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Startup Experience Lands HUGO Co-founder In Larger Startup Pond

By Jenny Callison, posted Jul 24, 2014
Alex Vidor’s start-up has perhaps not taken him in the direction he planned, but it definitely launched him on an entrepreneurial path.

Raleigh-based Lea(R)n, an early-stage company that aims to bring quality control to education technology, announced Thursday that it has hired Vidor to help with client engagement.  The principal attribute that made Vidor attractive to Lea(R)n:
The experience he gained from starting his own education technology-related company, HUGO Network.

HUGO, which began as Social Pathway Solutions in September 2012, was an app designed to help teachers reliably recommend online resources and mobile applications to their students. The mobile app-sharing platform enabled users to build a trusted network through which those recommendations could be shared.

Vidor’s startup, renamed HUGO, has been a tenant at University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) since before the center officially opened last September. In addition to having space in a collaborative environment, Vidor and his collaborators participated in business development and networking opportunities provided by the center.

Those opportunities led to Vidor’s meeting and eventual hiring by Rectanus, the founder of Lea(R)n, which he describes as a clinical trials company for educational technology.

“I first met Karl after looking for education tech mentors through LinkedIn and Twitter,” said Jim Roberts, executive director of the CIE. “I do not have experience in that space so I needed to bring in some help. Karl has been to Wilmington a few times to mentor our entrepreneurs.”

Roberts explained that he introduced Rectanus to Vidor as a potential mentor through the CIE’s “Office Hours” program, in which entrepreneurs meet with mentors and service providers.

His serendipitous meeting with Vidor would not have happened without the mentor matchmaking services of Roberts and the center, Rectanus said. Although there were differences in focus, the two startups had much in common.

“We’re using data science and teacher feedback to bring quality control to the educational community,” Rectanus said, calling his fledgling company’s work “clinical trials for educational technology.”

He said the trials’ results will give teachers an objective way of determining what kinds of digital and other technologies will most benefit their students. Lea(R)n’s recommendations will also help school administrators make purchasing decisions in a tight budgetary environment.

The new company is accepting educators for its free, private beta, Rectanus said.

Thanks to a couple of major developments, Lea(R)n will be keeping Vidor busy.

The startup recently won a $50,000 NC IDEA award and Thursday, announced its selection as a 2014 Kaplan Ed Tech Accelerator participant. The startup was one of 12 companies selected for the program, out of an applicant pool of 500, Lea(R)n’s news release stated.

The accelerator is a “three-month intensive, mentor-driven, deep immersion program,” according to the program’s website.  Each of the 12 participants receives a $20,000 equity investment from Techstars, an optional $150,000 convertible note from Kaplan, access to Kaplan instructional design resources, mentorship from experienced business people, feedback from Kaplan students and access to Kaplan’s network of school districts and university partners.

Lea(R)n is not acquiring HUGO Network, Rectanus said, but he believes that the missions of the two companies are close enough that, even though HUGO will cease to exist, Vidor can pursue his dream through his new employer.

“Alex could get to his goals of providing value for educators and have an impact by joining our team,” Rectanus said. “Anybody who knows him knows that he’s passionate and will bring energy to solve real problems. And through Lea(R)n, he will continue to engage with the educational community to solve problems.”
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