Original Article: http://www.myhorrynews.com
By KATHY ROPP [email protected]
It was a student in one of Todd Cherner’s graduate literacy education classes that gave him a great idea and Conway’s new innovation center that put him and his idea on the path to becoming a successful entrepreneur.
Cherner’s new company, APPed Review, is the first company built through the innovation center, but it certainly won’t be the only one, according to center officials, who gathered Wednesday afternoon to officially introduce the new service to the community.
The Downtown Conway office, located at 1119 Third Ave., had guests standing shoulder to shoulder for the dedication service that drew people from Clemson University, Coastal Carolina University including its President David DeCenzo, members of the Conway and Myrtle Beach city councils, Conway Chamber of Commerce, Conway Downtown Alive, Horry Georgetown Technical College, The Duke Energy Center for Innovation in Hartsville, the North Dargan Innovation Center in Florence, StartUp South Carolina in Pawleys Island and more.
The 5thT acknowledges that Horry County was built on tobacco, turpentine, textiles and tourism. It’s time now for technology, the 5thT, to begin exerting its influence on the area’s economy.
The 5thT is a collaborative effort of the City of Conway, Clemson University’s Technology Villages program, CCU and HGTC with major sponsorships from the Knight Foundation and the Waccamaw Community Foundation.
Director Kevin Shea said since the center opened, it has welcomed 65 people a month who have come in with business ideas, or just to see what the new innovation center is all about.
He said after the grand opening was mentioned the day before on local television stations he had seven people make contact with him over the phone or in person, one from Tampa, Fla., from a company that has its eyes on the Horry County market.
He believes the companies created through the innovation center could add $10 million to $20 million in sales to the local economy.
“…and that means job in Horry County,” he said.
The Clemson University folks who came up with the idea for the Technology Villages program believe it makes more sense to grow businesses at home than to offer them huge tax breaks to move from other areas.
The group offers services to people who need help getting their ideas moving. That usually means putting them in touch with people who can help them move their ideas from their garages to Main Street. The center’s officials and knowledgeable board meet with the budding entrepreneurs weekly to review their progress and offer an abundance of marketing help from experts at the participating educational institutions.
The gap that Cherner intends to fill is offering help to educators who are transforming education using digital learning devices. He says the need crosses the entire United States and factors heavily into education internationally. He and his co-founder Corey Lee, another Coastal Carolina University PhD, already have lots of interest coming from Australia and New Zealand, he said.
Cherner says there are about 20,000 apps already out there designed to help teachers and students use their digital devices more productively. The now-famous question Cherner’s student asked was could he suggest some good apps?
Now that’s what APPed Review does. After performing bountiful research, the co-founders chose 500 apps to review. The service offers a 24-point rubric to help people decide if that app is what they need. The review also gives three to five ways for teachers to use each app.
This way, Cherner said, it’s quick and easy for teachers to find the app they need and then to use it productively.
The product is targeted at homeschool parents, as well as private and public school teachers.
So far, Cherner has been offering free samples of his product, but once it’s fully-developed, on April 15, he’ll make an official launch. After that, he’ll charge private subscribers like the homeschool parents $5 a month for the service, which also includes a newsletter.
Schools will be included for $500 a year. The fee allows access to everyone on staff at the school.
Cherney says he’s been presenting APPed at educational conferences across the country and so far everybody has been wowed by it.
Shea says Cherner is taking an educational product and commercializing it, giving value and getting value.
Cherner says his product differs from most of the promotions for digital apps because all of the others are selling their apps while he’s selling information.
Although Cherner is farthest along toward launching his company, 5thT has four other, what they call “resident companies” in the works.
These are people who have convinced 5thT officials that they have a good enough idea to grow a successful company, but they’re still in the process of developing their idea.
Conwayite Tab Chapman falls into this category. Chapman, whose family owns and operates a successful antique tire business, has come up with two ideas for motorcycle tires. He already has a model of one of them.
He says he turned to the 5thT when he hit a brick wall with some aspects of his design. He says Clemson University has a tire conference each year and employs folks who are heavily involved with the tire industry, so on a hunch he headed to the 5thT.
“It’s a project that I was well into before I came in here. The Conway Innovation Center will help fill in gaps that need to be filled in,” Chapman said.
Now, he says, he has some really good contacts that he didn’t have three years ago.
He now anticipates having his product marketable in six to 12 months.
“I’m confident in my ideas. I’m confident enough to pursue it. If I fail I’ll feel better about myself knowing I tried,” he said.
There was one newly-interested man in Wednesday’s crowd, who said he had just learned about the center and went in to pitch an idea he has to help people grow houseplants and vegetables, especially tomatoes, in pots.
He said he’s negotiating a patent now. Shea was interested in his idea and made an appointment to meet with him soon.
Shea says some of the people who contact him find that they don’t need their help. The CIC folks can tell them what to do and they can do it on their own, Shea said.
Read more about Wednesday’s celebration in next week’s Horry Independent.