Last week, Carpinteria-based Lynda.com announced one of the biggest investments in the region in the last few years--a $103M, growth equity investment in the company, which came from Accel Partners and Spectrum Equity. The firm operates an online video education service helping people to learn how to use all kinds of software, ranging from Adobe Illustrator to AutoCAD and more. To get the story behind the new funding, we spoke with Eric Robison, the firm's President and CEO, last week.
Tell us a bit on the investment?
Eric Robison: The company grown last year to exceed $100M in topline revenue. This was a situation where we had the opportunity to take on funding, at a point where we could utilize it to scale our technology platform, and to increase our global reach and expand our content, beyond what we'd do normally.
Why did you decide to take investment now?
Eric Robison: There's a couple of reasons. They might sound very cliche, but one is you want to take funding when you don't need it. And, in a sense, the marketplace is really right now to take on an investment. At the same time, we've also grown to a size where we can leverage the opportunities we probably couldn't have leveraged before. We now have the management team in place, the systems in place, and the momentum with the business to take advantage of the funding. While we could have taken on some money earlier, we couldn't have leveraged it as we can today.
It looks like you've also grown significantly across multiple locations?
Eric Robison: Our main headquarters is now in Carpinteria, where we now have a campus occupying seven buildings. We've also got two more buildings we'll be expanding into. We've also got a facility in Calabasas which we're just finishing renovating. We already had a presence there, and are moving into a standalone building in Calabasas focused on web development. We also have sales offices in the UK and in Australia.
How many employees do you have now at the company?
Eric Robison: We now have 400 employees.
What's next for the firm now you have this funding?
Eric Robison: We're not going to spend it all right way, of course. There are many opportunities for us. International is one of the first areas to focus on. We also want to expand and work on our web platform, as the scaling of the business requires us to scale that platform. I believe we'll also have opportunities to look at additional content. That's on top of producing 400 courses this year, which is within our normal operating budget.
What's the magic formula which has enabled you to grow this company so fast?
Eric Robison: What's led to the growth is an amazing product. Online learning has proven really effective and efficient for our members. I think that there are lots of companies that chase after more complicated online learning models, but they don't have the learning experience the way Lynda has. I think part of the answer is the product's strength, and the investment we've made in building our online library of courses. I think the second is we've maintained a very strong value proposition, never changed our procing, and continuing to add to the library. And, I think we've also done a good job on focusing on the business and bringing in strong talent. About four years ago, we got very focused on the type of person that we need at Lynda.com, at all levels, and how we go about recruiting. We now have an in-house recruiting team, and added about 115 people last year.