Tech Startup of the Week: Classana, a Prerequisite for Lifetime Learning
Black Enterprise Magazine July/August 2018 Issue

Will Lucas launched Classana to help lifelong learners accomplish their immediate and long term goals in and out of the classroom (Image: Classana)

In 2012, Will Lucas realized that college wasn’t set up for you to ‘pick and choose’ classes, but it was set up for you to follow a prerequisite set of courses toward a degree.
At the time, he was running a tech startup full time, taking 16 classes at the University of Toledo in an effort to finish his degree. His mentor suggested that he start taking classes that speak directly to what he was doing to get gain better skills toward running his business.

“I began looking for classes in iOS development (programming for iPhone and iPad), and at the time my school didn’t have a program for that sort of training. So, I began looking for a class with at least a similar skill-set,” says Lucas, 32, who first launched Creadio , a service that streams live, customized radio and television programming along with social media messages in retail stores.

Daunting didn’t even begin to describe the process it took to register for a class that wasn’t in his specific program. That’s when he got the idea for Classana, an online educational resource discovery engine that provides users with recommendations for the next steps in their education, career and interests based on a proprietary matching algorithm and machine learning.

Classana’s resource recommendations are based on a user’s stated interests, past life experiences, goals, behaviors and activities. This makes Classana different from traditional web browsing as it provides users with content from across the world that they may not have even known to search for on a traditional search engine like Google, Yahoo, or Bing.

Classana’s implementation is three-fold. First, Classana partners with leaders in education (colleges and universities) and offers valued content creators (authors, publishers, event coordinators, among others) an opportunity to index their materials and offerings through the platform. Second, as they browse the web, anyone can add content to Classana’s database by clicking an “add to Classana” button that can be added to web browsers as an add-on. Finally, Lucas’ team has developed a proprietary web “crawl” system that scans the web for resources and inserts them into the Classana index.

After curating these resources, the website then provides users with recommendations to materials, classes and online courses, books, events, organizations and programs, among other resources that will benefit them in their education, career, and entrepreneurial goals.

Classana was accepted as a client in Rocket Ventures, a northwest Ohio-based venture capital firm, and with its help to redevelop Classana’s business plan, the company received $25,000 from The State of Ohio’s Edison Program to begin development. With that initial infusion, they launched in public beta in February 2013. They’re in the process of raising their first round, but so far Lucas has developed partnerships to index resources at The University of Toledo and Pearson University, along with education resource websites like ck12.org, Treehouse, and Codecademy.

This week, Black Enterprise celebrates Classana as Tech Startup of the Week for developing a technology that will make education a life long journey and not a means to an end. Join Lucas and other EduTech Entrepreneurs at “Today’s Business Crisis: Educating Tomorrow’s Workforce,” a symposium hosted by Black Enterprise in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,  to be held May 15, 2013.

Click here for more on tech founder Will Lucas…

 

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, SocialWayne.com chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining BlackEnterprise.com as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and BlackEnterprise.com helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.


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