Blackboard Files S-1

It was great to learn today that Blackboard has filed its S-1 for an IPO. Blackboard is a dominant company in online software for higher education courses. They estimated that 12 million students and faculty used their system last year. Revenue hit $92.5 million, while losses were reduced dramatically from $51 million in 2002 to $11.5 million last year. The online education market is something that Infobase Ventures is very interested in. It’s hard not to be when content and search are core competencies.

Excerpt From the Blackboard S-1. Eduventures, Inc., an education consulting and research firm, estimates that 350,000 students, or slightly less than 2% of the total postsecondary student population, were enrolled in online distance learning programs in 2002 and that this market will grow from $2.5 billion in the 2002-2003 school year to more than $4.2 billion in the 2004-2005 school year, representing a compound annual growth rate of 31%.

More Software for Higher Education
My brother Curt runs a company, Agilix, which sells software called GoBinder. It is a powerful tool for students to capture all their course information into a searchable file, or binder, and to personalize and annotate all of their course materials, web sites, everything they capture in the learning process. The team that built GoBinder is the same team that build the Folio VIEWS search engine and browser back in the late 80s. Folio is still used by many of the largest publishing companies in the world. At one time, Novell bundled Folio with every copy of Netware and there were tens of millions of Folio browsers available on desktops worldwide. This, of course, predated the Netscape browser give-away strategy by more than 5 years. My first company, Infobases, licensed the Folio engine and published and sold more than 200,000 searchable “infobases” — libraries of religious and educational content powered by the Folio. Apple bundled our CD Sourcebook of American History with tens of thousands of computers sold to schools and libraries. The Folio software was a powerful platform that made content incredibly useful.

With GoBinder, the old Folio team has done it again. I predict GoBinder will catch on like wildfire in education. One of the coolest features works for students on campuses that use Blackboard. They can retrieve all the content (syllabus, documents, powerpoints, notes, web sites, calendar, etc) for each of their courses directly from Blackboard and store and search and annotate it on their own machine. Powerful stuff. Students and faculty at test colleges reportedly love this technology.

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