CreativeLIVE, the startup looking to bring a live, online classroom to creative entrepreneurs, announced today that it has raised $8 million in series A financing from Creative Artists Agency, William Morris Endeavor, CrunchFund and Google Ventures. The new investors join Greylock in backing CreativeLIVE, which invested $7.5 million in the startup back in October of last year, bringing the startup’s total (series A) funding to just over $8 million.
Greylock’s investment saw James Slavet joined CreativeLIVE’s board of directors, with Mika Salmi, the former president of Viacom Digital, joining the startup as its new CEO at the same time. Today, as a result of its latest round, the startup announced that Flickr founder and Etsy chairwoman Caterina Fake would become the newest addition to CreativeLIVE’s board of directors.
Part of the excitement is due to the fact that CreativeLIVE is attacking a newly-hot space within education. Massively open online courses (a.k.a. MOOCs) were the most buzzed-about topics in EdTech last year. However, while the market for free, online education is potentially enormous, CreativeLIVE is hardly alone in its attempts to bring quality online classes and lectures to the masses.
Khan Academy, Udacity, Coursera, Udemy, EdX, StraighterLine, 2U, Instructure, SkillShare, Lynda.com and many more recognize the market opportunity. In fact, Accel and Spectrum saw fit to put a whopping $103 million into Lynda.com in January for this very reason.
Taking a page out of Lynda.com’s book, Chase Jarvis and Craig Swanson launched CreativeLIVE in early 2010 to bring the same kind of quality video instruction one would find on Lynda.com for Adobe products or technical education to the more creatively-inclined (and entrepreneurial) students. Like Lynda, the startup takes video quality seriously and has become a production operation just as much as a virtual video (hosting) library, developing its own studios in Seattle and San Francisco.
CreativeLIVE then uses those studios to film (and offer) live, streaming classes in HD video, which students can access for no cost. If students want to watch the class again or missed the live airing, they can buy the video for between $29 and $149, as we wrote at the time. The founders believe that this combination of live instruction and the ability to re-watch at any time via a pay-as-you-go pricing model will give them a leg up on the competition.
The startup has also been going in a slightly different direction from companies like Udemy or ShowMe, which want to make it easy for any teacher to put their own lessons or classes online, instead curating both its content and instructors — through a high-touch process akin to Lynda.com.
In October, the startup told us that its learning platform had been used by over one million students from over 200 countries, which was impressive considering the pace of its growth, which was completely organic. With its strategic investment from Creative Artists and William Morris — two of the largest talent agencies in the world — CreativeLIVE will have access to a sizable pool of talent from which to draw its instructors.
With new talent and seeing as it’s all backed by its simple revenue model, the founders want to make CreativeLIVE into the largest online classroom on the Web. Since October, growth has been encouraging in that regard, they say, with revenue increasing 400 percent year-over-year and a 500 percent increase in course offerings in 2012. The average class size on CreativeLIVE is 60,000, the founder said, and one class saw over 150,000 students participate.
That traction has allowed them to pay “some teachers up to six figures for just three days of work,” they said. Not bad for three days work.
[Disclosure: TechCrunch founder and current columnist Michael Arrington is a general partner at CrunchFund.]