Business / Business development / Education

DC-born Blackboard is merging with Florida’s Anthology to create a giant edtech company

The DC edtech darling has yet to answer what this will mean for its local presence going forward, but its storied history has made a mark on the DMV's education technology industry.

Inside Blackboard's Reston, Virginia office. (Courtesy photo)

Reston, Viginia-based edtech giant Blackboard is mergering with Florida software company Anthology, the pair announced Monday. Terms of the agreement have not yet been revealed.

Blackboard, a well-established DC edtech player, offers learning management software and communication tools for students in K-12 and higher education. Anthology is a Boca Raton-based developer of higher education software and technology for enrollment, student engagement and fundraising. It comes after Anthology, itself, was formed through a merger of three other companies in 2020.

Anthology works with over 2,000 colleges in 30 countries worldwide, and combined with Blackboard’s 150 million users in 80 countries, the pair’s leaders stated they intend to make the most comprehensive edtech ecosystem in existence (no pressure). Blackboard did not respond to a request for comment about the merger, but a statement from the companies said they intend to focus their investment on new technology and innovation in the space.

The deal is expected to close by the end of the year, with private equity firm Veritas Capital as the majority owner. Leeds Equity Partners, a majority owner of Anthology alongside Veritas, will be a minority owner of the new company, as will be Blackboard’s current majority owner, Providence Equity Partners. A name for the new company is still undecided, a spokesperson told EdScoop.

Current Anthology CEO and chairman Jim Milton will also serve as chairman and CEO of the new company. Following the merger, he said the combined company will offer a “data-driven product portfolio” that seeks to transform how technology is used in education.

“We believe this combination will enhance the solutions and services available to faculty and students, and we are deeply committed to delivering greater value and innovation to our customers and partners,” Milton said in a statement. “Anthology and Blackboard are fully aligned around a deep focus on learner success, and I am excited to lead the combined company as we embark on this next phase of growth together.”

While this deal’s impact on Blackboard’s local footprint is yet to be revealed, its history and presence in DC has been a well-noted one. Since its founding in 1997, it’s paved the way for industry players like Vemo Education and EVERFI and brought eyes to the DMV scene.

In 2016, Mayor Muriel Bowser wanted to keep the company in DC so much that she inked a deal offering the company a $1 million tenant improvement grant, on the caveat that the company give back to the community. Blackboard has also made acquisitions of its own in the past since its founding, most recently fellow edtech firm Remote Learner UK in 2015 and point-of-sale company Sequoia Retail Systems in 2016. When it moved to Reston in 2020, Blackboard said it had 350 team members working either remotely or in-office.

While it was pivotal in putting DC’s edtech industry on the map, Blackboard is not alone in making 2021 headlines. Edtech has boomed in the last 18 months in the DMV, and it’s got the funding to prove it. DC classroom software company Class Technologies, which was founded by former Blackboard CEO Michael Chasen, raised $117 million this year alone, and $160 million since its launch in 2020. International student lending company MPOWER Financing doubled its team in 2021 and raised $100 million in July.

In other M&A moves, West End’s EVERFI sold off its higher education business for $100 million. In June, Arlington’s Vemo acquired Boston edtech firm Edmit for undisclosed terms.

“Together, Blackboard and Anthology will lead the next wave of EdTech innovation,” said Bill Ballhaus, chairman, CEO and president of Blackboard, in a statement. “We believe that combining our companies will enable us to break down data silos across the institution and surface deeper insights about the learner so that we can deliver unmatched personalized experiences across the full learner lifecycle.”

Companies: Blackboard

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