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Building Multiple Bootstrapped Education Software Companies: Lane Rankin, CEO of Illuminate Education (Part 1)

Posted on Friday, Feb 10th 2017

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Lane was first a teacher, then a school and school district administrator. His background is not of a typical tech entrepreneur. However, his deep domain knowledge and relationships in the education field have propelled him to become a very successful EdTech entrepreneur. Great story!

Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your entrepreneurial journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?

Lane Rankin: I’m currently in California. I was born in Seattle, Washington. I have a Bachelors degree in Applied Mathematics and went on to get a Masters in Leadership. I started my first company back in 1999.

Sramana Mitra: Where did you do your schooling?

Lane Rankin: In California.

Sramana Mitra: What was your first company?

Lane Rankin: My first company was called Web Media Solutions where we did custom software development.

Sramana Mitra: Was this right after your college degree or did you work in between?

Lane Rankin: I started off my career as a teacher. I was a middle school and high school mathematics teacher and, also, technology expert. I started off in a very un-entrepreneurial way inside of school district, building software to help my students learn math better. Then I went on to become a school administrator where I did a lot of interesting things with technology in the early days of the Internet.

Then I went on to a county-level position where we got a large grant from NASA. I led a team building software to push the way the Internet could be used back in the late 90’s to help education. That led me to forming a company. My journey starts and ends in education. I have been in education my entire career. Even now with our company, we always say we are an education company doing technology and not the other way around.

Sramana Mitra: When you did custom software development, were you doing this work for education clients?

Lane Rankin: Yes. My first big client was the University of California.

Sramana Mitra: Was there any commonality across the different types of projects that you were doing in terms of use cases or types of solutions you were doing?

Lane Rankin: It was all around data-driven websites. It was all around the idea of Big Data and how to use that data to make decisions.

Sramana Mitra: Were these administrative decisions or curriculum-related decisions? Where was the action?

Lane Rankin: It was administrative tracking and use of data.

Sramana Mitra: How long did this go on?

Lane Rankin: I didn’t wind that company down until about 2006. We still had custom projects going on. In 2002, that company went in with another company, and we formed a third company called Achieve Data Solutions. That was to try to solve the data problem that we saw in schools. I formed the company in 2002. That became my driving focus. I still had Web Media and still did small projects here and there.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Building Multiple Bootstrapped Education Software Companies: Lane Rankin, CEO of Illuminate Education
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