Toronto-based Disco, which has developed a platform allowing users to build live virtual learning experiences, has raised an oversubscribed $6 million CAD ($4.75 million USD) seed round of funding, as the market for virtual learning experiences continues to see traction.
“Online learning has been as massive a behaviour shift as curbside pick up this past year.”
– Sarah Lacy, Chairman Mom
With this investment, Disco has raised approximately $5 million USD to date. Investors in the 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 Clearbanc’s Michele Romanow. The proceeds will be used to bring Disco’s product to market and make additional hires.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a surge in demand for online learning. Beyond K-12 and post-secondary edtech products, recent skill-building platforms like Skillshare and Masterclass are appealing to those looking to hone their skills or learn new ones.
A 2020 report from ResearchandMarkets.com indicated that the e-learning market is expected to display significant growth opportunities over the next five years. The Great Courses, an online learning service that offers a series of college-level audio and video courses, claims new subscriptions have tripled compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Disco is looking to be a part of this burgeoning market. The startup aims to help creators deliver a cohort-based live learning experience, offering users branding, live video, group chat, and the ability to scale beyond a workshop or course into what the company called “an ongoing learning community.”
In an emailed statement to BetaKit, Disco co-founder Candice Faktor said that, similar to how Shopify focuses on merchants, Disco will focus on the creators looking to host live learning experiences.
“Disco reminds me a lot of what we did in commerce,” added Shopify vice president of product and general manager of platform Brandon Chu. “We empowered entrepreneurs to go direct to customers and disrupt traditional retail, just like Disco is enabling creators to disrupt traditional education. The team is mission-driven: helping creators be entrepreneurs with the ability to own their brand, customers and revenue.”
The startup was founded in 2020, originally as Mastermind, but recently changed its name to Disco. Prior to its seed round, the company raised a small, undisclosed friends and family round last year. Disco is currently live and in closed beta, with an early-access waitlist of creators.
Graham Hill, founder of TreeHugger and The Carbonauts, SaaS coach Dan Martell, Sarah Lacy, CEO of Chairman Mom, and Heather Payne, CEO of Juno College of Technology, are a few of the currently announced creators with the Disco platform.
“Online learning has been as massive a behaviour shift as curbside pick up this past year, but most of the tools are designed for a pre-pandemic era,” said Lacy. “As a founder whose company grew 10x in 2020 from online courses, I can tell you how limited the tools are, especially if you want a mix of asynchronous and live and community. There is nothing else in the market like this, and it’s coming at the exact right time for thousands of creators around the globe.”
Disco’s founders have both previously served in notable roles within the Canadian tech industry. Faktor runs Faktory Ventures, where she advises and invests in early-stage companies.
Faktor also was the general manager of Wattpad, which was recently acquired by South Korean internet company Naver Corp for approximately $750 million CAD. Disco’s other co-founder, Chris Sukornyk previously founded Chango, a performance marketing platform that sold for $120 million.
Faktor told BetaKit her priorities for this year are to continue building Disco’s product and expand its community of creators.
“Our goals for 2021 are to build all in one platform for creators to build live learning experiences and to continue to build a community of creators that want to scale their learning empire,” Faktor said. “We plan to slowly onboard the hundreds of creators signed up for our waitlist.”
Image source Unsplash. Photo by Priscilla Du Preez.