The online technology training service Pluralsight has raised a whopping $135 million in new financing as it looks to consolidate its position as a major player in personal and professional continuing information technology education.
“We believe in the vision we have of democratizing professional education,” says Pluralsight chief executive Aaron Skonnard, and apparently the company’s investors do too.
Insight Venture Partners led the big Series B round, which included participation from the highly secretive Silicon Valley-based multi-family office investment firm ICONIQ Capital and Sorenson Capital. The new round gives the company a valuation close to $1 billion, according to Skonnard.
“The pre-money valuation is in the high sevens,” Skonnard says. “Then we raised $135 million, so it’s rounding up close to $1 billion.” The company had raised $27.5 million from Insight Venture Partners in a previous round in January 2013.
That puts the company in the same wheelhouse as the well-funded tech companies Skonnard sees as its real competitors. Companies like lynda.com and Skillsoft, which are both companies that have raised big cash infusions to pursue training for personal and business users, respectively. “One of our goals in this round was to bring in a silicon valley firm,” Skonnard says. “We were hoping to get more access to the inner circle.”
The investment is one of the largest into a Utah-based technology company and will be used for new acquisitions, the development of new content, and improved functionality and features mainly for the company’s growing roster of enterprise customers.
When Pluralsight started in 2004, the company was primarily focused on the professional programmer looking to improve their skills and stay on top of the latest technology trends, but over time its role expanded as programmers began bringing the curriculum to companies to request that their bosses actually pay for the training. In part that’s thanks to some $70 million in acquisitions the company completed over the course of 2013 and 2014 including the purchases of PeepCode, Tekpub, TrainSignal, and Digital-Tutors.
The Farmington, Utah-based company now boasts access to over 3,000 courses of online content and customers in more than 150 countries. But what Skonnard finds most persuasive is the ability to change the way in which businesses think about professional training and education.
Users pay $29 a month and get access to the company’s library of more than 3,000 courses. For businesses, there’s an annual license mode that costs $300 per-seat per-year. “We have this vision of Pluralsight becoming the de facto training module in corporate groups,” says Skonnard. “We see Pluralsight emerging as its own certification standard.”
Beyond businesses, colleges and universities could integrate Pluralsight into their curriculum, says Skonnard.
At Insight, with its fairly large portfolio of education technology companies, the decision to reinvest in Pluralsight was a no-brainer. “They cracked the chicken egg challenge of not only having an attractive customer base, but even when we first invested in 2012 they had established a content catalogue and a customer roster including enterprises at a very early stage,” says Insight Venture Partners’ Ryan Hinkle.