Will Lucas looks to improve the education system with his new tech company Classana. Based in Toledo, Ohio, Classana is an online educational resource discovery engine that provides recommendations to the next steps in education, career and interests. Its goal is to organize the world’s learning resources–from books you should read, classes you need to take, organizations you should join, and even events you should go attend. The recommendations are based on a proprietary matching algorithm. Want to be promoted but lack the skills for the next level of employment? Classana will tell you exactly want you need to learn to move up.
TNJ: What prompted you to launch Classana?
Will Lucas: I was running my own business and taking classes to finish my degree. I was probably doing too much, taking 16 credit hours, operating a company and maintaining a family. A mentor asked me why I was in school since I ran my own business. My only answer was that I wanted to finish what I started, only having a year left in my program. It didn’t have much to do with my career at all. He said he wasn’t trying to say going to school wasn’t important, but since I ran my own business and that’s what I wanted to do for the long-term, I should look at taking classes that helped me get better at my business and not chase a degree for degrees sake. That made a lot of sense to me.
I went back to schedule classes for the upcoming semester, more focused on my specific improvement goals, and I quickly realized that college was not designed for you to ‘pick and choose’ classes, but more so for you to follow a predetermined track towards a degree. That’s not what I was looking for, so finding the classes that interested me outside of that design was challenging. So what we’re trying to do with Classana is provide a ‘re-imagined college advisor’ sort of experience for people who may or may not find a traditional path as their way forward.
TNJ: How did you fund the startup?
Will Lucas: The first couple of dollars were personally mine. I put a lot of time, energy and cash into the business. You have to do that to get anyone else to believe and invest their money. Along the way, we were introduced to a venture firm that secured money for us to continue development.
TNJ: How does Classana work?
Will Lucas: Classana recommends to you resources that help you get better such as books you should read, classes you should take, organizations you should join, events you should attend, etc., all based on your specific educational, career or interest path. The site uses machine learning to get better at providing you with recommendations based on what you display an interest in. The more you use it, the better it gets at figuring out what you’d like to see.
TNJ: What void does it fill?
Will Lucas: Classana is the best way for resources you would have interest in to find you – you wouldn’t have to go looking for them. How would you know what to search for if you didn’t know it existed? That’s the problem Classana solves. The resources come looking for you. You’re the query.
TNJ: What have been some challenges?
Will Lucas: Cash is king, so we continue to pitch for funding. From there, shortening the development cycle is something we’re constantly concerned with.
To solve these, we focus on our strengths. I pitch well and don’t have any preoccupations with getting in front of potential investors. Also, we’re continuing to build the team. We have a group of really smart and committed developers who believe in what we’re tying to do.
TNJ: What are your goals for 2014?
Will Lucas: I have two. First, launch a faster and friendlier site and mobile experience. Second, hit a million users.