How did Canvas come to be?

Welcome to Canvas

Once upon a time...

Once upon a time...

...there were two Computer Science grad students, Brian Whitmer and Devlin Daley. Toward the end of their masters program, Brian and Devlin were considering a number of different business ideas. They enrolled in an entrepreneurship class taught by Josh Coates, serial entrepreneur and founder of As they learned more about how to evaluate business ideas, they realized that some of their ideas weren't viable, but they kept reflecting on a comment made by Paul Graham (VC and co-founder of the Y-Combinator), who said something along these lines:

"If you're a technologist, most software is bad. Think of the worst software you use and you probably have a business idea."

So Brian and Devlin looked around at the worst software they were using and hands down, it was their institution's Learning Management System (LMS). At first, they thought that the institution had made a poor choice, but as they dug deeper they realized that there weren't any LMS solutions on the market that were even close to keeping pace with current technology trends. After completing the entrepreneurship class, they took a PowerPoint prototype of their LMS design ideas and visited with 17 different institutions to find out if their ideas really matched up with user needs. Their driving question was:

"What are students and teachers actually doing or needing to do in their LMS to facilitate teaching and learning and how can we help them?"

That question still drives development in Canvas today.

Key benchmarks:

  • Since its founding in 2008, Instructure has signed contracts with over 850 clients and hired over 400 employees, all of whom are committed to providing the premier cloud-based LMS in the market today.
  • The engineering team has a combined experience set spanning over 40 years of developing and support cloud technology for large enterprises, including educational institutions.
  • Instructure recently received a series D round of $30 million led by Bessemer Venture Partners.

Contact Us

6330 South 3000 East Suite 700

Salt Lake City, UT 84121

Office: 1.800.203.6755