21. Coursera

50% off master's degrees

Founders: Daphne Koller, Andrew Ng
CEO: Jeff Maggioncalda
Launched: 2012
Headquarters: Mountain View, California
$313.3 million
Valuation: $1.7 billion (PitchBook)
Key technologies:
Higher education, online learning

George Kavallines | CNBC

As an increasing number of companies and governments look to reskilling their employees as a way to keep pace with rapid technological change and a tight labor market, Coursera is helping to show the way. In February, the world's leading online education platform partnered with the Abu Dhabi School of Government to provide professional training and development programs in AI, data science, and cyber security to Abu Dhabi's 60,000 government workers. Coursera for Business—launched in 2016—now has more than 1,500 corporate customers (60 are Fortune 500 companies) including L'Oreal, Infosys, and P&G.

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Coursera offers folks anywhere in the world access to online courses and degrees from top universities at a fraction of the cost. A master's degree from Coursera runs $15,000 to $25,000; attending a university in person can run as much as $80,000 for the same degree. There are 38 million users accessing the site, which offers more than 3,000 courses in areas such as business, social sciences, math, language, and computer science from over 190 top schools, organizations, and industry partners.

In July it began offering the first completely online master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania's School of Engineering and Applied Science. The Master of Computer and Information Technology degree will cost $26,300, roughly one-third of what the on-campus degree would cost.

The company was started by former Stanford University computer science professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng who are now co-chairs. Both had spent enough time in higher education to realize that change was overdue and that online learning was a good path forward. Although users still have access to free courses, Coursera has been more active in promoting its paid options. For instance, its "Specializations" program is a series of online courses that enable learners to master a specific career skill. The courses typically take anywhere from four to six months and range in price from $39 to $79 per month.

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and New Enterprise Associates have been behind Coursera from the beginning and, together with other investors, have poured $210 million into the company. Late last year, CEO Jeff Maggioncalda told Forbes that he will likely take Coursera public in the next two years.

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