Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes (Turn and Face the Strange)

By June 22, 2017 No Comments

Most of us have a love/hate relationship with change. When you’re the one driving the change, it seems easier to manage. When it’s imposed, it’s usually harder.

Time is imposing change for me as my two teenage daughters are growing more independent. It’s hard. Ten years ago my wife and I were teaching, protecting, and providing for them. As they grow, we watch with delight and pride to see how they make the world around them better for themselves and others. Our roles are changing, and all of us will be better for it.

I’ve been working to realize the Kuali mission for nearly as long as my kids have been alive. When we started in 2004, this idea of open source administrative software was met with “affirmative ambivalence,” as Casey Green put it. The desire for change in higher ed—for doing things differently—was strong. But it was scary too, and the brave few took the first steps that then helped us all move forward.

Now, it is my turn to take a new step. In mid July I will be moving to Lumen Learning, an exciting young company leading the way to fix a broken higher ed textbook model that leaves millions of students disadvantaged. I will continue participating in the Kuali community as a member of the company’s board, to provide insights as the organization grows and changes.

I love bringing new ideas to life. I co-founded rSmart to help institutions take a more active role in some of their most mission-critical systems, and to redirect big license fees back into the academy. Creating the Kuali company three years ago was an important pivot to adapt and evolve, helping the Kuali community’s mission move forward. It’s been challenging, and so worthwhile.

Kuali is growing and succeeding in so many ways.

Since the company formed, our team has grown from 0 to more than 75. And these aren’t just any people. They are some of the most talented people I’ve had the opportunity to work with, people who truly embody the values to which I aspire.

Another way we’re growing is in the # of institutions. We’ve grown by about 30% since the company was formed, to include more than 160 unique institutions. Many are expanding their relationships with us, adopting more Kuali solutions and crossing the boundaries of Student, Research, Financials, and Continuity Planning. There are more ways to engage with Kuali now, which makes our community much more accessible to more institutions. And, while some institutions have found themselves aligned differently with the community and have chosen to part ways, I’m proud that those transitions are not disruptive to those institutions because of our open source commitment.

That growth in our community translates to about a 3x increase in our recurring SaaS revenue, which goes to support more new development than we’ve ever seen as a community. While the pace of development hasn’t been as fast as we’d like, we are steadily adding more revenue which gets reinvested in the business and helps improve our speed of delivery, which in turn grows our community. I’m thrilled with the growth we’ve seen through this transition and excited about where our trajectory points over the next few years.

The timing is right for this change, for me and for Kuali. I have a ton of confidence in Joel and in the Kuali leadership team. They know how to build great software, design with elegance, and they love this community.  We won’t be hiring a replacement COO. I have a very strong team to replace me and to ensure consistency.

While there will always be challenges, I know the Kuali community has great things ahead. I have loved being part of this creative, strong group of amazing humans and will remain part of it in a different role—one of vision and direction. And I will take the lessons, the passion, and the energy I’ve seen at Kuali to help fuel growth in the Lumen community.


Author Ben

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