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Coursera’s 2023 Annual Report: Big 5 Domination, Layoffs, Lawsuit, and Patents

Coursera sees headcount decrease and faces lawsuit in 2023, invests in proprietary content while relying on Big 5 partners.

Last month, Coursera released its 10-K, or annual report. These hefty documents (this one clocks in at 150 pages!) are required for public companies, offering a deep dive into their finances and business operations.

I’ve made a habit of digging into 10-Ks and other financial reports for Class Central, previously analyzing companies including Coursera, Udemy, Thinkific, along with nonprofits Khan Academy and edX (back when it was independent).

If you’re craving more business and financial details, stay tuned! I’ll soon be updating my in-depth analysis of Coursera’s financials. But in this article, we’ll focus on some lesser-known information that’s typically not discussed. For a quick recap of high-level numbers, you can find my summary here.

The Big 5 Dominate

Coursera’s reliance on a few key partners continues to grow.

In 2023, the top 5 content and credentialing partners generated a staggering 32% of the company’s total revenue, up from 30% the previous year. This translates to over $200 million annually.

Given my previous analysis that Google’s content alone brings in over $100 million, it’s clear why Coursera has shifted focus towards industry-led content in recent years.

This emphasis raises an interesting question: how many of Coursera’s top 5 revenue generators are actually universities?

2024 Layoffs and Shrinking Employees

Coursera experienced growth in its employee base during 2022. At the end of the year, the company had 1,401 full-time employees, up from 1,138 at the end of 2021. This growth occurred despite layoffs that Coursera conducted in November 2022.

In 2023, Coursera’s employee base decreased to 1,295 full-time employees. This decrease is likely due to natural attrition rather than additional layoffs. The company’s 10-K report doesn’t specify any organizational changes.

However, there was a small restructuring in the Enterprise sales team in January 2024:

“In January 2024, we implemented a plan to restructure our Enterprise segment sales force and expect to recognize incremental operating expenses, related to the restructuring, of $2 million to $3 million during the three months ended March 31, 2024, substantially all of which will be paid within the quarter.”

Investment in Private Company

In August 2023, Coursera acquired a 7% ownership interest in a privately held company. As of December 31, 2023, the recorded value of this investment on Coursera’s books is $1.7M. The name of the privately held company remains undisclosed.

Coursera’s only acquisition to date was Rhyme in 2019, now powering its Guided Projects. My analysis of Coursera’s S-1 filing revealed the acquisition price to be $10 million.

Class Action Lawsuit for Using Meta/Facebook Pixel

In November 2023, Coursera was hit with a class action lawsuit in California. The lawsuit alleges Coursera disclosed customers’ video viewing history and personal information to Meta Platforms without consent, violating privacy rights and the Video Privacy Protection Act.

In January 2024, Coursera filed a motion to dismiss.

Coursera’s Patent Portfolio

Coursera mentions in its 10-K that it holds 20 issued patents with expiration dates between 2034 and 2040. These patents cover platform technology features such as identity verification, content delivery, navigation, and automation. The company also has several patents pending.

In a follow-up article, I might take a closer look at Coursera’s patent portfolio — you can find it with a quick Google Patents search. Interestingly, they had this one patent, “Content discovery using a skills graph,” which thankfully is listed as “abandoned”. Because, that’s pretty much what we’ve been doing at Class Central for the past decade, just calling them “subjects” instead of “skills.”

DeepLearning.AI Revenues

DeepLearning.AI revenue over the years
2019 $5.9 million
2020 $6.1 million
2021 $6.5 million
2022 $5.7 million
2023 $7.4 million
Total $31.6 million

DeepLearning.AI, founded by Coursera co-founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors, Andrew Ng, offers over 100+ courses and specializations on the Coursera platform. To ensure transparency, Coursera discloses payments made to DeepLearning.AI under “Related Party Transactions” due to this potential conflict of interest.

Shift Towards Proprietary Content

While not explicitly mentioned in the 10-K, Coursera highlighted a significant shift towards proprietary content production during its recent earnings call. This move aims to enhance catalog exclusivity and earn better margins. The company plans to invest approximately $20 million in content assets in 2024, a substantial increase from the $5 million invested in 2023.

Dhawal Shah Profile Image

Dhawal Shah

Dhawal is the CEO of Class Central, the most popular search engine and review site for online courses and MOOCs. He has completed over a dozen MOOCs and has written over 200 articles about the MOOC space, including contributions to TechCrunch, EdSurge, Quartz, and VentureBeat.

Comments 4

  1. Marcus

    ” The company plans to invest approximately $20 million in content assets in 2024, a substantial increase from the $5 million invested in 2023.”

    I hope not only in Google certificates or AI. Actually it seems Coursera is the Google/AI company, and other topics fall behind. I can understand a company invest there where the big money is possible, but in my view it is also necessarily to hold a healthy balance in their content portfolio.

  2. Raj

    Who are the Big 5, only Google is mentioned?

  3. Dennis

    Hi Dhawal Shah,

    Are you aware Coursera has restricted free content to Coursera Lite today?

    Now users have to pay USD9 per month to just audit the courses.

    That will turn poor people like me away. The education gap will be even wider.

    Bad move Coursera!


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