Usher and Robert Downey Jr. Invested in Online Learning Platform With Celebrity Instructors, MasterClass

By Staff Writer

Feb 24, 2016 09:42 AM EST

Online education platform, MasterClass, announced a $15 million funding round from high-profile investors, some of them celebrities. The Series B funding was led by New Enterprise Associates and involved celebrities including Usher, Robert Downey Jr., and Matthew Rutler.

According to Tubefilter, the new funds will be used to onboard new instructors in new subject areas on the platform. Previously, MasterClass had launched educational video courses from celebrities such as Dustin Hoffman, Usher, Annie Liebowitz, Serena Williams, and James Patterson. Additionally, MasterClass also seeks to grow the team and further build upon a proprietary technology to support the learning process.

From the website, users can choose their MasterClass that features between 10 and 25 video lessons, interactive exercises, and digital workbooks. All materials are accessible through any device for $90 each. The class curriculum is developed individually by each instructor based on the instructor's approach to the subject matter.

MasterClass CEO David Rogier co-founded the startup with Aaron Rasmussen in 2015. They have been reaching out to well-known professionals to be class instructors and have been seeing some impressive success. Bizjournal quoted Rogier's statement on the platform's performance and their plan ahead. "In less than a year, the momentum and engagement among users have blown away our expectations. It's extraordinary to see that our completion rates are already higher than that of long-standing online learning platforms. We're not only changing how people learn, but we're on our way to building the destination everyone goes to first to learn from the very best," Rogier said.

Previously, MasterClass also managed to secure an undisclosed $1.9 million in total for two seed rounds led by Harrison Metal, and also $4.5 million in Series A led by Javelin Venture Partners. In total, the startup has raised $21.5 million from high-profile firms and individuals, including entrepreneurs, musicians, actors, and other celebrities. Robert Downey Jr. through its firm Downey Ventures and musician Usher is among the latest to join the company's impressive investors list.

Besides the new Series B funding of $15 million, MasterClass also announced two new courses. The courses will focus on performing arts with an acting class by Kevin Spacey and singing class led by Christina Aguilera. According to The Wall Street Journal, the new investment comes as schools around the U.S. are slashing art programs as a response to broader budget cuts. "MasterClass decided to start in arts and entertainment, in part, because this is an area where there is lack of an authoritative brand and institutions are not participating in tech-enabled education," MasterClass CEO Rogier said.

Usher and Robert Downey Jr. joined the list of celebrities who have supported the online learning platform MasterClass. Both of them are investing in the startup as it seeks to add new instructors to cover new subjects. Other celebrities showed their support by joining as instructors.

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