Venture-capital firms are showing greater interest in U.S. higher education because as a system, it’s no longer working, said Sebastian Thrun, co-founder of online learning company Udacity Inc.
“Education is broken. Face it,” said Thrun, a Stanford University research professor who helped create Google Inc.’s self-driving car. “It is so broken at so many ends, it requires a little bit of Silicon Valley magic,” he said in an interview today at Bloomberg’s Next Big Thing summit in Half Moon Bay, California.
Udacity, which has received funding from Andreessen Horowitz and Charles River Ventures, is among providers of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, that are sweeping across higher education. Competitor Coursera Inc., started by two other Stanford computer-science professors, has backing from New Enterprise Associates and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. EdX, a third provider, was formed last year by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“If you look at Stanford, they are wonderful but they are small, by choice,” Thrun said. “What is missing is scale.”
Thrun said the tens of thousands of people around the world who took one of his classes on artificial intelligence online would never have been accepted to Stanford.
“Reaching people that are left out of high-quality education will change the world,” he said.
Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, is an investor in Andreessen Horowitz.