The Halloween That Changed My Life: Submitting To Thrill Mill’s Business Bout Two Years Ago

I can’t believe it was two years ago when I discovered The Business Bout and rushed to complete an application THAT VERY SAME NIGHT. I had only moved to Pittsburgh from California just four months ago. My “company” at the time, then known as Academica, was only a fragment of its original Startup Weekend team – truthfully, I was the only one who stayed onboard.

The Original Team Academica.

The Original Team Academica

Still, I put together the best possible application that I could, one that featured two Yalies, two former co-workers from my days in television, two classmates from the West Coast, and three people I had recently met in Pittsburgh. Our projections were highly baseless, our plan of action non-existent. All we had was our convinction. I had no other hope whatsoever in making it any further than the submission process.

The Original Team Scholar Hero. I'll never let... you get the point.

The Original Team Scholar Hero

I was in Manila when I got a large email from Bobby Zappala say that we’ve been accepted into the first cohort of “The Hustle Den,” the now-retired name of the co-working space owned and operated by the eponymous Thrill Mill. We were offered a full year of workspace, networking opportunities, mentoring, and any other support they could provide.

My first reaction, of course: who the heck was Bobby Zappala?

Turns out some Duke and Pitt Law graduate decided to leave the Pittsburgh legal world and do more for his hometown. A few of his close friends – Luke Skurman, Serge Smailbegovich, Kevin Heher, and Alex Palma – had been running an annual event called the Baller BBQ for years, raising money for a startup prize competition: The Business Bout.

The Original Ballers: Alex, Bobby, Serge, Kevin, Michael

These men had built up so much money and support the next move was to create more opportunities for local startups to grow and thrive. This led to the creation of a co-working space in Pittsburgh’s up-and-coming East Liberty sector, and the re-branding of their event to, of course, the Thrival Festival.

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Moby: The Original DJ (trademark pending)

I remember my first encounter with Bobby – it was a late night in the middle of Broad Street, and a huge-grinning Zachary Quinto-looking dude waited for us outside of a vacant building in a shady neighborhood. He escorted upstairs to show us our new home for the next year.

Luke and Bobby, who insists we say he’s the one “on the right.”

The months that follow were incredible. I worked alongside people who were enthusiastic about their work, genuinely supportive of one another, and eager to become close friends, if not “startup family.” We pitched our ideas at Google, stayed in close contact afterwards, and for some of us (especially me), we never quite left… physically.

Working in Thrill Mill.

Scholar Hero in Thrill Mill.

Thus, I know that there are probably a few teams right now wondering if they should pull the trigger and apply to Thrill Mill’s third class. I started my application about three hours before the deadline, and I’ve built a company I’ve quite proud of since then.

What’s the worst that can happen? Here’s the link: http://thrillmill.com/apply/

Lee Ngo
Founder, Scholar Hero
Thrill Mill: First Class Cohort
Thrill Mill Second Class Alumni Mentor

Scholar Hero is now in Remote Beta! Sign up for a demo at scholarhero.com/beta-signup!

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The reviews are in from out Pittsburgh testers, and they have been stellar! After responding to their feedback and iterating accordingly, we are ready to test Scholar Hero beyond our home base!

To test with us for absolutely free, simply go to scholarhero.com/beta-signup. We will send you to our testing page with a permission code. All we ask in return is a quick survey about our platform after a week of use.

Thanks to everyone for their support, and we hope to keep working hard to get Scholar Hero ready for our wide release!

Lee Ngo
Founder
Scholar Hero

Scholar Hero is now in Closed Beta! Sign up for a live demo!

After a year of planning, hacking, and iterating, Scholar Hero is now officially in closed beta! We are now taking requests for live demos in the greater Pittsburgh area and select remote demos nationwide.

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Those who are selected for closed beta are eligible for reduced rate unlimited accounts in the near future as a thank you for the priceless feedback they will provide for us. We will only offer closed beta accounts to a very small group of people, so please sign up for them as soon as you can.

To sign up, simply click on the link here and fill out a very brief form. We will be in contact with you soon to follow up. Thank you for your support!

The link: http://www.scholarhero.com/beta-signup

Scholar Hero would like to thank a lot of individuals for helping us get to this point:

To learn more about Scholar Hero, visit scholarhero.com or fill out our contact form to speak directly to our staff. You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+

Once again, the link to sign up for closed beta: http://www.scholarhero.com/beta-signup

Thank you, Idea Foundry! (Scholar Hero Forges Ahead)

Idea Foundry (www.ideafoundry.org)

Idea Foundry (www.ideafoundry.org)

At the end of February, Scholar Hero will come to the end of its term in the Entertainment and Ed Tech Accelerator Program hosted by Idea Foundry, one of the leading investing entities in innovation and technology in southwestern Pennsylvania. The experience was a truly blessed one.

Scholar Hero founder Lee Ngo and Idea Foundry Entertainment and Education Initiatives Program Director Gary Gardiner

Scholar Hero founder Lee Ngo and Idea Foundry Program Director Gary Gardiner

Under the mentoring of Gary Gardiner, director of this selective program, we were able to accomplish what once seemed impossible: virtually complete Scholar Hero’s minimally viable product (to release for private beta within the next few weeks!)

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Our page in the Idea Foundry Entertainment and Ed Tech Sector – 2013

We now realize the importance of accelerators in communities that hope to stimulate their regional economies and encourage ambitious people to forge something real and sustainable. Pittsburgh is truly lucky to have so many of these entities (a lot of them not-for-profit, no less), and we are more than honored to be a part of them.

A little preview of Scholar Hero: Version One!

A little preview of Scholar Hero: Version One!

Our hope is that Scholar Hero has met the high expectations of the Idea Foundry and will want to continue this fruitful relationship in the future. Without their boost of confidence, funding, and networking, our company would certainly be in a very different place. For more information about the Idea foundry, and their Entertainment and Ed Tech Accelerator Program, visit www.ideafoundry.org or follow this link.

Lee Ngo
Founder
Scholar Hero, Inc.

Scholar Hero is accepted into the Idea Foundry’s Entertainment & Ed Tech Accelerator Program!

Yay!

(from left) Technical Director Michael Butler, Founder and Executive Director Lee Ngo, and Idea Foundry Program Manager Gary Gardiner

Amazing news for Scholar Hero! On November 5th, 2013, we have accepted our invitation to join the Idea Foundry’s Entertainment & Ed Tech Accelerator Program! The Idea Foundry (www.ideafoundry.org) is one of Pittsburgh’s premiere technological and business startup accelerator programs in southwestern Pennsylvania. Their Entertainment & Ed Tech program is unparalleled in the region, and it is perfect for Scholar Hero’s current aspirations.

For Scholar Hero, this is a terrific milestone. This program provides the company with its first official investment, just nine months after its incorporation and barely a year after its initial conception during Startup Weekend Pittsburgh #2. The Idea Foundry also provides mentoring, advisement, and other standard resources that come with a prestigious, competitive accelerator. We haven’t been this excited since being selected as part of the inaugural class of the Thrill Mill Hustle Den incubator program!

Scholar Hero founder Lee Ngo pitching at Google Pittsburgh for the Thrill Mill Thrival Innovation series.

Scholar Hero founder Lee Ngo pitching at Google Pittsburgh during Thrill Mill’s Innovation Series.

Another great perk about the Idea Foundry is its close proximity to Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, schools with students, professors, and staff that we hope will be among the first early adopters of our platform. Testing and validating our product could not be made any easier for us now, and we hope that more established partnerships might emerge as well from the improved locations.

Moreover, because of our acceptance into the Entertainment & Ed Tech Accelerator Program, we are also being evaluated early for Idea Foundry’s highly competitive Core Program as well. Potentially, this puts us in a position to receive more funding! (One step at a time…)

The Scholar Hero Development Team hard at work on our first prototype.

The Scholar Hero Development Team hard at work on our first prototype.

“We are truly ecstatic and grateful to have the support of the Idea Foundry as we continue to develop our platform and build our potential user base,” says Lee Ngo, founder and executive director of Scholar Hero. “Program Manager Gary Gardiner and the Idea Foundry have provided us with wonderful feedback over the course of the year, and they have been a major influence in our overall conceptual, technical, and business development. We look forward to our continued partnership over the next three months and beyond.”

We hope that this is the first of many future successes to come! Our selection into this renowned accelerator program provides further validation for our unique and innovative concept, but now the pressure is on for us to deliver! We hope to do you proud, Idea Foundry!

To learn more about Scholar Hero, visit http://www.scholarhero.com or fill out the contact form below:

Lee Ngo is the founder and executive director of Scholar Hero, Inc. All rights reserved.