Instructure secures $8M for open-source LMS

Instructure, provider of an open-source learning management system (LMS) called Canvas, announced Thursday that it has closed $8 million in a Series B round of financing led by OpenView Venture Partners, EPIC Ventures, TomorrowVentures (Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s investment vehicle), and Tim Draper of Draper Fisher Jurveston.

As part of the funding, OpenView partner Firas Raouf has joined the company’s board of directors.

While Instructure itself admits to being a “new entrant” to the education LMS space (a humbling breath of fresh air compared to the typically overzealous pride-soaked press release), that doesn’t mean they can’t have big, disruptive ambitions:

“We’re here for the long haul,” said Josh Coates, CEO of Instructure. “Our mission is to relieve teachers and students in all levels of education of antiquated technology. The investment will be used to scale the company’s operations and to keep up with market demand.”

Coates co-founded Instructure in 2008, just a year after his first startup creation, online data backup solution Mozy, sold to EMC for $76 million.

Instructure’s core LMS product, Canvas, was made available as an open-source product on February 1st of this year. While the LMS is completely free, most institutions require hosting and support, which is where Instructure makes its money. The company claims that, at the moment, it serves more than 30 educational institutions, most of which had previously been Blackboard customers. Coates says over four thousand schools have contacted him about the product.

If it’s true (and there’s no reason to doubt it), then Blackboard could have a problem on its hands.

(Most recently, Blackboard has been doing pretty well, having just announced in early February year-over-year revenue growth of 19 percent, to $447.3 million. But then, Instructure’s LMS had only been released two days prior.)

Canvas draws its power by taking a more flexible and modern approach in contrast to other standard LMS platforms, like Blackboard, and by incorporating systems like Google Docs, Facebook, Twitter and mobile. And, no matter what happens to Instructure as a business, its LMS will always be available as an open-source solution.