Coursera’s arch product officer just left to turn a VC


Tom Willerer, who has spent the last 4 years with the online preparation company Coursera — the last two as its arch product officer — is moving on from the outfit to turn a venture capitalist.

Specifically, Willerer is joining Venrock, a venture organisation founded scarcely 50 years ago to build off the successful investing activities of the Rockefeller family.

Venrock, which has offices in Palo Alto, New York and Boston, has turn best famous as a medical firm. That owes mostly to the success of longtime partner Bryan Roberts, who co-founded and incubated publicly traded Castlight Health. Roberts also led the Series A turn of publicly traded Illumina, which is now the world’s largest builder of DNA sequencing machines, among other smart moves during his 20 years with the firm.

But Venrock’s partners — and it has 7 now with Willerer — also back consumer-facing companies. Among its biggest wins: partner David Pakman led the Series A and B rounds for Dollar Shave Club, the men’s bathing products company that sole to Unilever last year for $1 billion. It’s that consumer use that Willerer — who also logged scarcely 6 years as clamp boss for product government at Netflix — will be helping.

First, he says, he plans to learns the ropes. “I’ve finished a few opportunistic angel investments and suggested a couple of startups,” Willerer tells us. “Some have reached out to me, and I’ve clicked with the founders.”

To get a better hoop on his new career, Willerer is already soliciting recommendation nearby and distant about his transition into venture capital, and he suggests the best recommendation he has perceived is to “talk with a lot of people, get as smart as we can, try to be very process about evaluating companies and products and markets, then rest on my partners — who’ve been doing this much longer than we have — to give good feedback on what I’m looking at doing.”

Willerer isn’t the first Coursera executive to leave the five-year-old outfit to turn a venture capitalist. The company’s co-founder, Andrew Ng, who went on to spend several years as the arch scientist at Baidu, is formulating his own venture firm, as we reported in August.

According to an SEC filing, Ng is looking to lift upwards of $150 million. It will aim synthetic intelligence-related opportunities.

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