Blackboard Buys Austin Edtech Startup MyEdu for Student Profiles

MyEdu, an Austin, TX-based edtech firm, was purchased by education software giant Blackboard Wednesday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Founded in 2009, MyEdu makes a free online platform where students can create profiles that highlight their coursework, job experience, and skills, such as languages or participation in mock trials, in Pinterest-like boxes. Employers can use the site as a database to peruse student profiles and recruit talent. (The site even has an Amazon-like ”Looking for profiles similar to XX?” feature that points out other students with similar profiles.)

“We are in the midst of implementing a new business strategy that is keenly focused on providing more value to our end users – students,” says Jay Bhatt, Blackboard’s CEO. “Adding MyEdu into our portfolio helps them solve two major challenges: graduating on time and securing a job.”

Bhatt, who took over the seven-year-old Washington, DC-based company last year, wrote in his company blog that the purchase reflects Blackboard’s shift to focus on student success—through their academic lives and into their professional ones.

MyEdu has raised a total of $20 million from investors, including the University of Texas System and Bain Capital Ventures. The company’s staff of 20 will remain in Austin.

Frank Lyman, MyEdu’s chief product officer, says its platform dovetails with the increasing focus on the “consumerization” of education, where data is used to enhance the outcomes of higher education, similar to how we use data to pick the best hotels, restaurants, or cars. “What we recognized is that we had an opportunity to help students establish their first professional profiles,” Lyman says. “They were frustrated that there was no way to effectively show others what they’re capable of.”

About 1 million students at more than 800 schools nationwide use the MyEdu platform today. Two years ago, the company partnered with the University of Texas System to bring students on to the edtech platform. The UT System invested $10 million in MyEdu in a five-year agreement, one that will be honored by Blackboard. MyEdu will remain a standalone product as management works to integrate the two companies,  Lyman says. They have not yet decided whether MyEdu will ultimately be brought under the Blackboard umbrella, he added.

More than 80 percent of students at UT’s flagship campus in Austin—one of the nation’s largest universities with about 50,000 students—have created MyEdu profiles. About half of the students at the other eight UT campuses have joined. Since the ratio of advisors to students is 1-to-341, UT says MyEdu plays a critical role in augmenting counseling services to more than 116,000 students.

MyEdu has similar partnerships with the California Community College System, as well as the University of Louisiana System.

Twenty-two employers have contracted to use MyEdu’s database so far. For example, an energy consulting firm like Wood Mackenzie can use MyEdu to target hard-to-find students in high-demand fields such as petroleum engineering. (MyEdu lists 4,300 students majoring in that subject.) Healthcare institutions can peruse the profiles of 24,000 nursing students, while tech companies could be interested in the 16,000 computer science majors on the site.

“We have the right information and support to do good academic planning, to help students make good choices about their academic progression—the class, degrees, and skills they need to be attractive to employers,” Lyman says.

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