Charles Thornburgh

Founder, CEO

Charles fell in love with education while attending Stanford University and considered becoming a teacher. However, he also truly enjoyed technology and business, so decided to explore new ways of affecting education in a more scalable way. Combining these passions, he bought an education business upon graduation and started three more education technology businesses, all with the expressed purpose of pursuing the use of data and technology to improve access and efficacy in education. His work caught the interest of Kaplan Education, who acquired one of his businesses and retained him as an in-house entrepreneur for nine years, during which time he launched many other successful start-ups and served on the executive team of Kaplan Higher Education.

All of this experience led Charles to the conclusion that he could build something even bigger, a platform for innovation that would impact both access and efficacy on a dramatically larger scale. With this in mind, he launched Civitas Learning® in 2013. An outcomes-based company, Civitas Learning was designed to bring together the best of leading-edge technology, design thinking, and data science in its mission to help students successfully traverse the complex journey of higher education.

Charles started Civitas Learning with the idea that technology and data, used in the right way, can help address a growing problem in higher education, one that is costing the U.S. more than $4 Trillion. He recognized that the only way to address a need of that magnitude was to bring together a diverse, talented group of people from across industries (high-tech, healthcare, education, public safety, etc.), harnessing the transformative phenomena that is sweeping across industries in relation to data science combined with machine learning, and its use in improving outcomes.

By focusing on deep data science and creating a business model of partnering with higher education institutions to help create and test new ideas and build new solutions, Civitas Learning has become one of the fastest growing ed-tech startups of all time and is reaching over 2.5 million students. Based in Austin, TX, the company attracts talent from all over the world and is continuing to grow its partner base and product ecosystem.

After Charles-Alter-2having two children of his own, Charles became even more convinced of the need to address educational issues in a data-driven practical manner, and not just in the U.S. Civitas Learning is now in the U.K., Ireland, and Mexico, helping even more students achieve success.

Charles is named one of the “16 People Changing the Landscape of Online Education Forever” by Find Education Online. He is a frequent speaker at education and business events around the country when he is not home in Austin, TX enjoying the outdoors with his wife and two young sons.


2007 – 2011
Kaplan Virtual Education

2007 – 2011
Division President
Kaplan, Inc.

1999 – 2008

2005 – 2007
Senior Vice President, Strategic Initiatives
Kaplan Higher Education

2002 – 2005
Vice President, Online Services
Kaplan K12 Learning Services

1997 – 2002
Founder and CEO

1998 – 2002
Interactive Solutions, Inc.