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Lynda.com founder dishes details over breakfast

By   /   Thursday, January 23rd, 2014  /   Comments Off

Lynda.com founder and executive chair Lynda Weinman put new details behind the explosive growth of her digital education company during remarks at the California Lutheran University Corporate Leaders Breakfast.

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Lynda.com founder and executive chair Lynda Weinman put new details behind the explosive growth of her digital education company during remarks at the Jan. 23 California Lutheran University Corporate Leaders Breakfast.

Last year, Carpinteria-based lynda.com raised $103 million in what was the year’s largest venture capital deal and the company’s first use of outside equity funding. At that time, lynda.com’s library of thousands of online courses were English-only, but weeks later it acquired Austria-based video2brain.

The move doubles its offerings while also providing courses in German, French and Spanish. And the company, which has more than $100 million in annual revenue thanks to 4 million subscribers, has added some top tech industry executives to its employee ranks, now exceeding 500.

Weinman is a self-taught tech expert who didn’t touch a computer until age 28 but soon “became obsessed with what it could do,” she told about 300 executives at the Santa Barbara breakfast. Wearing her trademark black-rimmed glasses, Weinman said that she never planned on a career in education, but was invited to teach at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena after delivering a lecture on her pioneering work that used digital animation to model film sets.

Disappointed in her options for teaching materials, Weinman hoped to write a Web design book for “mere mortals,” but it was turned down by print publishers. Refusing defeat, she purchased the domain name lynda.com to compile educational articles that cataloged her own technological learning journey.

“At first I thought the Internet was kind of strange,” Weinman said of her first Web experience, when she was shown a screen with a pot of coffee brewing in Oxford, England. “But then I realized it was a brand new medium to share the material I taught.”

The company is attempting to regain traction in the global market, an area where it received traffic in its early days as a physical training center in Ojai. At the time, colleges didn’t offer courses on Web design, and people traveled from across the globe to study under Weinman. A student from Vienna enrolled in her very first class. “You can be a global company just by the fact that you have a website,” Weinman said.

Though the Ojai center generated $1.7 million in revenue in its first year of business, the bursting of the dot-com bubble and collapse in air travel after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks forced the company to retreat into cyberspace. With its Internet subscriptions into the millions, the company announced Jan. 20 it was hiring new executives to renew its push for an international presence.

It has hired Alex Zivoder as vice president and managing director of Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Prior to joining lynda.com, he was chief operating officer and managing director for Europe at concert ticket firm viagogo, senior vice president at Expedia, and managing director at Tele2Group.

Lynda.com also hired Shveta Mujumdar as vice president of corporate development, a veteran of performance advertising firm QuinStreet, Ticketmaster and a former investment banker with Goldman Sachs.

Ken Sandy, who has led business units in the U.S. and China and is a Berkeley Industry Fellow through UC Berkeley’s Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology, joined the firm as vice president of product. And Michael Lydon, who led the technology and infrastructure operations at Westlake Village-based digital advertising firm ValueClick, has been named vice president of technology operations.

Lynda.com is among the top 1,000 websites in the U.S and has logged 4 million paid subscribers from 150 countries. Among those members are companies such as Adobe and Apple, and even the Office of the President of the United States. “I asked for a copy of the invoice so I could see the presidential seal,” she recalled.

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