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.

thrival-moby

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!

connect-small

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.

Image

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!)

idea foundry pdf

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.

A Question of Kwanzaa: What Is It?

The phrase “Happy Holidays” has gained prominence as a catch-all way to be inclusive. While it’s a well-intentioned umbrella, one gets the impression that it is meant to stop any awkward Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah mix-ups, while something like Kwanzaa is left out in the rain, and completely out of mind.  This is not a product of dismissal, though. It is merely a lack of general understanding. For those not familiar, here is a very brief explanation of Kwanzaa.

Origins

Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26th to January 1st. Its concept is derived from the first Egyptian harvest festival, still celebrated by some in Africa. Its name is taken from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza” (“first fruits”).  However, Kwanzaa is not rooted in a history of religious precedent. It was born from much more recent events: the African-American struggle of the sixties.

Kwanzaa was established 1966 by Dr. Maulana Ron Karenga as a means of reconstructing African-American identity and reaffirming social and cultural bonds.

Practices

Like any holiday, Kwanzaa has its own celebratory colors, traditions, and symbols. In addition to decorating with the colors black, red, and green, observers will ceremoniously place the symbols of Kwanza (The Corn, The Mat, The Crops, and others) in their homes. Gifts are given to the children, with the stipulation that one must always be a book and one a heritage symbol–emphasizing commitment to learning and to tradition.

As It Stands

        There does not seem to be any available accurate information on how many people celebrate the holiday or whether its popularity has grown or diminished over time. It seems to be relegated to a niche group that is much less vocal than the countless articles I found denouncing it, despite its original purpose of unity.

While you may never knowingly meet a celebrant, now that you are armed with some understanding, you can add a little more weight to your “Happy Holidays.”

Source: http://www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org/greetings_and.shtml#go to gifts

Nathan Repp is a writer for Scholar Hero, Inc.

Holiday Hunger Games: Staying Smart Amidst Black Friday Madness

Black Friday is a widespread corporate strategy to increase sales going into the Holiday season (“black” comes from the term for positive sales figures). Every year, on the day following Thanksgiving, stores make huge markdowns on much of their stock. However, the horror stories that surround the war zone that is Black Friday make it seem as though the only way to win is not to play.

You can come out on top and unscathed if you arm yourself with good practices. Shopping smart can mitigate potential trauma and help you navigate a seemingly endless sea of deals. At Scholar Hero, we are firm believers in minimizing stress and having productive endeavors, even when shopping. So, for those trying to furnish their dorm, upgrade their phone, or bring the complete theatre experience of watching The Hobbit into their home home, we have some tips on intelligent shopping.

1) Shop Online

The advent of the internet has ensured that web servers take the abuse and not you. Most Black Friday sales that are available in-store are also available online. All big name stores will offer attractive sales so keep an eye on their ads.

  • BestBuy.com – When purchasing electronics, Best Buy will live up to their namesake during Black Friday. Better still, their deals are available right now.

  • Overstock.com – With no brick or mortar stores, Overstock can offer great prices on just about anything.

  • Amazon.com – While not a traditional store, do not forget about Amazon. Keep an eye on their daily and hourly deals.

  • For a complete roundup of Black Friday ads and updates, visit theblackfriday.com

2) Budget

Black Friday is a great way to land the things you want for a price that you can afford. However, this point is made moot if you spend too much on items that you do not need.

  • Money – Determine what things you intend to buy before you do your shopping and stick to it, no matter what other bargains arise.

  • Time – Remember that time is a resource, too. Is it worth eight hours of your day to catch a specific deal? Create a time allowance for all of your purchases.

  • Health – We only have so much calmness, energy, and emotional well-being to give.  Do not overtax yourself. Take breaks. Get plenty of rest. Keep in mind that your health is more important than a new computer monitor (after all, you can live without the monitor).

3) If You Have To Go Out…

  • Does the store price match? You might not have to visit several location to get the best deal.

  • Park far from the store. Do not get gridlocked by the less savvy comers and goers.

  • Go early. There will always be a rush but there will not always be stock available.

Good luck. Be Smart. Be safe.

  Nathan Repp is a writer for Scholar Hero, Inc.

The Freshman and the First Year: Tips For A Fulfilling Finish

Like all of Aesop’s fables, The Crown and the Pitcher uses few words to teach infinitely applicable lessons. It’s also a fantastic metaphor for succeeding in higher education. For those unfamiliar, the fable can be read here. Simply put, it is the story of a thirsty crow that drops small stones into a pitcher until the water is high enough to drink. The water is his reward for intellect and diligence in the same way that a successful college year is reward to first-year students. Here are four stones that a struggling freshman can use to fill their own pitchers in the coming weeks:

Organization

Devise a system that works for you and organize as much of your life as you can. Having a well-planned schedule can lower stress, improve performance, and keep your life within your control.

Health

A healthy lifestyle is a key component in combating stress. Too often do students make room for their studies by neglecting other important factors of their life. Sleep well, keep a balanced diet, and exercise often. While these might seem to take up time, in the end they’ll improve your mood and keep you mentally sharp.

Resources

There is an entire university that is as close to your fingertips as your computer. Use it. Between libraries, writing centers, and office hours, nothing should be able to escape your understanding.

Community

Get involved. Whether it is making friends, joining organizations, or engaging others in the classroom, a good community can be the support system needed to maintain health, happiness, and motivation through your first semester.

 Casting these stones into your pitcher can help you survive your first year in higher education. Do you have any other pebbles of advice? Drop them into the comments below.

 Nathan Repp is a writer for Scholar Hero, Inc.