As a founder of Blackboard, Stephen guided the original vision, business strategy, product development, and sales and marketing efforts for the company, providing value to educational clients such as Yale University Medical School, Cornell University, and the University of Pittsburgh and thousands of others, developing the product that is now core to the Blackboard platform.
Blackboard was formed by the joining of two companies: CourseInfo LLC, a course management system company, founded by Stephen Gilfus while at Cornell University, and Blackboard LLC, founded by Michael Chasen and Matthew Pittinsky. Originally, the Blackboard company began as a consulting firm contracting to the non-profit IMS Global Learning Consortium developing elearning specifications. CourseInfo was the most popular Course Management System in use at the time. In 1998, the two companies combined to become known as Blackboard Inc.
Mr. Gilfus was instrumental in growing the company through five private rounds of financing – raising over $100 million dollars in venture capital and in 2004 helped take the company public on the NASDAQ (BBBB) where it has achieved over 200% stock appreciation. His expertise managing fast growth Internet software companies coupled with his entrepreneurial passion was critical to the companies success and ability to go from start-up to a public company, in 2004. The company enjoys over $350 million in annual revenues, with ~1200 employees with flagship products being used by millions of students across more than 3,600 institutions in 70 countries.
Corporate and Product Strategy
As Blackboard’s corporate strategist, he developed programs that fostered sales, facilitated partnerships, and developed key industry relationships. As a software designer, and through interactions with leading educators, he aligned the company’s product development organization to the technical and pedagogical needs of educators by developing the companies product strategy and road map. His efforts lead to innovative and inventive products in the course management, content management, content repository and distribution and community/portal categories. In addition, Gilfus transformed the Blackboard product line and the company into a partner friendly platform by introducing Blackboards Building Blocks, aligning the companies platform with educational technology standards (IMS) and facilitating the development of a Blackboard SCORM 1.2 Player with the ADL Co-labs. Mr. Gilfus has maintained a reputation for being an educational innovator and visionary.
Education Industry Development
Through his work in participating in industry standards bodies, he developed a content distribution system to enable publishers to create and distribute educational materials directly into the Blackboard platform. In this capacity, he collaborated with some of the worlds leading publishers to enhance their current offerings through educational technology. He developed, designed, and implemented Pearson Education’s Course Compass product, Reed Elsevier’s Evolve and, Houghton Mifflin’s (Now Cengage) EduSpace. In this same capacity and as head of the companies professional service division, he helped build core capabilities for Laureate (Sylvan), KC Distance Learning, Florida Virtual High School, DeVry, Capella, Strayer University, eArmyU (now, GoArmyEd), and hundreds of others.