This article is written by Jeremiah Uke, a Contributor Author at Startup Istanbul.
Eren Bali is an entrepreneur, CEO, and co-founder of Carbon Health, for 9 years and counting he has also served as a co-founder and CEO of Udemy, an online learning platform used all over the world, Eren was present as a speaker at the Etohum Startup Istanbul 2014 conference, where he narrated his journey with his now global ed-tech startup.
Eren Bali studied computer science and mathematics in Ankara, after which he was in Turkey with his co-founders in 2007 when they decided to start a company which would be a platform for anybody who wants to teach online, born in a small village, Eren’s primary school was one where one teacher was allocated to many grades, so 80% of the time the teachers were not available to teach them. Eren was motivated by the extent his contemporaries would go to make sure they did not miss classes, sometimes they had to walk miles to get to school.
Even though Eren studied computer science and mathematics in the university, but still Eren studied Mathematics through the internet which helped him win medals at a competition. In the university, Eren spent a total of 50-60 hours throughout his stay. This is because Eren did not think the school was good enough to learn anything you want to learn.
Eren started Udemy because he realized that the internet would one day become the primary destination to learn anything, so why not build a business around it. Initially, the first version of Udemy launched as a software and two weeks later it was clear that I would not work. There were two main problems; the infrastructure was not good enough, the second is that Turkey was not the right place to do it.
Eren worked 2 full-time jobs to be able to fund the company, his first job was with the Udemy team, while the second one was as an engineer at Speedate, he would get paid his fulltime salary and distribute it to like 5 people in the startup. he literally had to work with Udemy from 11 am during the day and resume his second shift at 7pm-5am at night.
One thing Eren realized is that if you want to start a marketplace, you have to start in a place where you have the highest density of influential users. These include companies like Linkedin, one of the many reasons They left Turkey for Silicon Valley. Eren learned about growth and how to acquire customers.
4 years after, Eren and his co-founder decided to rebuild Udemy to be an on-demand learning platform, initially, they tried to raise funds and got about 6 investors turning them down. They built the product, launched it and tried to raise funds again and got a lot of declines still. Some of the criticism from an investor was that the content on the platform should be made free, people also suggested that nobody will pay for digital content.