Disruptor 50 2020

4. Coursera

Founders: Andrew Ng, Daphne Koller
CEO: Jeff Maggioncalda
Launched: 2012
Headquarters: Mountain View, California
 $315 million
Valuation: $1.6 billion (PitchBook)
Key technologies:
 AI, cloud computing, deep learning, Internet of Things, machine learning
Higher education, online learning
Previous appearances on Disruptor 50 List: 4 (No. 21 in 2019)

George Kavilillnes

Online learning is a given in the age of the coronavirus, and Coursera has been at it since 2012.

The Mountain View, California-based company offers individuals 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 48 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. Over 2,000 companies use Coursera for Business to help workers reskill and prepare for the jobs of the future.

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To help support workers at risk of being laid off because of the pandemic — a number that experts have put at 305 million people around the world — Coursera launched its Workforce Recovery Initiative. It helps governments offer unemployed workers free access to 3,800 job-relevant courses for critical business, technology and data science skills from top universities and companies, including Amazon and Google. Arizona and Oklahoma are among the states already participating, as well as Costa Rica, Greece and Panama. The goal is to reskill the workforce in the throes of the recession.

The company was started by former Stanford University computer science professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng. Both had spent enough time in higher education to realize that change was overdue and that online learning was a good path forward. In January the company launched a full online bachelor's completion program with the University of North Texas aimed at nontraditional students. Another milestone was reached last year when the company closed its latest round of funding, raising $103 million and bringing its valuation to $1.6 billion.

Disruptor 50: Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda on the enrollment boom
A look back at the CNBC Disruptor 50: 8 years, 209 companies