TORONTO, Sept 4 Desire2Learn Inc, one of
Canada's fastest-growing technology firms, said on Tuesday it
has secured $80 million in venture funding that will be used to
help strengthen its infrastructure and boost its growth
The privately held company, a leading developer of online
learning systems, is based in Ontario's Kitchener-Waterloo area,
just minutes away from the home of BlackBerry maker Research In
Desire2Learn said the backing comes from U.S. venture
capital firm New Enterprise Associates and OMERS Ventures - the
venture capital arm of Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement
System, one of Canada's largest pension fund managers.
"Our plan is to focus the funds on research and development,
as we continue to develop the next generation of our technology
and invest in infrastructure," Desire2Learn Chief Executive John
Baker said in an interview.
The company builds cloud-based learning systems that provide
online learning platforms for a base of more than 700 clients,
which include higher education institutes and universities,
along with government and corporate sector customers.
The terms of the financing deal were not disclosed, but the
deal gives the venture investors a minority interest in the
company, Baker said.
The $80 million capital raise is Desire2Learn's first round
of financing, and it also marks the largest-ever venture capital
investment in a Canadian software company, according to Thomson
"The company has been called on by many private equity and
venture groups over the last seven years. We only really decided
to go down this path three months ago," Baker said. "We ran a
very, very tight process with a very small number of top tier
firms. We picked our two preferred partners and we are thrilled
with the outcome."
Desire2Learn, which currently has a workforce of around 550
people, has added about 200 people in the past year alone.
Baker said the company had already approved plans to post
another 170 jobs even before the financing deal was completed.
"We have built a high-growth profitable organization over
the years and we want to continue to see that continuing to
grow," said Baker, who declined to disclose details on revenues
and growth projections.
The company's rapid expansion comes at a crucial juncture
for the area, which has been hurt by RIM's waning fortunes. The
one-time Canadian tech behemoth has shed thousands of jobs in
recent months as its aging line-up of BlackBerry devices has
lost ground to more-advanced devices like Apple Inc's
iPhone and a slew of others based on Google's Android
The funding from NEA and OMERS Ventures will allow the
company to accelerate its global growth plans as an independent
entity, said Baker, adding that Desire2Learn has no plans at
this time to go public or sell out.
"We are just getting warmed-up. We hope to accelerate the
growth in our organization and this is really just the
beginning," he said.