Elijah Mayfield is the founder and currently the CEO of LightSideLabs. LightSide offers an automated essay scoring service, which allows students to receive computer-generated feedback on their writing.
Mayfield completed his master’s degree in language technology at Carnegie Mellon in 2011 and is currently completing a PhD there in language and information technology. LightSide was founded in 2013, and other than Mayfield, the company’s website lists two cofounders: David Adamson and Rajiv Enan. Adamson is also a PhD student at Carnegie Mellon and has worked as a teacher, while Enan has a previous background in ventures and is responsible for sales. Mayfield has published a number of academic articles in the field of language and technology.
The company seems to have been fairly successful in a short amount of time because it was acquired the following year (in October, 2014) by Turnitin, for an undisclosed amount of money. While the acquisition by Turnitin happened in October, a few months earlier, in June, Turnitin’s holding company, iParadigms, was acquired by Insight Venture Partners (a private equity company) and GIC (a sovereign wealth fund owned by the government of Singapore).
In short, Mayfield used his educational experience at CMU and his own skills to quickly found and then sell a new venture. A bit of luck and timing is at play here—Mayfield founded the venture just before Turnitin had the cash to make a purchase. Turnitin, a company that has long offer plagiarism-detection service, is now able to offer automated essay feedback to clients.
Mayfield’s personal website has not been updated in a couple of years, so it doesn’t offer any hints about his plans and whether he will stay at LightSide in the near term or long term. Reporting by EdSurge indicates that LightSide will continue to operate its own offices in Philadelphia. I’m not sure what to think of that because the company’s Twitter feed has not been updated since the Turnitin acquisition. The same goes for its Facebook page. Turnitin’s website now offers the Turnitin Scoring Engine, which is likely the technology integrated from LightSide. I wouldn’t be surprised if LightSide’s online presences such as its website and social media accounts close in the near future, given that Turnitin seems to want to deeply integrate the LightSide technologies. Whether LightSide really will continue to operate a separate office in the long term seems unclear.
If you’d like to learn a bit more about AES, stay tuned; I’m writing a market analysis about this sector for Assignment#1.