Henry Hund and Ran Tan (and Juan Maria Naveja Diebold, not pictured) are looking to help connect experts with knowledge seekers through an online, interactive skill sharing platform. They are part of Coolhouse Labs first cohort of technology startups, spending the summer in downtown Harbor Springs. (Photo by Charles O’Neill)
Editor's Note: The Harbor Light Newspaper has been following the progress of 2004 Harbor Springs High School graduate Jordan Breighner's innovative new technology business accelerator, Coolhouse Labs, since its early 2013 inception. Located on Main Street in downtown Harbor Springs, Coolhouse is officially up and running with five startup companies in town for the first summer cohort. We started featuring these companies over the past few weeks. Presented here is Lorious.
Imagine being in the middle of a knitting project and getting stuck, or starting a woodworking plan and realizing you're in over your head, or maybe just browsing an online artists marketplace like Etsy and thinking "oh, I'd love to know how to make that." Now imagine with a few strokes of the keyboard being able to connect directly with an expert crafter who could, through video chats, work one-on-one to teach, help master, or problem solve in a specific area of interest. This is what Coolhouse Lab cohort, Lorious, envisions happening with their online marketplace where users can buy-- and sell-- expertise and knowledge.
"I was teaching myself some new programming language, and started thinking about how helpful it would be to have someone to talk to who knew about what I was trying to do," said Henry Hund, 27, who is in charge of the company's technology. "Our idea for this company grew from there."
Hund founded Lorious with two friends and fellow students from Philadelphia, Ran Tan (25, operations) and Juan Maria Naveja Diebold, (28, marketing). The trio had worked together on several projects, including one for Microsoft.
"We really enjoy working together, and when I mentioned this wish for a online place to people who are trying to learn new skills or gain expertise, I learned both Ran and Juan had similar thoughts, so we decided this would be a fun project."
The name for their company-- Lorious-- is a combination of the words "lore" and "curious." In many ways, it sets the tone for their mission: helping connect people through stories of knowledge and a love of learning.
"Online learning platforms are really exploding right now," Diebold said. "While there are some websites out there, like 'Skill Share' that are great, everything is pre-recorded, or broad lectures. There isn't anything with real-time interaction and communication between the expert and the person learning. Lorious will enable people to find exactly the help they are looking for, which is an exciting concept."
Tan agreed, noting that Lorious will be a platform for people to expand their personal networks of knowledge, and also, for people will skillsets to share to perhaps find new ways to build a career.
"This is a marketplace for expertise, with a virtual store. Instead of selling products, however, we are selling knowledge. People will be able to set their own rates, and users can search topics that interest them," she said.
The long-term vision for the company is to have a whole host of different experts and areas of learning/connecting. To start, Lorious will focus on the crafting market.
"We want to begin building a community," Hund said. "So we are narrowing our focus to folks who may want to become better at a craft, or learn enough to become a seller themselves. It can be a simple as someone who wants to learn to knit connecting with someone who already has that skill."
The beta website, which should be up and running this week, makes finding an expert, setting up a connection time, and gaining that desired skill as easy as one-two-three. And that's exactly what Lorious is all about, Tan said.
"We believe everyone is an expert at something, and we love the idea of being able to help people have easy access not only to knowledge, but also, to direct interaction with an expert. It's very different to listen to a lecture or watch a video than it is to actually speak with someone, to be able to ask specific questions in the moment, and to problem solve together."
Hund said the company was looking for a summer accelerator program when they stumbled upon Coolhouse Labs.
"It seemed like the perfect fit right away, both because being in a small town helps eliminate distractions and because there was a real community focus, which is important to us."
"Plus," Tan said with a smile, "Henry really loves the lake."
Diebold said they have been more than pleased with everything about their Coolhouse experience.
"What's not to love about this place?" He asked, motioning toward Main Street. "The community, however, is by far the best part of being here. People have been so kind to us, and genuinely interested in what we're doing."
"It's been very useful to have access to so many fantastic mentors, and to be able to bounce ideas off of new people," Tan said.
And people-- specifically the people of the Harbor Springs community-- are exactly who Lorious hopes to tap for their "minimal viable product" website, up and running now (or within the next few days).
"We would love for readers to give us feedback, to challenge us, and to let us know what they want to see here," Diebold said. "We are aiming for a strong community component, and we'd love more than anything for our first experts and users to come from right here in Harbor Springs."
Visit Lorious to learn more (and share knowledge too), www.lorious.com, where readers can also sign up for news about the company. Questions and comments or ideas can be sent to email@example.com