What It Means For Moodle That LMS Competitor Canvas Reached A Billion-Dollar Valuation

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What It Means For Moodle That LMS Competitor Canvas Reached A Billion-Dollar Valuation
“This is a Canvas” by bixentro is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Instructure, the Salt Lake City-based parent company of Canvas, just reached $1 billion USD in market valuation. As per Silicon Slopes, co-founders Devin Daley and Brian Whitmer met at a 2008 startup class by Josh Coates, who would become Instructure’s first investor and has served as CEO since 2010. Canvas would only come to light in 2011, getting big names on board early on, including Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth, and Tesla. Canvas estimates a total addressable market valued at $6.4 billion USD in 2017, made up of 75% corporate and 25% education customers.

Comparing Canvas and Moodle is, to some extent, comparing apples to oranges. Better yet, tangerines and oranges. Sure, we could extract their juice and compare their acidity, sweetness, or amount of vitamin C, but at the end of the day, customers just want the one they find tastier. Canvas’ look and feel is undeniably appealing. Moodle is mouth-wateringly free.

But given the differences, are there any comparisons worth making? Let’s give it a try, and take from this exercise what you will.

  • Moodle’s mission is to “Empower teachers.” Canvas’ is to build “Software that makes people smarter.”
  • Instructure employs more than a thousand people, while Moodle HQ count nears 50. No information is available about Instructure’s employees by area, but it is reasonable to guess the majority of Instructure jobs involve sales or customer support.
  • According to employee reviews on Glassdoor, 198 workers give Instructure an average score of 4.8 out of 5, while 5 employees give Moodle a perfect 5.0.
  • Where Moodle has Martin Dougiamas as CEO, Canvas has Josh Coates, a similarly charismatic character also known for building and selling Mozy, a data backup service. Both are computer science bachelors who leveraged their research into products. Dougiamas made his intellectual property freely available as open source. Coates sold it to Intel and then joined the not-for-profit initiative Internet Archive before starting up Mozy.
  • Canvas is exclusively a cloud-based SaaS (software as a service). Moodle mainly resides on institutional servers, but the trend among providers, starting with the official Moodle Partners, is to offer Moodle from the cloud. Cloud provides like AWS offer both Canvas and Moodle.
  • Technically, Canvas is an “open core” solution, with the code freely available at their GitHub website. But they acknowledge the difficulties involved in turning the software into a production-ready site. Moodle is objectively easier to get running, and offers more functionality out-of-the-box.
  • In 2016, Canvas registered $111 million in revenue, of which some $32 are said to go into “Research and Development.” Although Moodle Pty Ltd does not disclose financials, earlier this year it announced a $6 million AUD investment.

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