Articles

Editor’s Picks

Canvas Partner Booster Program Awards Top EdTech Startups

By Cait Etherington
July 24, 2018

As reported last week, Canvas, the learning management system (LMS) owned by Instructure, continues to win over postsecondary institutions. Indeed, after a steady climb, Canvas now has more postsecondary subscribers than its nearest competitor Blackboard Inc.  As Canvas grows, however, it appears to be increasingly looking to recruit innovative new talent.

Its first formal acquisition happened last November when Instructure announced that it had acquired the video micro-learning solution, Practice. Now Canvas is launching a partner booster program. Could it be a more formal way to attract talent and potential future acquisitions?

In a press release issued on July 19, Melissa Loble, Vice President of Partnerships at Instructure, did emphasize that Instructure is eager to start giving back to startups: “It wasn’t too long ago that Instructure was a scrappy startup and we are happy to be part of other startups’ success. We know there are hundreds of hungry young startups out there and we selected several who are at the right stage and are a great fit for our accelerator program.”

Canvas’s Partner Booster Program

Canvas announced its Partner Booster Program earlier this year. As reported at the time of Canvas’s initial announcement, program participants will receive free access to the Instructure Partner Program, participation in a Boosters Partner Day, Canvas sandbox access for testing and development, access to Canvas’s Partner Support team for technical support and guidance, free participation at a CanvasCon event, and reduced cost sponsorship opportunities at InstructureCon. Also included is participation in Startup Alley at InstructureCon, an area featuring up-and-coming technology companies. Startup Alley is sponsored by EPIC Ventures, a venture capital firm that has been working closely with Instructure on the Booster Program’s development.

First Round Participants

While Instructure did not indicate how many applications they received for their first Partner Booster Program, in the end, they picked four startups: Boclips, Inkerz, MobLab, and Pronto. As stated in Instructure’s July 19 press release, “Program participants were selected based on several key criteria including innovation in the edtech space through cloud-hosted technology. In addition, qualified organizations had to have fewer than 25 employees, be younger than five years old as a company or offer a product less than three years in market.”

For its first round, Instructure choose four very different edtech startups, including Boclips. Boclips has aggregated more than three million videos into a single cloud-based video platform. Using a proprietary algorithms, Boclips map video clips to the curricula and courses used by education providers around the world. Boclips relies on highly rated clips from YouTube EDU channels such as TED, Crash Course and Sci Show, as well as news stories from 1900 to the present day from trusted international providers like Associated Press and Reuters.

Three other edtech startups will join Boclips in Canvas’s Partner Booster Program. Inkerz enables any teacher with a pen, paper and any camera and project directly to student devices weather they are teaching math or art. MobLab seeks to connect students in virtual platforms with the aim of promoting the principles of the social sciences. Finally, Pronto has a mandate to connect students with mentors, instructors, administrators, and one another by offering innovative ways to create groups, communicate, and collaborate  anytime and anywhere.

Given Instructure’s own rapid and impressive growth as an edtech company, there is no question that the company has much to offer edtech startups, including a solid model of how to effectively scale one’s growth and gain subscribers over time. Whether Instructor ultimately uses their Partner Booster Program as a means to acquire new talent or patents is yet to be seen, but the program does appear to suggest that Instructure is growing increasingly interested in reaching out to emerging talent in the edtech startup world.