Domestic, K-12, Learning Management Systems (LMS / CMS), Required, Startups, Technology, Universities & Colleges - Written by on Monday, October 22, 2012 6:00 - 0 Comments

Blackboard Inc. CEO Michael Chasen To Step Down As Jay Bhatt Takes Helm

Michael Chasen en Matthew Pittinsky
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Patrick Klaassen via Compfight

Blackboard Inc. President, CEO and co-founder Michael Chasen said last week that he would resign from the company he started by year’s end. The company already picked Jay Bhatt, president and CEO of  Bedford, Mass.,-based Progress Software, as the new CEO. Blackboard was purchased by private equity firms in recent years and we imagine that could have created ongoing pressure for existing executives such as Chasen to move on. Chances are good he will stay in the education technology field as did his Blackboard co-founder Matthew Pittinsky, who is now ceo of Parchment. Here’s what we learned from various media reports of the move:

David Nagel writes in THE Journal

Chasen helped found Blackboard with Matt Pittinsky back in 1997. During his tenure, by Blackboard’s account, Chasen “oversaw the company’s rapid growth from just a handful of employees and a few clients to a workforce of over 3,000 that now serves tens of thousands of clients worldwide. Chasen also oversaw the successful completion of more than 20 acquisitions and the company’s transition back to private ownership in 2011 after its acquisition by Providence Equity Partners for $1.7 billion. In the last year Chasen has led a number of strategic initiatives including the merger with Edline, a leading provider of complementary K-12 technology solutions, and the launch of a new focus on open source supported by the acquisitions of Moodlerooms and NetSpot.”

His tenure, however, was not without controversy. In 2006, Blackboard found itself embroiled in a legal and public relations battle with the education and software community when it launched a campaign to protect a patent for technologies that were already in common use in learning management software. As one of its first acts, Blackboard sued rival Desire2Learn, winning an injunction and forcing that company to release a new version of its flagship LMS and pay $3 million in damages. Feeling their own works threatened, open source developers, supported by the Software Freedom Law Center, pushed to have Blackboard’s patent revoked. In an effort to mollify those developers, Blackboard pledged not to assert its patent rights against any open source technologies, including such technologies that found their way into commercial software. By 2007, the United States Patent and Trademark Office had agreed to reexamine the claims in Blackboard’s patents. In 2008, it rejected several of those claims. And in 2009, the patent was finally overturned by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit….

Today, in an open letter to the education community, Chasen said he will spend the coming months ensuring a smooth leadership transition. ”It’s been an amazing experience. I am extremely proud of the work we’ve done to date, and I’m excited about the bright future of Blackboard,” Chasen wrote. “After starting out as a pioneer in e-learning, we’ve expanded the company’s vision for supporting clients. We now offer a range of products and services to support education needs at all levels: from commercial to open source and from K-12 to higher education and beyond. And we will continue to make big investments in the next generation of solutions for education.”

Via THE Journal

Stevern Overly at The Washington Post writes:  

Chasen established Blackboard in a D.C. rowhouse in 1997 and built the firm from a small software company into an education technology behemoth that provides online learning tools for colleges. “I was able to surround myself with seasoned professionals who have done it before,” Chasen said. “I think they reflected well on me to allow me to stay in this role and grow the company.”

But the business has slowed in recent years. Blackboard tried to enter new markets beyond higher education with measured success. What’s more, the firm has encountered increasing competition from rivals offering free, open-source software. Those challenges brought about a shift in the company’s strategy, starting with the decision to go private last summer in a $1.64 billion acquisition by private equity shop Providence Equity Partners. “I actually thought that that would be a good point for there to be a [leadership] transition,” Chasen said.

Providence Equity Partners merged Blackboard with another one of its portfolio companies, called Edline, which provides online education software for primary and secondary schools. The company also bought two competitors in March that provide customer support and services to schools that use open-source software. The purchase moved the firm away from a business model based solely on selling its own products.

Via The Washington Post 


Bill Flook at Washington Business Journal writes: 

Michael Chasen, the soon-to-be-ex chief of Blackboard Inc., said he will “likely” step up his angel investing and will consider launching another startup after leaving the D.C. ed-tech giant at the end of the year.

The long-time software executive is otherwise coy about his future plans. Few, however, expect Chasen not to return to the startup world in some capacity — either as a writer of checks, an entrepreneur or both.

Chasen taking the reins at a new venture or an established, later-stage company is “equally probable,” said Matthew Pittinsky, who co-founded Blackboard with Chasen in 1997.

Via Washington Business Journal

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