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Daphne Koller

Daphne Koller

Co-Founder at Coursera

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Started on the side Does code

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Net wealth 53 Yrs Age 2011 Year of founding


Co-CEO & Co-Founder, Coursera Chief Computing Officer, Calico Founder, Insitro


BSc, MSc, Hebrew University of Jerusalem PhD, Stanford University

Personal Information

Partner Dan Avida

The Spark

In 2012, Koller and Andrew Ng, both Computer Science professors at Stanford, had spearheaded an effort to offer three Stanford computer science courses for free online. The classes were interactive, with short video lectures, discussion forums, quizzes, and homework assignments that were graded by other students using a rubric provided by professors. Even though students didn't earn academic credit for it, the courses were a hit. “With no marketing, each of those courses had more than 100,000 learners,” Koller says. “It was a wake-up call about the demand for this type of education around the world.”‍

The Rise

In the space of a few months, she and Ng persuaded the universities of Princeton, Penn and Michigan to sign on. They wanted to leverage not only the best that Stanford had to offer, but the offerings from other colleges as well. Though Coursera had no monetisation plan, investors jumped on board. This was because they felt Coursera had the right ingredients to be successful. "Higher education costs too much, and it’s not available to enough people", says John Doerr, a lead investor at the time. Doerr recommended Koller and Ng consult with Rick Levin, an economist who had served as the president of Yale for 20 years. In 2014, Levin joined as CEO, after which Coursera began charging $30 to $70 to students who wanted course completion certificates. This was when they started making revenue.‍

Battering Through

In 2012, MOOCs were all the rage, which saw Coursera's popularity surge with it. But a couple of years later, the narrative had completely shifted due to the seemingly low course engagement and completion rates. The Coursera team ignored the chatter. When Levin turned the company over to incoming CEO Jeff Maggioncalda, it was on an upswing. Its enterprise business was taking off, and it had tripled its revenue that year.


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