Dispatches from the Front
EdTech Leaders Face Covid-19
This is the eighteenth, and final installment, of a series of mini-interviews ODP conducted with EdTech Founders and Senior Executives to gain insights into how industry leaders are adjusting their strategies and evolving their management practices during the current pandemic.
THIS WEEK: Chris Besse, Partner and Chief Commercial Officer at Edsby
Chris Besse
Partner and Chief Commercial Officer at Edsby



Edsby is a learning management system for K-12. The platform’s unique and comprehensive breadth of features is known for its rich set of engagement and data management capabilities in a single application. Chris Besse is an experienced and recognized leader with a history in the e-learning industry. Prior to joining the Edsby team he served as CEO, and in other leadership positions, at several education companies.


1. Now that the school year is underway, do requests vary from your customers in different countries and what is most important to them? Has anything surprised you in what’s happening in your market(s) in general during this most unusual COVID environment (beyond what you would normally expect)?

COVID-related disruptions, like transitions to hybrid or all-online learning, aren’t being felt as acutely by our customers—those who are already using our Edsby learning management system for K-12. Our district and regional customers have what they need to teach, assess and report online with Edsby.

In the wider global market, the pandemic continues to accelerate digital transformation in K-12. Countries, states, provinces and districts that had once seen digital learning as a nice-to-have are racing to put in solutions as quickly as they can. And when it comes to selecting software systems to manage online learning, assessment and parent engagement, they’re increasingly looking for comprehensive, all-in-one systems built for K-12 like Edsby.

2. What does the new normal for Edsby look like and do you see this continuing or do you think education will go mostly back to what was ‘normal’ prior?

Post-COVID, K-12 education will never be the same. Never.

The pandemic is making educators just as fluent with digital tools as they were with blackboard and chalk. The days of paper gradebooks will never return. Parents will never again be satisfied with anything but the instant insight into the academic achievement of their kids that they get from mobile phone apps today. Hybrid learning in some form is likely here to stay, so educators in K-12 are investing in the digital infrastructure like learning management systems to support it long term.

3. How long do you expect your employees to work remotely (or were most of them always working remotely)? What are your plans for using your office space going forward?

​​​​​​​​Even pre-pandemic, we were a distributed organization with staff in remote locations in North America and New Zealand. So, we had the systems and internal disciplines to know remote work was possible. Now, with most employees at our Toronto-area headquarters working from home, we’re obviously thinking about our office space. But it’s a unique building, overlooking a lake and nature preserve—so we’re in no hurry to give it up!

4. How has your leadership style changed – or not – during this period? What might you be doing differently now with your team?

Our overall leadership style has not changed but has been modified to the new remote working realities brought on by COVID. With team members working from a distance, the loss of impromptu, in-person strategic and tactical discussions have been minimized. It required a more organized effort to schedule effective team interactions by leveraging the strength of virtual communication tools and learning new competencies for driving collaboration, creativity and entrepreneurial thinking.

And then there’s our ace in the hole: our own product. We are fortunate in that the same Edsby system driving engagement for millions of students, teachers and parents around the world has been helping our team work effectively, even from our own homes.


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Oaklins | DESILVA+PHILLIPS is an investment bank for clients that operate at the intersection of content, technology and services. This includes enterprises operating within the media, advertising & marketing, education, healthcare, information services and technology sectors.  Over 24 years, clients have included Advance Publications/Condé Nast, Deutsche Börse Group, Elsevier, Hachette, JP Morgan Partners, Microsoft, The New York Times, Time Inc., TPG and Wasserstein & Co., among others. The firm is the TMT practice co-head and industry specialist in Oaklins, the world’s most experienced mid-market M&A advisor, with over 850 professionals globally and dedicated industry teams in more than 45 countries. We have closed 1,700 transactions in the past five years.At Oaklins, we are passionate about M&A. It’s what we do, every day. We give nothing but our very best to do justice to the extraordinary effort our clients put into their businesses. Our partnership with our clients works because we both believe in never settling until we deliver excellence. Coming from every corner of the world and with a diverse range of backgrounds, together we are one global team. The world’s most experienced advisor on mid-market deals.Oaklins is the collective trade name of independent member firms affiliated with Oaklins International Inc. For details of the nature of the affiliation, please refer to www.oaklins.com/legal.

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Robin Warner

Managing Director

Oaklins DeSilva+Phillips

(212) 651-2605