Classana reflects potential change in educationWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
Local entrepreneur Will Lucas is the brains behind several projects — but he called his latest venture Classana, an educational resource website, “the most important thing I’ve ever done.”
Lucas, a Toledo native, soft-launched Classana on Jan. 24 and will officially debut the site Feb. 4. The website brings customized educational resources to its users.
“[Classana] is an educational resource discovery engine. Our mission is to organize the world’s learning resources … whether that be books you should read, classes you should take, online courses you should take, organizations you should join, events you should go to, etc.,” Lucas said.
When users register for the free website, they answer three questions that help tailor their results: what their interests are, what experiences they have and what they want to get better at. For instance, if a user says he or she wants to learn more about cooking, an online culinary class may be suggested.
Lucas said, “There’s people creating all these fantastic online learning resources, but there’s nowhere you can go online that you can be presented with these options based particularly and specifically on your interests. There’s things happening out there that we just don’t know about, that help us get better at whatever we’re trying to accomplish.
“A lot of this stuff is already on Google, but I have to know to search for it on Google. What if I don’t know that it even exists? Classana, because it knows who I am and what I’m already interested in, it knows to present me with these things and I don’t have to go searching for them.”
The seeds for Classana were planted at the beginning of 2012 when Lucas was trying to finish his degree at the University of Toledo.
The entrepreneur was taking 19 credit hours while still trying to run his business, Creadio, which gives businesses custom radio and television stations to promote their brand in their stores. Lucas also launched TedX Toledo, which featured about 20 speakers, in September.
“One of my mentors was like, ‘You’re killing yourself trying to take this full course load and run your business. So when you graduate, what are you going to do? Give yourself a promotion?’” Lucas said.
“He said, ‘If you’re going to go to school, don’t just go for a piece of paper; go for things that actually help you with your business; get better at what you’re trying to accomplish.’ So that made a lot of sense to me. So instead of pursuing a degree, I started pursuing things that directly helped me get better at my business.”
Lucas submitted his idea for Classana to Rocket Ventures, a Northwest Ohio venture capital and entrepreneurial resource firm, in April 2012.
Blake Culver, the entrepreneur in residence who works with Classana, said Rocket Ventures helped Lucas develop the website’s business model and commercialization strategy, make financial projections and assist with database development.
“We always were enamored with the idea, but it was a matter of how it would function as an enterprise,” Culver said. “The idea is quite unique and it’s differentiated and that’s, in part, why it has appeal.”
Lucas said there is possibility of advertising on the site in the future.
He added that, “What we’ve found is creators, whether they be authors, teachers and brands, are always trying to remain ahead of the curve in what’s happening in their fields of interest. Classana is the best way to track trends in the marketplace. We believe there is value there.”
Dan Slifko, president and director of Rocket Ventures, said if more entrepreneurs like Lucas utilized resources like the venture capital firm, Northwest Ohio would benefit from the results.
“Will happens to be one of a number of highly intelligent, previously successful clients that has come forward with ideas. They understand why Rocket Ventures exists,” he added.
Spoke, a Web branding firm, worked with Lucas to brand Classana. This included designing the logo and building the front end of the site, said W. Gene Powell, president of Spoke.
The logo, an orange six-sided honeycomb, was inspired by bees, which collect things to bring back to the hive, he said.
In a way, this is what Classana and its users do, by bringing their knowledge back to the hub, Powell said
“Bees and hives and colonies became this perfect metaphor,” Powell said. He added that Spoke was excited when Lucas approached them with the idea.
“Will’s got a great track record of success and we like working with smart, successful people like that,” he said.
“As far as the actual platform or product, we’re excited because he’s really at the beginning of this societal shift of education.”
Lucas noted that most colleges are designed to help students get a diploma or degree, not necessarily take classes meant to help them get better at their specific interests.
“We need a better way to organize classes because we believe education is going to get more entrepreneurial,” Lucas said.
Lucas said Classana reflects a possible change in higher education. He referenced Apple founder Steve Jobs’ famous commencement speech at Stanford University.
Jobs, a college dropout, said, “I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.”
While he believes college is still a worthy investment, Lucas said of Jobs’ quote, “I believe that’s what the future of education looks like. Instead of us going for this special degree or diploma, we’re going to go for things that help us more efficiently pursue our passions.”
For more information, visit the web site classana.com.