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Why We Decided to Give Up 10% of Our Revenue

Since 2016, we've provided free data science education to 900,000+ students through over 37,000+ DataCamp Classrooms created by teachers in 13,000+ schools in 180+ countries.
Updated Sep 2023  · 4 min read

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When we started DataCamp, we offered a $29/month regular plan and a $9/month academic student plan. The academic plan had the same exact functionality as the regular plan, but at a much lower price point. This way, we wanted to give students with low available capital the opportunity to learn Data Science through DataCamp as well.

The academic student plan quickly became a success. Professors who wanted to modernize their teaching methods decided to spend part of their classroom budget on buying DataCamp access for all their students for the semester. The number of subscribers on the $9/month grew steadily, and eventually made up a healthy 10% of our total revenue.

Then, at the end of 2016, we decided to give it all up. We had many long debates on it, but eventually, we went with what felt like the right thing to do, so we decided to offer Premium DataCamp to teachers and their students for free. 10% of our revenue…gone.

Here are some of the key reasons that informed our decision to move ahead with creating what is now known as DataCamp Classrooms:

  • Education is a Basic Human Right: Growing up in a country with near-to-free education (Belgium), and moving to a country with nowhere-near-to-free education (USA), you learn to appreciate the value of easy access to education independent of one’s background. With DataCamp, we had the ability to provide a similar experience to students worldwide.
  • Democratizing Data Science: A key driver behind founding DataCamp was to democratize data science to everyone in the world (read more on why we started DataCamp). We felt that making our academic program free was a major step towards realizing that part of our mission.
  • Students and Teachers Should Not Be Cash Cows: DataCamp was never founded with the idea to make exorbitant amounts of money from young, cash-strapped students or their under-resourced teachers.

Giving up 10% of our revenue was scary—certainly, as a young company with just over 25 employees that needs to show sustainable and rapid growth towards current and future investors. Also, as far as I know, we are one of the few online education providers that offer this type of free service (DuoLingo & Khan I believe, have a similar offer for students), and I know of no ed-tech company that ever made a switch similar to ours.

Luckily, it has proven to be a wise business decision as well. It increased our exposure as some of the professors who signed up for our free classroom account promoted the collaboration with DataCamp via the website of the class, their social media, … and similarly for students. They liked the experience which in turn created a lot of additional word of mouth. Besides the exposure benefit, it also benefited the long-term economic value of our learner base. We strongly believe in continuous education and lifelong learning, especially in a fast-moving field like Data Science. By bringing a data science enthusiast in contact with DataCamp early in their journey, they stick with DataCamp for a longer time.

Looking back, it was 100% worth it. By removing the financial hurdles individual teachers face, we managed to provide free data science education to 900,000+ students through over 37,000+ DataCamp Classrooms created by teachers in 13,000+ schools in 180+ countries. These numbers are well beyond our wildest expectations and excite many of our employees (including myself) to come to work every day. 

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Today, DataCamp Classrooms is better than ever, with Premium access to DataCamp Workspace, perfect for creating custom lessons, projects, and competitions. And more teachers and teenage students than ever before are eligible for free data education scholarships since we expanded eligibility to secondary schools in ten countries. There has never been a better time for teachers to introduce data literacy in their classes by using DataCamp Classrooms. For more information on our recent record seventh year, please read the 2022-2023 DataCamp Classrooms Annual Report.

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NOTE: Originally published September 9, 2023. Updated on September 15, 2023 to reflect the most recent statistics of DataCamp Classrooms.

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"Whether you’re teaching a pure data science class or something more multidisciplinary, DataCamp Classrooms is a tool every teacher and student should use.” — Mike Soltys, PhD. University of Colorado Boulder

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