I’ve seen a lot of pivots, but few continue to impress as much as Guardly‘s shift from a personal safety app aimed at consumers, to a comprehensive security suite designed to be used by educational institutions and other organization-level clients. In particular, Guardly has been very smart about setting up partnerships not just with universities and colleges, but with other ed tech providers and brands that will extend its reach faster than going after individual schools. Today, the Toronto-based startup announced that it has been accepted by Desire2Learn’s partner program, putting its product in front of over 8 million learners.
Last time I checked in with Guardly, founder Josh Sookman told me about his company’s partnership with Code Blue, a pioneer in on-campus security systems like the ‘blue light’ poles you often see dotting college grounds. Now, a partnership with fellow Canadian company Desire2Learn has the potential to expand its reach further still. Desire2Learn, which secured a hefty late-stage $80 million round in September led by NEA and OMERS Ventures, is one of Blackboard’s strongest current competitors, and offers a comprehensive learning management system which addresses some of the pain points of that dominant product.
This partnership brings Guardly’s Safe Campus product to Desire2Learn’s mobile app as an available add-on module for school administrators, which provides both a cloud-based command center for monitoring and responding to on-campus emergencies, with real-time incident and location tracking, and mobile apps for students that allow them to communicate key data including location, name and number instantly with central dispatch.
Sookman explained in an interview that this partnership benefits Desire2Learn by giving it a safety and security partner comparable to Guardly’s competitor Rave Mobile, which is integrated into the Blackboard platform. And for Guardly, it’s a way to get the sales channel in gear without bringing on additional direct selling staff.
“The schools are actually our customers, and they still end up paying us,” Sookman told me over the phone from a Desire2Learn conference happening today. “Essentially what we’re doing is building a parallel strategy [to direct selling] that’s helping us get in front of decision-makers at schools. Forging a lot of these relationships and developing trust with these decision makers takes a lot of time, and so by positioning our platform in and amongst other services that are being used for similar reasons, it just makes sense for us from a distribution perspective.”
In exchange for Desire2Learn’s help getting its product in front of new eyes, Guardly will provide the company with a commission on each sale made via the partnership. Guardly continues to grow, and Sookman hopes exploring different distribution strategies like this one will help increase the pace of that education industry penetration.