8. Udacity

Nanodegree your way to a new job

Founder: Sebastian Thrun
CEO: Vishal Makhijani
Launched: 2011
Headquarters: Mountain View, California
$162.5 million
Valuation: $1 billion (PitchBook)
Key technologies:
Artificial intelligence, machine learning

George Kavallines | CNBC

This online learning platform publicly released its revenue numbers for the first time and demonstrated that 2017 was indeed a good year for the seven-year-old private company. CEO Vishal Makhijani told Reuters in February that since Udacity's long-terms plans include an IPO, the company wanted to give investors some indication of the company's growth. And grow it has: Udacity said its top line more than doubled last year, to $70 million, up from $29 million in 2016, thanks in large part to 34,000 new students taking its courses.

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Unlike other e-learning platforms that offer courses across a range of subjects, Udacity (the name combines "audacity" and "university") is laser-focused on tech. It has partnered with more than 120 companies — Amazon, Google, AT&T and Facebook among them — to close the tech talent gap by creating and tailoring courses that teach the specific skills these companies are looking for.

So far, the company has raised $163 million from investors, including Andreessen Horowitz, Drive Capital and Alphabet's venture capital arm, Google Ventures. Udacity was started by Sebastian Thrun, a former Stanford University professor who in 2011 offered a free online course in artificial intelligence and witnessed 160,000 students in 190 countries enroll. The goal, the company says, is to give professionals the knowledge they need to get a new job or advance their career. And it does it for a fraction of the cost of most executive education offerings. Most of Udacity's nanodegrees cost $199 per month and take anywhere from six to 12 months to complete. There are also free courses, like Intro to JaveScript, that take less time but don't grant a nanodegree after completion.

Along with expansion into China, Brazil and Germany, the company is also adding new courses that reflect the changing talent needs of its corporate partners, such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence.