Matthew Pittinsky, 25, CEO of
Barely a year old, Blackboard is making a splash in the online learning market. Besides building its own software that universities are using to make course work available to students online, the company has been working with Educom, a nonprofit consortium of some 600 colleges and universities on the Instructional Management Systems project, which would standardize Internet-based education tools.
While working at KPMG Peat Marwick as a higher education consultant, Pittinsky was struck by the growing need for education-based Internet software. He figured that as more and more universities are wiring their campuses with an advanced technology infrastructure, a market for tools to build the online dimension for education would be created. He left KPMG in 1997 to concentrate on Blackboard in earnest. The company retains a partnership with KPMG, whose higher education consulting division will have first dibs on Blackboard products.
In May, Blackboard acquired Ithaca, N.Y.-based CourseInfo and their eponymous Internet course management software, a multimedia tool that allows universities to put class information on the Web in use at universities like Cornell and Yale. The company has 21 employees and plans to do $1.5 million in sales this year.
Pittinsky says he's been hanging back on raising money, but is currently ramping up his efforts. The company closed on several private equity rounds with angel investors in May and is currently going after serious venture investments. "By next year, if we're not a 40-person company with hundreds of clients, we're going to just disappear," Pittinsky says.
As far as exit strategies go, Pittinsky says he's had one serious acquisition offer already, but he says he's more interested in playing a role in defining the market and seeing what his company can do on its own.
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