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Does IPO Stock Udemy Have a Competitive Advantage?

By Jon Quast and Travis Hoium – Nov 9, 2021 at 10:45AM

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The key to a two-sided marketplace is to open both funnels as wide as possible and Udemy is doing that.

At the end of October, education marketplace Udemy (UDMY 2.76%) went public at $29 per share. The initial public offering (IPO) didn't turn many heads -- the stock has had low trading volume and is down almost 15%. But Fool contributor Jon Quast believe Udemy stock should be on your radar.

In this video from Motley Fool Backstage Pass, recorded on Oct. 25, Jon talks it over with fellow contributors Danny Vena and Travis Hoium. While Udemy does have competitors, there's a differentiated aspect to its business model that may give it a competitive advantage.

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Danny Vena: I guess the only question I have about it is, what differentiates Udemy from somebody like Coursera (COUR 0.25%) for instance, who has a lot of courses, skill development, well, also university level college classes?

Jon Quast: Where do you see the market is heading? Do you see that more people are heading for the accreditation or do you see more people are going for the improvement of their knowledge and the paper doesn't matter as much? I think that that's one distinguishing factor there with Coursera. They have the integration with the universities.

But the other thing that I like about Udemy's business model is the fact that the barrier to entry to creating a course is non-existent. You and I could create a course and put it up on Udemy, whether or not anyone's going to use it is a different question, but the fact that anyone can come in and create that course, to me, the more volume of courses that you have pumping through Udemy, the more chances that users are going to come there and find something that they're looking for. That's how I see it.

Vena: I like the idea that I could create a course. Maybe I would do, The Care and Wearing of Hawaiian Shirts or something.

Quast: I'd subscribe to that.

Vena: [laughs] Travis.

Travis Hoium: Is the idea here that this is more democratizing both the supply side and the demand side of the education market? Because a lot of these, if you're not accredited, you don't have the name Harvard behind you or something like that, maybe there's a disadvantage on that as far as the value goes. But if what you're saying is right, and what matters is what I learn and not necessarily who I learn it from, maybe that's a differentiation for them, is democratizing both sides of that. That actually might give them more power in the marketplace, because they have basically leveraged the pull for extracting value from both sides of that.

Quast: I'd agree with that. It's interesting that there's not accreditation and yet you have such a big, growing enterprise side of the business. Companies are saying, "We just want you to know this stuff. We want our employees to learn this material." They don't care that their employees even have the accreditation with it. That is an interesting aspect.

Another thing that I really like, when you think about this, when you do open up both sides of the thing, you incorporate these learners who don't necessarily want the paper because they don't want to spend the money or whatever it may be, they just want to learn the skill, and you open up the other side where I don't have the accreditation but I do have the knowledge that I could share and pass on. When you get that going -- I think the marketplaces succeed, they have clear network effects.

Long time ago, it was hard to be an Etsy seller because there wasn't hardly anyone on Etsy buying anything. Now that's changed. Now it's an attractive place to go sell my handmade things. I think that that plays into any marketplace business, Udemy included. The more courses that you have, the more attractive it is for somebody like me looking to upgrade my skills, but also vice versa. The more people there are on the platform, the more likely Danny is to share his knowledge of Hawaiian shirts with the world.

Hoium: [laughs] Well, and maybe another analogy, I guess, as I try to wrap my head around this company is, YouTube has become a go-to place for learning and teaching a lot of different things. As I've become involved in VR and AR industry, that's where you go to gain knowledge. This is maybe just a little bit more formalized. You're right. If you're a company and you're looking at, I need to have my employees check a box, it doesn't need to be a box by Harvard, but it needs to be a box that I can at least track what they're doing. I'm not just going to send them a bunch of YouTube links. I may send them to Udemy. Maybe that's a bullish case for them long-term.

Travis Hoium has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Etsy. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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