Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Former MTV Exec Mika Salmi Thinks Live Online Education Is the Next Big Thing (Video)

Longtime tech media executive Mika Salmi was trying to make a transition to something more meaningful — like cleantech — after a career spent at MTV Networks, Atom Entertainment and RealNetworks.

Mika Salmi

He joined the board of a clean fuel company and considered becoming the CEO, but felt like someone with a deeper scientific background would be a better fit.

Then Salmi came across a little online continuing-education company, CreativeLive, which felt much more like home. It had been profitable since it started in April 2010, had a media angle to it because all the classes are shot as high-quality live broadcasts, and seemed to be a way to “give back,” since the live classes are free.

Salmi joined last June and helped raised $7.5 million in funding from investors including Greylock Ventures, then recently upped that round to a total of $8 million by adding some strategic talent finders at Creative Artists Agency, William Morris Endeavor, CrunchFund and Google Ventures.

In that time, the CreativeLive team has grown to 45 from just six people and set out to build studios in San Francisco (the company started in Seattle).

CreativeLive attracted nearly 150,000 people from 178 countries for a recent week-long Photoshop course — which Salmi said he thinks could be the biggest “MOOC” (massive open online course) ever, given that Udacity previously touted a 103,000-student class.

All together, students have consumed more than 10 million hours of free content on the CreativeLive platform.

And the amount of content available to them is rapidly expanding; CreativeLive is now airing 15 classes per month, compared to four per month last year. New classes will come from established stars and experts brought in by the new strategic investors, Salmi said.

Salmi explained that what distinguishes CreativeLive from competitors like is that its content is shot in front of an audience and streamed live.

Users can pay $100 to watch a class again after the initial airing, but the live experience is interactive, dynamic and recalibrated based on students’ responses. “It becomes an event,” Salmi said.

Watch Salmi explain the advantage of live in our not-at-all live video interview below, and how he envisions CreativeLive building an always-on network of live classes:

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik