OpenClassrooms has a long, interesting story. It all started in 1999!
We made a documentary out of it for its 20th anniversary:
1999-2003: The Early Days
Back in 1999, our co-founder, Mathieu Nebra, was still a young boy. At 13-years-old, he wanted to learn how to build a website. He searched his local bookstores for a beginner’s guide to web development.
He couldn't find one that would teach him how to code from scratch. Every book he found was designed for experienced IT professionals.
Despite not finding what he was looking for, he settled for the one his parents gave him for Christmas that year.
Here he is at 13, with the book in hand:
He started learning with this book, but he was still not satisfied because it seemed too complicated. He couldn't understand why some words were used on page 10 and then defined on page 110.
Mathieu decided to rewrite the book the way he would have liked to read it.
Instead of publishing a book, he turned it into a blog and website.
He launched the site in 1999 and called it "Le Site du Zéro," (The Site from Scratch).
Of course, nobody visited it at first (have you seen how ugly it was?!), except a few friends, who then talked to other friends, etc. You can imagine the story: a few years later, several hundreds of thousands of people visited the website (today, it's several million every month!) to learn how to program.
2003-2007: Everyone Is Invited to the Party
When Mathieu Nebra met Pierre Dubuc in 2002, he didn't know that they would ultimately launch a company together. Pierre was one of the first visitors to the website, and he wanted to lend a hand with the code.
Pierre was younger than Mathieu, but he had strong technical skills in web development already. He started working with Mathieu and a few others to rebuild the website from scratch, allowing anyone to create an account, ask questions on forums, and even create their own courses!
Mathieu and Pierre were finishing their studies in IT, and the website started to take a lot of their time. Ultimately, they decided it would be great to create a company together.
They created the company in 2007.
2007-2013: Starting a Company
With the newly created company, Mathieu and Pierre started to work more closely together. They found a small office in the Paris suburbs, just below the roof (it was so hot in the summer ☀️)!
Then they hired their first staff (look how young they were!):
At the time, they sold advertisements on the website and books from the most successful online courses. It went so well that they ultimately sold over 150,000 books and managed to raise 2 million euros from a famous Paris-based VC, Alven Capital, to help expand their projects.
2013-Present: Becoming OpenClassrooms
In 2013, Pierre and Mathieu officially transformed the project into OpenClassrooms, an online platform initially offering free courses on several subjects. But that was just the beginning.
Soon after, OpenClassrooms developed paths. In these programs, students can earn French state-endorsed, associates, bachelor's, and masters-level diplomas.
Our paths cover many careers and are offered mainly in French and English (but we also have Spanish courses). Careers include web development, UX design, HR, marketing, data analysis, AI, and much more. Since our humble beginnings, the company has grown to nearly 500 employees.
Mathieu and Pierre have dedicated their lives to honing an educational model that reinvents the way people learn and pursue their careers worldwide. These two young men have the drive to make quality education accessible.
Along the way, OpenClassrooms has been endorsed by two French presidents. In 2015, President François Hollande announced that we would offer Premium accounts to every unemployed individual in France. He even came to our offices to hand out diplomas to our first successful students!
In 2019, our CEO was invited to participate in Tech4Good, a tech summit hosted by President Macron at the Elysee Palace, alongside a list of 30+ prominent CEO’s (including IBM, BNP Paribas, Uber, Alibaba, and Salesforce) and four heads of state (from the UK, Ireland, Canada, and New Zealand).
During that event, OpenClassrooms was distinguished as Europe's Next Unicorn by an international jury. And President Macron expressed that "OpenClassrooms is a fine example of a European success story."
Growth is on the horizon for OpenClassrooms as we break into new markets, bringing Mathieu and Pierre’s vision to the English-speaking world. Moving forward, we will be integrating education and employment even further to provide maximum impact for our students and employers.
Our diploma programs will also be integrated into our specialized offerings, including apprenticeships, talent matching, and employee reskilling programs, not just in France (as we have been doing for years) but worldwide. We even have US and UK subsidiaries and have opened offices overseas.