A Baltimore edtech startup was the recent subject of an announcement out of Perth, Australia.
eThink Education is joining e-learning platform Moodle’s network of certified partners in the U.S., the Perth-based Moodle announced. It’s a significant step for the startup during a time of big growth, CEO Brian Carlson said in an interview.
Martin Dougiamas, founder and CEO of the open source platform that helps manage e-learning, was quoted as saying eThink “shares our passion for the transformative powers of technology in education.”
After moving to Betamore and beginning a ramp-up period in 2014 that took the startup from two to 20 employees, the company is looking to add about 10 more employees and lots of new clients over the next year.
To expand on a current base of K-12 schools and universities like MICA and Loyola Maryland, the company sees new opportunity in corporate e-learning.
“There’s a tremendous opportunity right now,” Carlson said.
eThink Education is a worthwhile example of startups leveraging open-source platforms.
While working as a technology consultant for higher education-focused Sunguard Education (now Ellucian) Carlson and fellow cofounder Cheryl Pastavos mostly worked with closed-source learning management systems, which weren’t fully meeting their needs.
“We saw that there was a number of schools that were interested in the open source learning management system, but they didn’t have the internal resources to both set it up and support it, and more importantly, integrate it very closely to their student information system,” Carlson said.
eThink Education helps schools with all of those issues when it comes to Moodle, down to hosting the platform on its servers. The startup also builds technology that adds features to Moodle, such as course evaluations and virtual classrooms.
With its place providing services instead of building an entire platform, the startup has bootstrapped since the beginning.
“The fact that the majority of the product is open source is a big advantage for us,” Carlson said. Instead of licensing fees, the schools and businesses pay for the services.
When the company started, Moodle was in the top tier of learning management systems, but still grouped in with others such as Blackboard. Now, Carlson said, Moodle is “the most largely used learning management system in the world, and it’s not even close.”
With the partner status, the relationship to Moodle’s headquarters in Australia deepens. The company pays a fee that is designed to help Moodle develop the platform, and Moodle sends the company leads coming in through its official channels. It also provides eThink Education the ability to ask questions or give feedback about the product on behalf of customers.
“We have more direct access to Moodle HQ to help service the needs of our clients,” Carlson said.
After growing its number of clients by 50 percent since 2014, eThink currently has 150 clients. Carlson said the company is aiming to more than double its client base again over the next year. Helping big businesses use Moodle for onboarding or training is the biggest opportunity because of the potential to help businesses save money, Carlson said.
Carlson said most of the company’s employees are based out of Betamore, with others spread around the country working remotely. Between partnering with Betamore grad Citelighter and linking with others in the wider edtech community, Carlson said the location in Baltimore has been a help.