Trish Costello

Entrepreneurial Thinking Shifts the World

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Touched by an Entrepreneur’s Message…


The following simple email message was in my in-box today.  There were no pictures, big logo’s, or branding messages.  I added Eren’s picture to my blog but it wasn’t in his message.  Just a short simple story telling us about how his life experience compelled him to create Udemy, and the perseverance it took to grow it.  How he went to a one-room school in Turkey with little opportunity to learn, but his life was changed by acquiring advanced knowledge of math over the internet. About his desire to bring education to all over the internet and, after an initial failure in Turkey, how he moved to Silicon Valley and found funding after 50 VC pitches.   Now they’ve closed a  $12M series B round of capital and are growing rapidly.  

I had the opportunity to see one of Eren’s very early pitches a couple of years ago at a tech meet-up in Palo Alto.  It was far from smooth and there were a lot of missing ingredients, but there was no mistaking the possibility of magic.  A fresh approach to an awakening and gigantic market, with a passionate team that just wouldn’t accept failure.     I became a supporter that day.  I use their products and promote them to others.  I follow their success.  They’re in a wildly shifting market right now, surrounded by a plethora of big competitors, but they continue to advance. 

Eren’s story captures the essence of entrepreneurial creativity–A perfect reminder, especially around the holidays, of the impact each of us can have on the world around us if we move unceasingly and courageously toward our dreams.  


Hey Trish,

I’m Eren Bali, the CEO and Co-founder of Udemy. I want to thank you for making Udemy such an amazing community.

Recently, a lot of people have asked me why I started the company. The answer lies in my personal story, and I wanted to share it with you today.

I was born in a small village in Turkey. My primary school was a one room schoolhouse where a single teacher tried her best to teach 5 different grades at the same time. That meant we were often left to try and learn from books on our own. As a kid, I was interested and somewhat talented in subjects like mathematics and science, but there was very little room for me to advance my skills.

One day my parents bought my two sisters and me a computer and Internet access for a few months. At the time none of us had any idea how it would change our lives. But once I started using the Internet, I knew I had found a new way to learn.

That’s where I discovered several math forums where people were exchanging problems to work on and a few websites with problem sets used in the Math Olympiads. Even though these forums were clunky and disorganized, they had a huge impact on my life. Long story short, by teaching myself math online, I eventually won a gold medal in the National Math Olympiads in Turkey and a silver medal in the International Math Olympiads.

Later on during college I studied computer science and mathematics. It was there that I met my good friend, and Udemy co-founder, Oktay Caglar. Together we started experimenting with the possibilities offered by the Internet.

So with the power of the Internet, combined with our own challenging educational experiences, we imagined a world where anyone could learn anything — from any expert in the world. It didn’t take us long to realize how much this idea could change people’s lives.

But the journey wasn’t easy.

We first created a product with Udemy’s vision 6 years ago in Turkey. We failed. So we packed our bags and moved to Silicon Valley to give it another shot. We were rejected by more than 50 investors before we launched the company in the Valley. But through it all, we didn’t give up because we believed in the power of the Internet to change how people learn.

We learned from the challenges we faced and eventually our hard work paid off.

It’s on that note that I want to share some exciting news with you. As a result of Udemy’s amazing growth, we just raised $12 million in Series B funding.

As a small thank you, I wanted to share a collection of Udemy courses that I wish I had access to while growing up in Turkey. I hope you enjoy them.

Thank you for making Udemy what is it today.



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Cloud Will Generate 14 Million Jobs By 2015: Thats A Good Start – Forbes

Cloud Will Generate 14 Million Jobs By 2015: Thats A Good Start – Forbes.

One thing we know about the current environment is that today’s trending high value jobs often didn’t even exist just 3-4 short years ago.   That’s a challenge for all of us, especially those working outside the leading tech hubs or coming out of college where curriculum often severely lag new market trends and practice.  Over the next three years, Cloud with create over $1 trillion in revenue and 14 million jobs, many in tech but in all areas of enterprise as well.  The tech world that drives high value jobs in all fields shifts so rapidly that we need an intelligence and preparation unit to keep ourselves ready for the next high value opportunities.  How do we predict and prepare for new opportunities, especially if we’re not in one of the companies on bleeding edge of technology?  Three steps will move you forward:

  • Budget time and dollars for at least 2 events monthly that inform you of new tech break throughs or innovations.  If you live in a thriving tech hub, there will be unlimited meet-ups ( and events available to you to keep your finger on the pulse of change.  Outside the innovation hubs, events are available through webinars, TedTalks and other venues.  You simply can’t afford not to stay on the information edge.
  • Maintain a ‘hot list’ of those in your network who are constantly pushing the technology bounds.  Each week, ping at least one people about something happening in your respective fields, an event, view or thought for the future.  Repurpose it and add it to your blob/tweet.  If you don’t have people ‘in the know’ in your network now, make it your business to add at least one a week — ideally, someone who you met in the meet-up’s above.
  • Investigate the plethora of new high level, self-paced on-line courses.  Udemy is one of my favorites as their instructors are often world-class and practice-focused, and many class units can be experienced for a small amount of cash or free.  Maintain at least one on-going class at all times.

Spending just an hour or two a week can make a huge difference in keeping current on new business methods or technologies.  Today we have to be able to ride the tech wave to ensure professional success.

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Could Many Universities Follow Borders Bookstores Into Oblivion? – Wired Campus

Could Many Universities Follow Borders Bookstores Into Oblivion? – Wired Campus – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Brilliant discussion, and a quick read, on the massive changes happening now in higher education.

The world’s master thinkers  in every field are now widely available to everyone with a computer and many are teaching in MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) to 100’s of thousands of students.   Do we need thousands of mediocre courses/lectures on the same topic around the US or is there a new model for receiving knowledge by the best digitally, and applying it in smaller settings with key teacher/facilitators?     Done right, it will give students a superior learning experience.

Soon we’ll select from the best of many institutions and ‘masters’ putting together our own highly personalized educational curriculum, which will then be certified for quality based on the rigor of that learning experience.   This is a good thing.  The current accreditation system is meaningless in regard to quality and ridiculously expensive.  With this, I believe we’ll see a superior learning experience, delivered in a more efficient and effective way.

Change has come slowly to higher ed–it’s the nature of huge governmental and non-profit entities.  Your memory of college 25 years ago would be similar to today’s reality–except the cost is approximately 20X  what you paid and nothing else in our world is similar, including the demands and career sophistication awaiting the new college grad.  Welcome disruption! Our students and economy deserve it.

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Give entrepreneurs room and they will grow the economy – The Washington Post

The two most important facts for the future of our economy:

40 Million jobs were created over the past three decades by companies in business for five years or less–the equivalent of all net new job creation

40% of Fortune 500 companies started by immigrants or their children.

I’ve brainstormed 100 ways to encourage both–every step we take for the economy should be evaluated based on its ability to generate new enterprises, open systems up to innovation and change, and to encourage new blood (figuratively and actually) into the system.

Give entrepreneurs room and they will grow the economy – The Washington Post.

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The Great Disconnect: Top tech companies focus products on women, but they have no tech women

Giving Women the Access Code –

“As recently as 1985, 37 percent of graduates in the field were women; by 2005 it was down to 22 percent, and sinking.”

Many of the fastest growing tech companies today are targeted to an overwhelming female market–think Pinterest, Groupon, Zygna.    The truth is that to have a vibrant economy and long term tech innovation, women’s talents have to be utilized in software development and product creation. Yet there are few women making a career in software development– the great economic ‘muscle’ in the high value work world today and as far out in the future as we can see.   Women are killing it in other areas–making massive strides in all other fields and professions, as their numbers dwindle in the computer sciences according to a recent article in the NYTimes.

In Giving Women the Access Code,  Harvey Mudd President, Maria Klawe, and others, are working to change this by creating computer sciences programs that appeal to women.   College is the time to both understand the breath of what one is able to learn and do, but also understand the external value proposition of their work.  The same transformation needs to happen in the field.  I know many women who have excelled in engineering or computer science education programs, but left these fields after a few years due to dysfunctional environments that had nothing to do with the actual work responsibilities.     

We need to do three things:

1) Revolutionize the teaching of computer sciences and software development, especially with the newer platforms available, to draw in women of all ages, both through university settings such as Harvey Mudd and the other great CS schools and the growing non-university education platforms, such as Codecademy and Udemy.

2) Recreate software/product development environments, from man caves with man rules to women inclusive environments. I know many amazingly bright women engineers/CS who have left the field, as ‘life is too short to live this way.’  Its not that hard to do–just takes some insight, open-mindedness and a willingness to make changes.

3) Investors should insist on women on the team, when entrepreneurs pitch a company with even a 50% women’s market.  Many of today’s companies have predominant women’s markets, yet no women on the team?!  Come on!  This is not rocket science!  Over the last few years I’ve heard dozens of pitches from young tech guys developing products for women-predominant markets that haven’t a clue about the market they’re looking to serve.  This often doesn’t preclude them for blowing through money–lots of money.  They have unlimited research but still don’t ‘get’ it.  Women around the table, women in the scrum meetings makes you stronger and ‘derisks’ your ventures.

Good for Maria Klawe and others like her–it’s just the beginning of what’s to be done….

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Thank goodness its not about cheese!

Having heard about Sequoia and others investing in a gourmet grilled cheese company by the creator of the Flip Camera, Jonathan Kaplan, who incidently has no experience in restaurants, one was left with only one thought (paraphrasing a silly woman’s book), “Smart People, Foolish Choices!”   Flip founder wants you to melt for grilled cheese – San Francisco Business Times.

After reading through his concept, I still question how capital allocation decisions are being made by the gurus, but feel some relief that it really isn’t about grilled cheese–though the reporter seems to miss the bigger picture in the story.  Kaplan’s company, by my interpretation,  is actually focused on creating a delivery system that enables technology to control just-in-time provisioning of food stuff to consumers, beginning with a very simple little product.    One orders on-line, gets a QR-code which is scans inside the store and within 2 minutes you hop the line to pick up your food; later versions will have the system scanning for your arrival by mobile signal and — Voila! — when you walk through the door your steaming hot food is waiting to be handed to you.  I imagine a future world, when I’m driving witin 5 miles of the shop, it reminds me of how much I love my particular style of grilled cheese–with a big slice of tomato pressed in the middle–and if I just hit reply, it will be waiting for me at the door.  This will become the ‘must have’ technology at all food establishments.  And I’ll also be getting that text as I pass by my favorite night spot, letting me know my special martini and a stool is ready at the bar; or my nail salon advising that an open chair is available with my favorite shade of amber awaiting my arrival.

I like this so much better than a pile of Silicon Valley money and brain power going into a gourmet grilled cheese.


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New Avenues for Talent

HubSpot, with its characteristic flair for creative positioning, is targeting experienced engineers in large corporate with its “Prison Break” program.  HubSpot will incent engineers with a bonus of $1k for each year of experience in a 1,000+company as they search to round up talent to fuel their growth.  If they only get 3-4 people, says their CTO Shah, it will be worth the effort.

HubSpot is making the right moves. The real constraining factor to growth today is not venture capital or technology–its people. And not the ‘people’ that VC’s often talk about when they’re referring to founder talent, but the professional talent that fules the growth–the engineers, project managers, digital marketers, product mangers, etc., who muscle the start-ups to growth. Even with 9% unemployment, we have a shortage of prepared and up-to-date talent in engineering, marketing and tech manufacturing.

My company, The Professional’s Accelerator, is targeting this challenge.  It provides innovative  development programs, based on the current demands of  growth companies, that enables  motivated professionals to continually optimize career opportunities as they enter and shift careers.

For innovative growth companies, it creates an expanded and enhanced ‘supply chain’ for highly prepared and technologically up-to-date professionals to fuel company growth with less risk, financial and opportunity cost.

Technology and digital business models are moving too rapidly for colleges or training programs to keep up, but companies don’t have to should the full burden.  The Professional’s Accelerator makes Attitude vs Aptitude an unnecessary choice.

Start-ups courting older talent –

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This is the model for academic/corporate partnership: MIT Launches New Center for Mobile Learning – MIT Media Relations

This is one of the most exciting moves in using innovative thinking and technology to move education forward, and comes about through a true development partnership between Google and MIT.    The Media Lab has always had a reputation for inter-disciplinary doing, creating some of the most forward thinking applications in the world.

 “The Center, housed at the Media Lab, will focus on the design and study of new mobile technologies and applications, enabling people to learn anywhere anytime with anyone. Research projects will explore location-aware learning applications, mobile sensing and data collection, augmented reality gaming, and other educational uses of mobile technologies.”


The genesis of the program according the press release was MIT Prof Hal Abelson’s work at Google, during his sabbatical, in creating the App Inventor for Android.  App Inventor has established a new system of programming, using what my non-engineering mind translates as a plug-and-play building block development process. This is the type of sabbatical & corporate/academic partnership that catapults opportunity–putting together the most creative researchers with the most innovative companies, with phenomenal results.  Add to this, MIT’s history of open sharing of results, data and product, and everyone can benefit.

MIT Launches New Center for Mobile Learning – MIT Media Relations.