DataCamp Nabs $4M for Data Science Courses, Moves to NY

Xconomy Boston — 

Data scientists remain in high demand. But these days, many types of professionals can boost their career prospects if they have at least a basic level of “data literacy,” says Jonathan Cornelissen.

That’s part of the reason why he says his online education company, DataCamp, has been growing over the past couple of years. DataCamp, which recently raised $4 million from investors, offers approximately 80 short training courses that teach data science skills to beginners and help experts sharpen their abilities.

“In almost every sector, almost every company is struggling to find not just hardcore data science talent, but even people who are data literate,” says Cornelissen, the company’s co-founder and CEO. (He’s pictured above in the center, with co-founders Dieter De Mesmaeker (left) and Martijn Theuwissen.)

DataCamp’s users work in tech, finance, healthcare, and consulting, to name a few sectors. The company’s students “want to get better at analyzing data,” Cornelissen says. “They understand in today’s world it’s crucial. People get ahead in their career faster if they become more data literate.”

The content for DataCamp’s courses is developed by its instructors, who come from academia and industry. The courses tend to run about four hours long, featuring a mix of video lessons and interactive coding exercises. The courses provide training on writing software code, importing and cleaning up unstructured data, visualizing data, training machine learning models, and related skills. DataCamp currently focuses on the R, Python, and SQL programming languages, with plans to expand its offerings, Cornelissen says.

DataCamp’s hands-on approach to online instruction has won over a lot of people: the company has over 1.2 million users, including more than 33,000 individual paying subscribers, Cornelissen says. The company has also started selling directly to companies that want to incorporate DataCamp courses in their training programs for new and current employees. DataCamp currently has over 200 corporate clients, he says.

The four-year-old company’s revenue is growing by more than 10 percent each month, Cornelissen says. Its annualized recurring revenue is currently more than $8 million, and that figure is projected to reach $12 million by the end of this year, he says. DataCamp is breaking even on its cash flow.

“We’ve been growing really fast,” Cornelissen says.

DataCamp’s traction is worth highlighting as an example of an online education firm building a solid business in a crowded field. Its growth also demonstrates that the demand for skilled data scientists apparently shows no signs of abating.

Now, DataCamp wants to grow faster with the help of a recently closed $4 million funding round, a mix of equity and other securities, according to an SEC filing. The investment was led by Arthur Ventures, with contributions from earlier backer Accomplice, Cornelissen says. DataCamp has raised $6.3 million total from investors, he says.

Why raise more capital if the company is growing revenues at a healthy clip and is breaking even on its cash flow?

“We want to keep growing the team, and we don’t want to take unnecessary risks,” Cornelissen explains. “There’s an enormous opportunity.”

DataCamp currently employs 40 people, and Cornelissen says it plans to increase the staff to 60 by the end of the year. The company plans to build out its sales team to more actively market its online training courses to businesses, Cornelissen says. (DataCamp will continue selling directly to individuals as well.) Currently, almost all of its enterprise sales come from companies reaching out to DataCamp, he adds.

“It’s coming from individual people within these companies that really enjoy the learning experience, and they tell their boss or people in the learning department, ‘Hey, you should get a DataCamp subscription,” he says.

About half of DataCamp’s team is based in Europe, mainly in Belgium, where the company was founded. The other half of the staff is located in the U.S.

For the past two years, most of DataCamp’s U.S. employees have been working from the company’s corporate headquarters in Cambridge, MA, where Accomplice is based. But DataCamp is in the process of moving out of its Boston-area office and relocating to a recently opened headquarters in New York. The move is actually a return to New York for the company, which set up shop there to take part in the local Techstars program in early 2015, Xconomy previously reported.

Boston is a fertile area for hiring technical talent, Cornelissen says. But as DataCamp shifts more of its focus to ramping up its commercial operations, it’s having an easier time finding sales and marketing talent with an understanding of data science in New York, he says. The company also has a lot of corporate clients in New York, he adds.

“We did not want the inefficiency of having two offices on the East Coast,” he says.

In addition to the enterprise sales push, DataCamp will invest in mobile tools; its product for practicing skills; and a product launching later this summer that will help users create their own data science projects, Cornelissen says.

One question that remains is whether the huge demand for data scientists will last. As DataCamp continues to build out its training offerings, companies like Boston-based DataRobot are developing software aimed at automating as many data science tasks as possible.

Cornelissen doesn’t see that as a threat to his company.

“While I understand and I appreciate the marketing value of saying, ‘We’re automating data scientists,’ there’s a reality where at the end of the day, every company is starving for data science talent,” he says. “It’s really helpful for them to have some kind of data literacy, even if for some tasks they use solutions that automate some of the less interesting work. I see those things as complementary.”