Written by Barb Consiglio.
Professional and personal development is becoming as important to millennial employees as the job itself. And companies excel when their employees excel. Classana, in Toledo, Ohio, developed technology designed to help employees grow. The website and mobile app helps workers discover relevant books, articles, classes and organizations based on their industry and areas of interest.
“Millennials are the largest demographic in the U.S. workforce, and a study by the Harvard Business Review found that the number one thing they want in a work experience is the opportunity to learn and grow,” said Will Lucas, Classana co-founder and CEO. “Classana helps companies build a smarter workforce aligned with their business objectives, and recruit and retain high-quality employees who want to know more about how to do their jobs effectively.”
Users build their profile by entering keywords for subjects of interest, from cooking to international business. The home page features customized content based on users’ specific interests, and the information can be grouped into “collections,” allowing users to organize their educational resources.
Lucas is a serial entrepreneur, and after starting his first business, began taking college classes. But as he worked toward a degree, he says most of his courses weren’t relevant to helping him reach his career goals. He wanted a way to maximize his time while gaining the specific knowledge to help him succeed in his true areas of interest.
“I wanted to learn how to better run my business, and that meant more to me than getting a degree,” said Lucas. “I knew there had to be a better way to organize learning based on my interests and not just a prerequisite track. That’s how the idea for Classana came about.”
The company received funding from Ohio Third Frontier to create a prototype, and Lucas completed the Concept Academy at Rev1 Ventures, a central Ohio partner of Third Frontier. He says mentors helped to put his ideas on paper, and refine a strategy to get people in the company’s target market to provide feedback via surveys.
Lucas says the organizations and resources in Ohio are fostering startups and helping new entrepreneurs validate their businesses. He says access to the tools and knowledge that accelerate new businesses is helping Classana grow and prosper.
“Having support at the state level is helping create a strong network of startups in Ohio,” said Lucas. “Larger corporations and seasoned entrepreneurs are willing to help. It’s much easier to get a mentor, decision-maker or potential investor on the phone than in other markets because there are systems designed to make these connections happen.”