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Coursera has ousted several senior executives along with many rank-and-file staffers

As many as 40 people have departed the company after raising $60 million just five months ago.

Coursera co-founder and co-chair of the board Andrew Ng speaks onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt.
Coursera co-founder and co-chair of the board Andrew Ng
Steve Jennings / Getty Images for TechCrunch

Coursera, the online education company that has raised more than $200 million in venture capital, has quietly ousted several top-level executives, including the chief marketing and financial officers. In addition, as many as 40 employees, about 13 percent of staff, have departed, according to three sources.

A much-buzzed-about online education platform, Coursera only five months ago announced it had received over $60 million in new investments and that 26 million people worldwide had registered for courses. Led by new CEO Jeff Maggioncalda, the company is reportedly valued at around $800 million and backers have included top Silicon Valley venture firms like Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and NEA.

Coursera said less than 5 percent of its jobs were eliminated last week as part of the reorganization — though that figure doesn’t count employees who left in the preceding weeks.

The reductions and executive shuffling suggests not all is stable at the startup that has been embraced by several Ivy League universities as part of the massive open online courses, or MOOC, movement. Coursera claims it is simply changing priorities to focus on degree courses and that it is performing well financially.

Among those who have been removed from the company leadership, according to its website as of last Wednesday: Chief Operations Officer Lila Ibrahim; Chief Marketing Officer Kurt Apen; Chief Financial Officer John Madigan; General Counsel David Liu and Chief Product Officer Tom Willerer.

Coursera spokesperson Arunav Sinha confirmed the company had “made a few changes to how we are organized including some leadership changes” at the CMO, CFO and GC positions. The company said it planned to fill those positions, and told Recode that it had already hired Anne Tuttle, from Maggioncalda’s old company, Financial Engines, as its new general counsel.

Sinha said the leadership departures are not layoffs since the company plans to fill roughly all of those positions. It was unclear how many rank-and-file staffers had been let go, but Coursera indicated that the headcount would be filled with new roles.

Willerer had announced earlier this month he was joining the venture capital firm Venrock. Ibrahim wrote on social media this month that she “decided it’s time for my next career adventure.”

“2017 has been a very strong year of growth for Coursera. As we plan for the future, we continue to be proactive and intentional about how our organization is structured,” Sinha said. “These changes simplify our structure, significantly improving our ability to respond to the needs of our learners, partners and customers.”

About 30 to 40 employees have left Coursera, three sources familiar with the proceedings said, including a batch dismissed on Thursday along with others who departed voluntarily in the preceding weeks. Sinha declined to confirm the total number of departures.

Coursera said “the changes have resulted in some role shifts and a handful of role eliminations.” The company had about 300 employees prior to the job cuts.

Founded in 2012, Coursera offers over 2,000 online courses with video lectures, quizzes and, eventually, certificates of completion. Partner colleges whose faculty teach on Coursera include Yale, Princeton and Stanford. The organization, which charges customers for some classes, has also started awarding master’s degrees that can be earned online.

Update: The post was updated to include the specific number of jobs that were eliminated last week and staffers who have departed.

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