Udacity turns seven years old today. I’ve been with the company almost since its inception. I was employee #3! It was a very different company then, in so many ways. And yet, the reasons I joined then, are still the reasons I am here today.
I was already aware, from personal experience, that there were serious cracks in our higher education system. Too many people didn’t have the access they deserved. They weren’t getting the support they needed. They weren’t able to learn the skills required to advance their lives and careers. I joined Udacity because I wanted to change this. I wanted to help people transform their lives through greater access to education.
In 2011, two Stanford instructors, Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig, made what would prove to be a revolutionary decision—they decided to offer their “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” course for free online, while simultaneously teaching it in-person at Stanford. Public response was incredible—online enrollment was capped at 160,000, with students enrolling from more than 190 different countries. But if that was unexpected, the results at the end of the course were even more so. 412 students from the general public performed better than the best Stanford student.
This was the beginning of what would become Udacity, and this was the company I joined.