Skillshare: inspiring discovery through creativity
Skillshare is the e-learning platform that fosters your creativity, whether your objective is advancing your career or learning new hobbies
“It is estimated that nearly 4 billion people across the globe have a creative profession or passion. At Skillshare, we’re working to make sure all of those people have access to training and support that enables them to harness that creative energy and put it into real-life practice.”
— Matt Cooper, Skillshare CEO
The market of online learning experienced significant growth over the last decade, and with the restrictions introduced following the COVID-19 pandemic, the possibility of learning new skills from home has become even more appealing. According to research firm MarketResearch, the global Online Learning Software and Platform market size will reach USD 19.130 billion in 2028, growing at a CAGR of 16.3%.
Skillshare is an online learning platform that experienced significant growth during the pandemic. Founded in 2010 as an in-person tutoring network, it managed over the years to create a market for vocational skills acquisition and became the world’s largest online learning platform for creativity, with a wide variety of classes on illustration, photography, design, writing and web development. Today, Skillshare offers pre-recorded classes, workshops, live sessions and count over 30,000 classes, 8,000 teachers and more than 12 million members.
In January 2020, just before the pandemic heavily hit the world, Skillshare went through a brand relaunch. The new strategy stressed the importance of creating a worldwide network to enable creative and curious users to make discoveries about their passions and abilities. While the majority of competitors (Coursera, EdX) in the remote learning market focus on academic training for professional enrichment, Skillshare sees online learning as a new form of entertainment that can meet the needs of everyone, whether for personal or professional purposes. Skillshare’s founder defines the platform as the “Netflix for classes”. The business model is also very similar to Netflix. Skillshare does not run ads and is completely funded by its users’ subscriptions.
The new strategy proved to be particularly successful during the pandemic: new membership sign-ups tripled, with existing members watching three times the number of lessons. In fact, with people isolated at home and having more free time, many of them started exploring new hobbies or discovering a hidden creative talent. In this setting, Skillshare created value in two main ways:
1) by matching users with freelance teachers (Skillshare itself does not create content);
2) by helping users navigate their passions or find skills to work on.
The second point is key in the online education market. One of the main challenges for online learners is to discover hidden passions while navigating a catalog of thousands of classes. This barrier can reduce users’ long-term engagement with the platform. Skillshare, through AI algorithms that analyze learning profiles of customers, promotes targeted classes for each user, making the experience personalized.
The brand relaunch also helped the company find new investors. In August 2020, Skillshare CEO announced $66 million in new funding from OMERS Growth Equity.
After a significant growth during the first phases of the pandemic, Skillshare is now called to face a new set of challenges.
The company is now hoping to expand internationally. Two-thirds of new memberships already come from outside the US, but access to Skillshare classes can be hindered by linguistic barriers. One possible option to make international users get value from the platform would be letting teachers upload classes in local languages. However, this could foster a fragmentation of the Skillshare global community. For this reason, the plan is to remain focused on English content, introducing subtitles in different languages.
Another important aspect to consider for the future of Skillshare is its pricing method. Skillshare originally offered a free plan that included access to a limited selection of courses. However, since 2021, Skillshare content is only available by purchasing a monthly (32$/month) or annual (168$/month) membership.
When considering the extensive catalog users are getting access to, the price seems more than reasonable. Nevertheless, with people returning to their pre-pandemic routines, time dedicated to online learning can experience a drastic reduction. Therefore, users may be able to complete only a small number of classes in a year, finding the membership too costly for their needs. Skillshare competitors that do not use a subscription-based method could benefit from the consequences of that pricing strategy. Udemy, for example, gives creators the opportunity to decide the price of their courses and users can choose the individual courses to purchase.
In conclusion, Skillshare can be considered a winner of the pandemic because it successfully filled the gap left by the lack of in-person activities with the provision of personalized learning experiences obtained analyzing data of thousands of users’ learning journeys.
 “The Rise Of Online Learning.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/ilkerkoksal/2020/05/02/the-rise-of-online-learning/?sh=25904ba272f3 (accessed Feb. 12, 2022).
 “Global Online Learning Software and Platform Market Growth (Status and Outlook) 2022-2028.” https://www-marketresearch-com.prd2.ezproxy-prod.hbs.edu/LP-Information-Inc-v4134/Global-Online-Learning-Software-Platform-30804006/ (accessed Feb. 12, 2022).
 “Coronavirus Lockdowns Spark Boom in Online Learning for Adults, Too – WSJ.” https://www.wsj.com/articles/coronavirus-lockdowns-spark-boom-in-home-schooling-for-grown-ups-11590053401 (accessed Feb. 12, 2022).
 “Skillshare Raises $66 Million in Series D Funding, Led by OMERS Growth Equity: Leading Online Learning Platform Will Expand Access to Creative Courses Globally – ProQuest.” https://www.proquest.com/docview/2431786945/E7BA6705AE404F3APQ/5?accountid=11311 (accessed Feb. 12, 2022).
 “Skillshare Review 2021: Is It Worth the Cost? It Depends.” https://www.businessinsider.com/guides/learning/how-skillshare-learning-platform-works-review (accessed Feb. 12, 2022).
 “Skillshare vs Udemy: Pros and Cons of Two Titans – Online Course Rater.” https://onlinecourserater.com/skillshare-vs-udemy-pros-and-cons-of-two-titans/ (accessed Feb. 12, 2022).
Student comments on Skillshare: inspiring discovery through creativity
Thank you for the article, Sebastiano. I find it interesting that they marketed themselves as the “Netflix for classes” and have adopted a similar membership approach. One question remaining in my mind is how Skillshare is able to “vet” the uploaded content. I think this will be particularly important as they continue to expand internationally. Could, for example, a market emerge from the desire to learn skills from local specialists (i.e. culinary techniques from France, artisanship from Japan, etc.)? With the amount of content available, how do they ensure quality? Would they ever consider investing more heavily on their in-house production capabilities like Netflix did? Would they ever go back to in-person opportunities akin to an “AirBnB experience”? Will a trend emerge post-pandemic that individuals yearn for in-person community building around passion and creative interests versus online experiences? Perhaps more interestingly, with disruptive technologies displacing workers and forcing upskilling, would they ever consider offering credentials in the future? With the realm of possibilities, I am curious to see how the company tackles the next phase of operations.
Other question related to Heili’s: How does Skillshare’s “vetting” process look if the company decides to move into more controversial topics? For example, would an aromatherapy “expert” be allowed on the platform? Who decides what IS and ISNT a legitimate skillset, and how is that transparently shown?
Sebastiano, thank you for this wonderful piece! And thank you Heili and Sutton for your terrific questions as well!
I had the same thought as Heili about Skillshare beginning to produce in-house content, both as a viable business venture and as a way to assure quality.
I really love Skillshare’s emphasis on lifelong learning that allows people to develop their passions. This is terrific, and I think it complements the more academically-oriented Coursera and EdX. Micro-credentialing for passions (i.e., photography or creativity) is an interesting idea, and I wonder about the utility of these micro-credentials. I’m excited to see the future of Skillshare!