there's obviously a ton of choices that they have in terms of ways to educate their employees. How do you connect with them and have them focus on Coursera as, as a, um, effective way to up Uplevel those skills? Speaker 2 00:25:02 Right. That's a great question. I think generally what we've been seeing is that this is now becoming a CEO agenda to think about the skills of the future and how well placed a company is in terms of where the market and the skills are going for the next, you know, three, five, 10 years where I think we see a very sort of set of, uh, champions within a company. Uh, traditionally it has been like, you know, head of HR, who's thinking about it or not our head of learning and development, but we also very often see, you know, head of business units that are thinking about, Hey, I need my engineers to learn machine learning. Otherwise we won't be able to deliver the right products in the next five years. So that often also happens. So we generally see a mix, but there we are, the most successful with our customers really is when this is an executive level agenda. And that's when we have sort of a, you know, the right engagement with them, we have the right plan with them. And that's where we see, you know, the, the customer, their employees be the most successful on our platform. Speaker 1 00:26:08 And so, like a lot of times I I've seen that larger companies will have even like education allowance for the, for the employees. Is it something that you become a choice there, or do you become something that, that, that ultimately it's, this is how we do our education and this is where you can apply the, um, you know, the, that this is, this is what we're recommending, how you apply any kind of education allowance here. Speaker 2 00:26:33 Right? So the, the, I think to your point about education, uh, education allowance. So what happens is if that's what, how the wants to sort of run their education system, then employees can just use that allowance and kick courses directly through our consumer platform, but where it becomes more of a strategic agenda for engaging with on our, on our B2B side is when we engage with them to talk about where their skills should be going over the next three to five years, like what's that skills, transformation journey they want to sort of like go on and take their employees with them to learn all those skills. And that's when we go into this cycle of life planning and developing those skills and ultimately hiding those skills, having those employees into the right jobs at the, as the job landscape within the company changes, they saw a person that is maybe an analyst today, but is going to be more of a data, data scientist, or a data analyst in the company, like two to three years, how can they gain those skills over the next one to two years and then go into that job rather than having to search outside. Speaker 2 00:27:44 And that becomes a very sort of pivotal moment for the company to think about the journey with Casa. Yeah, Speaker 1 00:27:50 No. Okay. If that makes, that makes a lot of sense. So what, what about the challenges? I mean, like clearly in the, in the four years you've been there, like growth growth is not always linear, right? There's, there's challenges you have along the way. Is there any that jump out to you as specific challenges that you've had to overcome and how you've overcome those during the, during those years? Speaker 2 00:28:10 I mean, we've had our fair share of growth challenges, and every time we've been in sort of a challenging, challenging situation that have been a key set of insights that have helped us get over those challenges and come out, even stronger out coming on the other side of the challenges and these insights have usually come back, come by by taking a step back from the day to day grind and looking at the big picture of delivering value to our learners and our customers. And so an example of this on the consumer side is, um, that, you know, when we were thinking about growing our B to C business faster, one of the big shifts that has happened over the last decade or decade and a half or so is, um, the world of infrastructure. I think infrastructure has been moving towards public cloud versus private cloud. Speaker 2 00:29:00 So, uh, what, what that means is, you know, more and more learners need to learn the skills of how to operate, um, uh, public on a public cloud, like an Amazon or a Google cloud versus what was a single tenant private cloud for the company. And so as we saw that inside, we started working more and more with, with the cloud providers like Google and Amazon web services and IBM, and that has led to a significant growth in our consumer and enterprise business. So that's one example of it. Another one is, uh, our enterprise business is fairly young. We started for about four years ago. And so, as we were thinking, like, how do increase awareness? We actually, again, step back and thought about what is that? What is it that an L and D manager or a CFO in a company would find valuable? So we created this report using this data that's generated of 65 million donors that we call as global skills index. And using this report, someone can really understand what's happening in their industry or because what's happening in their country and really think long and hard about where does the talent management team need to go and how do they need to develop their talent. And that created a lot of awareness that created a lot of high quality conversations with senior members of prospects and customers, and that allowed us to sort of grow the business rapidly. Speaker 1 00:30:24 Wow. I love that. That really reminds me of like a, if the HubSpot website greater approach, are you familiar with that? I've seen that. Yes. Yeah. Just the, just the idea that like, um, you know, the more that you can shine the light on what the problem is. So it's kind of the, the, the index that you're talking about, sort of where, where the team stands on learning and where they need to be, that the, you know, more, more contextually relevant, the solution's going to be, and probably the more receptive the customer's going to be to the solution. So that, that makes a lot of sense. Another thing that jumped out that you were talking about is that, you know, people who are very mission driven companies that are very mission driven seem to be able to navigate crises better, because as you said, you keep coming back to, you know, where, where, where are our opportunities to deliver value to the learners, and that can help you navigate through short term challenges. Um, when you, when you keep coming back to, what is it that we're trying to do for the customer? Speaker 2 00:31:20 Very well said very well said. I couldn't, I couldn't put it any better Speaker 1 00:31:26 On the, uh, on, on kind of the website grader comparison example that I brought up. Speaker 2 00:31:31 Yeah. I was actually going to say that you, you were highlighting of a specific point, which is when light is shown on a problem, that's when you start to figure out the solutions. And I think I like to think of product managers as problem managers, and if they can actually find the right problem to solve, I think solutions can be varied, but finding the right problem to solve is actually the product manager's job. And if they can actually do that well to say out of the a hundred things that we can put our time in, if I find this top three things that I can solve for our customer, and these are the top problems, the rest will be history for any business. Speaker 1 00:32:08 Yeah. And it's, and it's attempting to just, you know, to be so kind of solutions oriented there. And, and to, uh, to, to, to be more customer oriented and understand where the problems are, you're the likelihood that you're going to nail it on the solution side is so much better. So, um, yeah, that's, uh, that's always been sort of a weakness for me personally, is that the product side, because I came up through marketing, but I think anyone who's, who who's good in growth today is pretty strong in product marketing data. You need, you need that sort of, uh, cross-discipline knowledge to, to, to kind of think about how all of that works together to do accelerate on the mission of the business. Speaker 2 00:32:48 I mean, and I have, I had that bias. I mean, I also, I came up through engineering initially, so I always into the solution let's make it and we'll figure it out. Speaker 1 00:32:57 Yeah, yeah, yeah. But, uh, yeah, I mean, I there's so many times I look back in my career that I think, gosh, I wish I spent more time on the problem. I probably would have been, uh, better at coming up with a solution that actually nailed the problem, versus just, just jumping right into that, uh, solving mode, which, uh, which, which gets people in trouble on personal levels too, Speaker 2 00:33:19 Like listening to a spouse Speaker 1 00:33:20 Problems instead of saying, Oh, let me solve your problems before I even learned and understood them. So Speaker 2 00:33:25 I still get into hot water. Speaker 1 00:33:27 Yeah. I think a lot of people think so, so help me understand a little bit more on the, on the organization. So, um, you know, we've, we've talked about growth and how, how product market fit dialing that in helps a lot to accelerate growth, but who, who else in the organization is, is thinking about growth? What, what, how, how did the various teams work together to try to accelerate progress on the Coursera mission? Speaker 2 00:33:51 Absolutely. So let me just talk about maybe like how first product is organized and then maybe like the everyone else is organized. So on the product side, we essentially have a five key groups and three, there are three within that, that are related to our customer segments. So there is a team that's focused on enterprise. There's a team that's focused on consumer and there's a team that focuses on degrees. And I think that's what that, those are the teams that are responsible for keeping closest to our customers to understand the product we want to develop, develop the problems that we're trying to solve to those products. And then do we want to deliver them? And what value will it provide to our customers? Right. So that keeps us close. And then we have an overarching growth theme that kind of spans across these three product lines. Speaker 2 00:34:41 Uh, and they look at things like traffic, top of the funnel, acquisition, registrations, and so on and so forth, which becomes essentially the way people find And then the way the traffic gets segmented into different parts of what they are interested in when they come to Coursera. So then there is a person within that team. That's focused on registration, someone that focused on enterprises and someones that focus on degree, change registrations and so on and so forth. And then the first theme within product is more on platform. So these are the common components that we want to deliver across these businesses so that we can get a lot more leverage within our product teams versus everyone developing the same things three times over. And then I would say the closest partner in time for, for this, uh, the product is on one end is marketing. Speaker 2 00:35:33 And so marketing is fairly well aligned to the three business and related growth, uh, so that there is a clear sort of organizational line of sight for ownership and accountability to deliver on growth metrics, uh, through a collaborative effort. And on the other end for the B to B side, there is obviously the sales team and the customer success team and the implementation team that works very closely with the BDB product to make sure that we are, we are staying close to the customer and doing the right things for the customers to make them successful. Speaker 1 00:36:07 And so what, what does the actual marketing team focus on then? Are they mostly around kind of brand building or are they ROI driven for customer acquisition or combination of both? What, what is sort of where, where are the lines there? Speaker 2 00:36:23 Yeah, I think, I think all three, as you mentioned, right? So we've been, we've been fairly, uh, uh, blessed that, you know, education is top of mind for everyone. So our, uh, uh, you know, PR team has, has done wonders for us in terms of just growing overall awareness of the things that we're doing. And that has given us a lot of, sort of good awareness and brand building across the globe. And then there are individual product teams that are working with the growth team to make sure that we are running growth experiments to understand what copy works well, and you know, what kind of intent people are coming with. And we understand the persona as well. So we run the experiments to optimize that experience pretty well. Then there is the product marketing team, which is really thinking about how do we get the products that we have developed and put it in the right light and the right messaging to our customers. And so those that's the other team, and there is an overall sort of like brand team that really thinks about like, what is, what is the Coursera brand and how that's being put in front of our learners and customers. So those are generally like the big pieces within the marketing team. Speaker 1 00:37:32 And then do you, do you guys all have got an individual metrics that you're, that you're trying to drive there and is there a kind of a broader unifying metric that you're all working toward? How, how does, how does that piece work? Speaker 2 00:37:45 Right. So the, uh, VR a very like OKR and metrics-driven company, which is where we set, uh, the metrics for the year on, these are the big things that we want to, we want to achieve in the year. So they would be like, you know, generally three to four metrics for the company for the full year. And then those metrics would break down. But generally, if there is a product and marketing team that's working together on an initiative, then there would be a joint metric that they're working towards. And that joint metric actually create such great alignment in terms of activities, tactics, and how the teams come together, because they're all accountable and own that metrics. So that drives a lot of organizational clarity. And I have seen the power of joint ownership, how quickly folks aligned, because they all feel that they own it. They all feel accountable for it. And that just does wonder for how the teams operate and the, the, the, the, the ferocity with which they go after it is, is great. Speaker 1 00:38:47 Finally, let's kind of wrap up with the, with the growth gen engine in general. So, um, you know, for, particularly for the enterprise product I'm, and we've touched on it a bit already, like in terms of how, how enterprises find out about it, but I, what I don't think, I, I clearly like how, how does the lead gen on, on the businesses that you're serving? Is it, is it, um, you know, kind of direct outbound kind of, are you, is your sales team going outbound? Do you, is there a lot of lead gen that's happening that they're following up on warm leads, or just sort of, how does, how do they kind of get into the pipeline in the first place? Speaker 2 00:39:23 Yeah, absolutely. So, um, call center are our, we, we have created an amazing SEO, uh, channel over the years. So if you go search for online learning and Coursera shows up in top results. So we see a lot of traffic actually show up on home. And from there, we actually start, you know, start figuring out, you know, what's the learner's sort of interest level and what are the things that they want to do. So potentially a learner is a decision maker at a company, which is of a certain size. And based on that, we take them into a Coursera for business experience. And once they land on that is that's when we actually start to understand, like, what is it that they want to do? So there is then that's how they found us. And from there, they can do two things. They can either say that I want to learn more and they can sign up for a demo or a webinar, um, from, from our team that's one way or the other one is they could go to a sense of buying experience and buy licenses for the team, which is called Coursera for teams. Speaker 2 00:40:27 And so if they buy, if they're set up for teams, then, you know, at some point, you know, someone will reach out to them to say, like, if they want to expand the relationship. So that's one. And, but if they signed up for a demo, then they're going to SDR, or a sales person would reach out to them, get on the call. I got on the phone with them, give them a demo and then, you know, figure it out, like, how do they want to proceed? Um, then there's the third version, which is, as I was mentioning earlier, a global skills index and generate a lot of insightful information for just chief HR officers or chief LND officers to look at. So those reports, uh, studies would be downloadable and they'll be behind maybe a small way for them to provide us their contact information. And then we will, you know, market, uh, do a drip marketing campaign with them. Speaker 1 00:41:15 And since you have, um, so you have kind of a direct to consumer part as well. Do you ever find that when, when a corporate is looking at, uh, at potentially bringing in a more, more of a company level solution, that you already have people that enterprise that are using, um, Coursera and does that help in moving the sale forward so that they, that, that they can actually connect with them and say, is it an effective learning platform or, or, or is it usually pretty separate on the direct to consumer part of the business versus enterprise? Speaker 2 00:41:49 Well, yeah, that's a great point. Actually. That's how the enterprise business came about because we started seeing so many people, this is five years back. We started seeing that there were so many learners who were using their corporate accounts, email addresses. And we were like, there are so many people who are learning from this particular company. And so there must be interest within the company to actually use Coursera broadly for more employees. So we do tend to tend to look at that information. Yes. Speaker 1 00:42:15 Excellent. And do you know if like, if some of them were already using some of the educational allowances for it and, or, or was it usually out of pocket when, when they were signing up with their corporate email? Speaker 2 00:42:28 Um, that I, I'm not sure because we don't collect that information. There's no way for them to provide us that information, but anecdotally we've heard it, then we, you know, speak with some companies that they've done that. And now they're looking to consolidate, uh, to a central L and D budget and where the employees will not have to like pay it out of pocket and get reimbursement. The company will directly pay for a license for them. Speaker 1 00:42:50 Very cool. I mean, the reason I go down that line of questioning is it sounds so much like what you see at Dropbox. And some of the companies I even locked me in some of the companies I've been involved with in the past where there's that individual use case. And then, and then there's the, there's the kind of company level, uh, sale that can come off of that. And it's, it seems to be a dynamic that, um, makes it a lot easier to close the company deals when you already have a lot of people internally, especially like on, on products where there's security kind of issues, being able to manage those instances can be a big deal. But I think here just being able to kind of vouch for the educational approach, it seems like that could be a pre pretty helpful for you. And then how about referrals to you? Do you see many referrals in the business? Speaker 2 00:43:35 I mean, we do see, we do see referrals and reference customers, and they have been a great way to increase trust of new prospects who are really looking to buy and deploy the products. There are some verticals where, uh, we've gained sort of an outsized, uh, impact and presence because, you know, that's where we've been going. Um, and so it has happened, um, at different points, but if you were asking like on the product side, if we've done something specific for referrals, we have, Speaker 1 00:44:04 I mean, like tracked referrals, but more like NPS kind of like people who love the product, telling other people that come in, and this is a great way to learn. And, and, uh, you know, or people who have it on a company level telling other companies like just, just more of the organic word of mouth stuff, is that, is that a fairly important driver of growth in the business? Speaker 2 00:44:24 It is. I mean, it is because, uh, it's a, again, like at the community of the chief led officers fairly small and they all talk to each other. So once we add in a certain country in a certain vertical, uh, that's become sort of an outsider's view of us getting more and more of an S in the same area. So it does, it does help. It doesn't sort of scale everywhere equally, but it does happen. So the media's for sure. Excellent. Well, that's great. I mean, so, um, Speaker 1 00:44:51 Yeah, when I look at the business, it's interesting because I've, I've kind of taken dabbles in the education space a long time myself. I, uh, you know, after, after Dropbox and Eventbrite and, and some of my earlier successes, I started thinking, how can I, how can I kind of take these grow skills and put them towards something I can feel really good about? And so I actually worked with a couple of education companies, uh, in probably over 10 years ago now. And, um, I found that the space was actually really hard. So congratulations on getting to where you are, you know, where we're afterwards. I was kind of like, okay, just, you know, for reminding myself, make sure that you have, you're working with companies with really strong product market fit, and then it, then it comes down a lot more to the execution of how do you acquire a lot more of the customers who really need these products. And, um, you know, I could give back to education or whatever. I actually, and then I, then I also had recently had an initiative of, of kind of education where I'm helping, uh, helping students connect with mentors through something called the online career, um, especially underserved students. And so it's like kind of a different type of education, but it's sort of like, how, how do you take that academic education that you're having and get some real world sort of, uh, Speaker 4 00:46:11 Excellent so that you can, you can see how, Speaker 1 00:46:13 How has that applied in the real world and, you know, something especially kind of the, um, underrepresented groups that may not have, uh, you know, might be first generation university students that don't have parents that can kind of show them the rope or family connections that, that that's been an initiative that I felt really good about. And then even, even very recently came out with a gross simulation program for learning growth through, through, uh, kind of just executing through a story that that can take upwards of five or six months to complete, but you're running queries on live data and you're kind of learning growth through that. And so I think that's, that's a very different learning approach, but I do think that there's a lot of room for innovation and learning and how you described that. It's not just a static video for 30 minutes, but all the things that you've done, I think that's, that's a big part of kind of getting, getting that online education experience. Right. So I, my main point with all of this is that, um, I'm passionate about this space and I also know that this is a challenging space. And, um, and so I have a ton of respect for you and your team and what you've done, because it's a, it's a hard space, but you've clearly had a lot of success there. So congratulations on that. And, uh, I'm, I'm really excited to see where you Speaker 2 00:47:30 Take it from here. But, um, one final question that I like to end with is what do, what do you feel like you understand about growth today that you may not have understood, um, even a couple of years ago? Well, uh, I'd say, uh, well, firstly, thank you for the kind words. Yes, it has been, it has been a long and arduous journey, but I think we started to see, uh, you know, uh, of course see more success. So thank you for that. Um, I think for growth, I think what I've learned is, is growth is hard and sustainable growth is even harder. And generally as your company and your revenue kind of grows big, uh, it becomes even harder to find like bigger and bigger growth opportunities. So I, I, I respect companies that actually grow and continue to grow over the years. Um, and the second thing I've realized is one group great growth driver that you see, or you look at companies that are growing really well. Speaker 2 00:48:27 And you're like, Oh, they are having growth so easily. It's generally a result of multiple, multiple failed attempts at growth. And the key is to just be persistent, persistent, be learn and get better and just repeat and just keep at it and keep continuing to make sure that you are learning with every failed attempt and make sure that you actually get there when you get there. And the third one I'd say is that growth can come from large movements in sort of seeing growth, but you should never discount the value of small improvements that add up over the years. And both of them are equally valuable. I think some things I've seen, uh, sort of invest heavily on one end versus the other, but I think every team should have a portfolio of bets that they're making some very large bets, but also a constant sort of flood of like small bets that you continue to pay up and they'll continue to increase the growth in the company. Speaker 2 00:49:26 I think both are very valuable. Absolutely. Now that's, that's great. And yeah, and I, um, I think, uh, all of us are continuing to, to learn more about growth all the time. So being able to get your perspective, uh, particularly from the, from the product and more enterprise focused, uh, end of your product, um, is, is, is a fairly new perspective on the breakout growth podcast. So I'm excited that you shared that with us and, uh, really impressed, as I said, with the, with the success that you guys have had to date and excited to see where you take it from here. So thank you very much for that and to everyone listening. Thanks for tuning in and thanks, Sean. Thanks so much. Speaker 0 00:50:11 Thanks for listening to the breakout growth podcast. Please take a moment to leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform and while you're at it subscribe. So you never miss a show until next week.

Other Episodes

Episode 74

July 20, 2022 00:53:12
Episode Cover

Getting out of the Way: Bootstrapping Netcore to Nearly $100 Million in ARR

In this week’s episode of The Breakout Growth Podcast Sean Ellis and Ethan Garr chat with Rajesh Jain, founder and managing director of Netcore...


Episode 62

February 22, 2022 01:00:05
Episode Cover

Recognizing Value: Blueboard’s COO Explains Why Companies Send Employees Skydiving

In this week’s episode of The Breakout Growth Podcast Sean Ellis and Ethan Garr chat with Kevin Yip, Blueboard’s Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer....


Episode 83

May 30, 2023 00:58:04
Episode Cover

Thrive Market’s Winning Growth Formula: Velocity x Win Rate x Impact = Growth

In this week’s episode of The Breakout Growth Podcast, Sean Ellis and Ethan Garr chat with Jonas Klink, Thrive Market’s Vice President of Product...