What Substack is to newsletters, Disco may become to live learning. The startup has closed a $19 million CAD ($15 million USD) Series A funding round from the investors behind MasterClass and Coursera to enable its creators to potentially earn a living from their live learning communities.
Noted EdTech investor GSV Ventures led the round with participation from Inovia Capital, Golden Ventures, and angels from Degreed, Shopify, Solana, Wattpad, Wealthsimple, Clearco and Indiegogo. Funds from the round will be used for product development, scaling go-to-market, and hiring. The round of fresh funding closed at the end of February.
“Creators and organizations of all sizes need a Shopify-like platform to run their live learning business.”
“Disco realizes that live learning is the future and creators and organizations of all sizes need a Shopify-like platform to run their live learning business,” said Deborah Quazzo, Managing Partner at GSV Ventures, who will join the company’s board of directors. “We are excited to back this all-star team pioneering the future of live learning.”
For her part, Disco co-founder Candice Faktor was equally effusive about GSV Ventures and Quazzo. Faktor called GSV one of the most prominent and important EdTech investors in the world, funding Coursera, MasterClass, Guild, and other startups. Faktor told BetaKit that Quazzo brings a wealth of experience and understanding of education technology as well as a large network.
“She’s been unbelievably supportive to us on our mission,” Faktor noted.
In the same way Substack allows writers to build and monetize newsletters, Disco enables creators to do the same with online learning communities.
“We believe knowledge creators are the entrepreneurs of the future and they deserve a platform that gives them ownership and control of their empire,” said Faktor.
Disco — the Latin word for learn — offers a platform to create and teach, learn and engage, market and sell, and operate and scale a live learning empire, according to the startup.
While Disco has what Faktor characterized as “hundreds” of creators who use its free starter tier, it’s premium platform is where all the buzz is being generated. Like Substack, which has actively attracted big name authors to come write on its newsletter platform, Disco has done the same with its Disco Studios.
Disco Studios provides Disco’s platform to premium creators, but also aids them with strategy, design, marketing and sales, and curriculum and community design.
Among the premium creators are the dean of the Rotman School of Management, Roger Martin; New Yorker writer Adam Davidson, and Olympic gold medal sprinter, Andre De Grasse.
Perhaps Disco’s biggest addition to its premium creators portfolio is globally-recognized Canadian author, Margaret Atwood.
Demonstrating the power of influencer networks to scale a startup, Atwood’s learning experience features an extensive line-up of guests, including the author Dave Eggers, environmentalist David Suzuki, and environmental writer Bill McKibben,among others. Disco says that more than 700 people have signed up for Atwood’s learning experience.
Faktor described Atwood as a “cultural icon” who likes using and creating new experiences with technology. “What she was really interested in was not teaching a creative writing course but rather building a live learning community around practical solutions to helping some of our biggest problems,” Faktor said.
Faktor and her co-founder Chris Sukornyk began Disco in 2020. Before Disco, Faktor worked as the general manager and head of business at Wattpad, but left before the company was acquired by Naver Corp. in 2021 to start seed fund Faktory Ventures. Faktory Ventures is now a division of community group Gamechanger, which just so happened to be the inspiration for Disco.
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For his part, Sukornyk is six-times serial tech entrepreneur, who founded Chango. The performance marketing startup sold for $122 million to the Rubicon Project in 2015. After the sale of Chango, Sukornyk joined Mantella Venture Partners as a venture partner.
Disco closed an oversubscribed $6 million seed round in 2021. Investors in that round included Quiet Capital, Golden Ventures, Inovia, and GSV, as well as a number of angel investors, including Wattpad co-founder Ivan Yuen, Shopify’s Satish Kanwar and Brandon Chu, and Clearco’s Michele Romanow.
What’s next for Disco? Like most startups today, conversations about Web3 and the metaverse abound: the company says NFT certificates, wallet integration, and crypto payment protocols are all on the product roadmap for 2022.
“If you think about what the experience is today of how we are live together, we think it is a very early version of where a learning metaverse will ultimately be,” Faktor said. “We think we’ll continue to innovate and ideate on how we can learn to live together in a virtual metaverse.”
Feature image of Margaret Atwood, courtesy Disco.