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Bootstrap First, Raise Money Later, Build an EdTech Unicorn from Canada: John Baker, CEO of D2L (Part 6)

Posted on Wednesday, Oct 7th 2020

Sramana Mitra: Strategy-wise, it’s still large accounts selling and just bigger deals? No major change on that front?

John Baker: Not at that stage. We’re just accelerating that work and putting in place the infrastructure to grow faster. We did another round a couple of years later for another $80 million.

Sramana Mitra: Is there anything else from a strategic inflection point of strategic lever that we should be discussing?

John Baker: The biggest investments that we have been making over the last number of years has been shifting everyone to our cloud model. That is not an easy transition for on-premise or hosted implementations. We did all the big lift to build out the most modern stack in our space and transition all our clients to it.

That was not easy. It was a hard path to take. We did it faster than anyone else in our space. It’s setting ourselves up for the inflection point that we’re in right now, which is COVID as a catalyst to drive global adoption.

Sramana Mitra: Where are you now in terms of metrics?

John Baker: I haven’t tested the market lately, but it’s safe to say that we’re in the unicorn category. We’re well over $100 million and growing. We’re now serving clients in at least 43 different countries, and we have learners in over 140 countries in the world. 

Sramana Mitra: The entire business is now on an annual recurring revenue model?

John Baker: It is.

Sramana Mitra: So you could conceivably go public at this point if you wanted to?

John Baker: We are at the stage of considering going public but haven’t made the decision yet. If we did, it would be one of the steps in the journey, as an entrepreneur, to just continue to learn and grow and fuel the next stage of growth.

We’ve been investing to make sure that not only are our core technologies fast, but also to put in place the things that are going to move us up the value chain. 

Sramana Mitra: One of the trends that I’m monitoring closely is the PaaS trend. As Salesforce has shown, there’s a multiplier effect in having not just an application but also a cloud platform on which adjacent products can be built. Is that something you’re considering?

John Baker: That is a force multiplier. We have about 10,000 applications now on the internal platform and several hundred good partners, and a dozen or so that are part of a key alliance strategy. We are still in the early stages of that platform strategy. That will be a big part of our ecosystem as we move forward.

Sramana Mitra: These 10,000 applications that have been built on your platform, who are these people?

John Baker: Hundreds of them are companies. Some of them have billion dollar plus valuations on their own. Others are mom-and-pop stores that are building little applications. There are hundreds of EdTech companies that have integrated their technologies into our platform.

We are also very big supporters of trying to drive open standards. We’re the global leader when it comes to open standards in our domain. We support open standards, open data, and open APIs across platforms. That makes it easy to have that PaaS model take fire.

Sramana Mitra: Excellent story. Thank you for your time.

This segment is part 6 in the series : Bootstrap First, Raise Money Later, Build an EdTech Unicorn from Canada: John Baker, CEO of D2L
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