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AZ Tech Beat | July 24, 2017

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Ed tech Blue Canary acquired by Blackboard – interview with CTO Clairvoyant Shekhar Vemuri

Ed tech Blue Canary acquired by Blackboard – interview with CTO Clairvoyant Shekhar Vemuri
Tishin Donkersley

Helping college professors and institutions keep track of student performance and identifying those individuals at risk is at the heart of the ed tech product Lighthouse by Blue Canary, a predictive analytic and student retention and performance monitoring platform.

“Lighthouse helps surface up the student and look at the progress and performance of students in a class, even those that are on the edge of dropping out or failing a class. It helps the institution intervene with the student at the right moment and get them help or advisement so they can move on and finish their degree,” Shekhar Vemuri, CTO and Principal Clairvoyant, said in our interview.

Blue Canary, a subsidiary of Clairvoyant, announced that Blackboard has acquired the company and all IP assets for an undisclosed amount. According to Vemuri, some of the Blue Canary employees will transfer to Blackboard including Mike Sharkey, co-founder Blue Canary.

“We have been in customer acquisition mode. Blackboard was interested about a possible acquisition, one thing led to another, and we closed the deal,” Vemuri said.

In a blog post by Blackboard the company said the purpose behind this acquisition is the “drastic need for tools that improve retention of learners by enabling the easy application and analysis of data that comes through the learner’s educational experience. [Also,] through conversations with our customers and engaging directly in broad industry conversations, it is clear that student retention is top of mind for educational leaders.” Blue Canary will only be available in North America at this time.

This acquisition was validating for Vemuri in choosing to build an ed tech company in Arizona. “It’s definitely validation of the work that we’ve been doing and great to be recognized as well as for everyone involved in Blue Canary. We are first time entrepreneurs and it’s pretty exciting. It’s a win,” Vemuri said.

Founded in 2013, Blue Canary bootstrapped all the way, even with the temptation of Silicon Valley money. Like many startups who launch companies at a co-working space, they began at Gangplank, Chandler, and grew into the City of Chandler Innovation Center, “We started out in one small room and the Center was very accommodating over the last three years until we moved to a larger office in Chandler,” Vemuri said.   

Vemuri is now, more than ever, encouraged by the emerging tech community in the Valley and looks to rival cities like Austin and Portland for their startup-friendly community. “Hopefully over the next few years companies will invest back in Phoenix to enable that entrepreneurship,” Vemuri said. “We jumped into this three years ago and not a lot of people would attribute a tech startup to the Valley. [Today,] I feel the huge difference about how many startups are based out of the Valley, and moving here-it’s pretty exciting,”  Vemuri said.

Clairvoyant will continue to produce more offerings in predictive analytics, Vemuri said. They recently announced their latest product, Insight, a comprehensive Hadoop platform with built-in predictive applications.

Clairvoyant was recently selected as one of the top 20 Most Promising Cloud Solution Providers by CIO Review for 2015 and was the Startup winner in the 2014 Arizona Tech Council Governor Celebration of Innovation Award.

Read about more startups getting acquired at AZ Tech Beat.