Yoda was wrong.  Who says a Master can only have one Apprentice? 

Why IVP Invested in MasterClass

By Eric Liaw, Roseanne Wincek, and Michael Giampapa

What if rather than just admiring the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, you could learn to paint from Michelangelo?  Or if instead of merely watching them in the park, William Shakespeare taught you how to write plays?  Or better yet, instead of memorizing reactions, you could learn chemistry from Marie Curie?

While the achievements and contributions of these masters have endured, the ability for anyone and everyone, current and future, to learn directly from them was not a reality.  But now, thanks to MasterClass, it is possible for all of us today (and those yet to come tomorrow) to learn from the world’s greatest masters of their craft.  An exciting online educational platform, MasterClass brings the world’s best to you so they can share their knowledge.   Don’t take our word for it.  Maybe you’d like to learn to serve an ace from the person who has won 23 Grand Slams, Serena Williams?  Or perfect a monologue, well Kevin Spacey or Dustin Hoffman might be able to help you out.  Interested in raising your cooking game?  Gordon Ramsay has got you covered (slightly peppered by a few four-letter words).  Are architecture and design your passion?  Frank Gehry can help build your dreams.  Those are just a few of the many classes offered online by MasterClass and today, IVP is proud to announce that we are leading a $35 million Series C investment in the company.

IVP is a leading later-stage venture capital firm based in Menlo Park, CA, and has been fortunate enough to partner with talented entrepreneurs to help build truly disruptive consumer-facing companies, including Dropbox, Dropcam, The Honest Company, Netflix, Snap, Supercell, and Twitter. We think MasterClass is a truly exceptional company that is poised to become a cultural phenomenon. Let us tell you why.

While MasterClass has already achieved impressive traction in its few short years as a young company, led by CEO and Co-Founder David Rogier, its inspiration began over 70 years ago as David’s grandmother left everything behind, fleeing oppression in Europe.  As a young Jewish woman in the United States in the 1940s, she defied the odds and overcame three consecutive years of rejections from medical school (despite more than sufficient qualifications) to realize her dream of becoming a doctor.  She was driven by the struggle for knowledge, learning firsthand that while you could lose everything and everyone around you, your education could never be taken away. She often impressed this guiding principle on her grandson, David, and, years later, it inspired him to co-found MasterClass alongside Aaron Rasmussen, with the mission to make knowledge from the world’s masters accessible to all.

What is old is new again

Since the dawn of humanity, skills have been taught and learned one-to-one – a master of a craft would pass a lifetime of knowledge down to another, generally an apprentice or his child. The relatively recent system of education is designed to make this transfer of information infinitely more scalable, standardized, and efficient.  While this approach broadens the distribution of knowledge, its means of dispensation can lose much of the nuance, emotion, and insight that can build a connection with a student or spark inspiration.  We love how MasterClass has taken an extremely new system, online video, and applied first principles of education, resulting in an elegant solution that can both share the rich experience and live on indefinitely.

The Library of Alexandria For Today…and Tomorrow

Inspired by David’s grandmother and thanks to the tireless efforts of the company’s nimble and dedicated team, MasterClass is becoming a modern take on the Library of Alexandria.  While still early in its evolution, MasterClass’ collection becomes ever more powerful as the breadth, depth, and quality of its curricula grow. Previously, access to learn from these masters was restricted to a small few. Now, MasterClass is allowing more students to learn directly from these experts than ever before.  By starting with the world’s best, MasterClass is building a timeless digital library of educational material taught by people who are universally recognized as leaders in their field.

A library without anyone reading the books is simply a warehouse of paper and shelves, and, similarly, MasterClass is far more than the content.   The knowledge offered by the company’s courses is further bolstered by its communities of students, enthusiasts, and professionals, who are also learning from one another. The ability to share insights and learnings with a broad community of passionate students, not only for today but for years to come, is incredibly powerful for MasterClass’s instructors, many of whom cite it as their most rewarding professional experience.

Of course, the ideas of learning and teaching are great, but creating compelling, instructive content from some of the most well-known minds in the world is a very difficult task, particularly when coupled with goals to create a company that can live well beyond the standard Silicon Valley timeline and to help enlighten the world.  Though sparked by the inspiration from David’s grandmother, such a grand vision could not become reality without the amazing and talented team at MasterClass. Whether measured by the videos of appreciation, the incredible talent recruited, or the lives changed, what the MasterClass team has accomplished is highly impressive, and we think that this is only the beginning. We could not be more excited to partner with them as they make learning from the masters accessible to everyone, forever.

Eric Liaw is a General Partner at IVP, a later-stage venture capital firm based in Menlo Park, CA.  Roseanne Wincek is a Vice President and Michael Giampapa is an Associate at IVP.