The MOOC that spawned three startups

When Stanford professor Chuck Eesley headed down south to speak at the accelerator Start-Up Chile, he received an unexpected email from an old student named Ivo Georgiev, Pando Daily reports. Georgiev’s company was in the Chilean accelerator, and he was excited that Eesley was coming to visit. Georgiev  had met his co-founders and formed his business in Eesley’s class months prior.

But there’s a twist — Professor Eesley had no idea who Georgiev was. They had never met, Georgiev wasn’t a Stanford student, and prior to getting the email, Eesley never knew he helped Georgiev launch a VC-backed startup.

This is the bright, bold world of MOOCs — Massive Open Online Courses. Since 2012, Professor Eesley has been teaching a MOOC in technology entrepreneurship that is nearly identical to his popular intro course at Stanford. To set up the online class, he partnered with MOOC company NovoED to offer the curriculum free for anyone around the world. Despite the fact that the class is entirely online, students form teams to do startup projects.

Eesley has taught four sessions of the MOOC at this point, and at least three startup companies have spun out of the class.

… Eesley guesses there are more MOOC-spawned companies out there that haven’t contacted him. Four sessions of the class has run, and at 30,000 per MOOC that’s 120,000 grads, although the completion rate is probably much lower. All over the globe, Eesley constantly runs into students who have taken his online class.

He was headed to Hong Kong for a conference, tweeted it, and a team from his online class messaged him to say they were based there and wanted to pick him up at the airport.

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