A business that started in a New Albany resident's home recently graduated from the city's business incubator to office space on High Street in the city.
Capture Education is a software company developed by Mike Neubig, a former educator, that is helping schools more efficiently schedule classes for students.
Neubig grew up in Westerville and graduated from Westerville North High School in 1986. He earned a bachelor's degree in education from Otterbein University and later earned his master's degree in school counseling from the University of Dayton.
He taught, coached and was a guidance counselor in the Westerville school district for more than 15 years before he decided to leave in 2006 to start a consulting business.
He was living in Westerville at the time and worked with 900 schools in 45 states, including Hawaii and Alaska, when he decided to take a risk and develop a product he believed many of those schools needed.
While working with a school in Santa Fe, Neubig said, he realized the program used to place students in courses did not offer all the functions counselors needed.
It required school officials to manually type in a lot of information and did not match students to courses they should be enrolled in for the next school year, he said. It used grades and other student measures but didn't consider other factors -- such as interests, aptitude and potential career paths -- that could provide a 360-degree picture of the student's learning ability, Neubig said.
After moving to New Albany, Neubig said, he started putting plans and flowcharts on paper and enlisted the help of Gene Lawhun, who also had worked as an education consultant.
Together, the two developed a concept for ScheduleSmart, a program that could augment districts' existing systems to provide a more efficient and simpler process for student scheduling.
Because the company was started in Neubig's home with capital coming out of his pocket, he didn't actually produce ScheduleSmart until after he pitched the idea to several schools.
"We had no money for development, so we would set up screens and say this is what it (ScheduleSmart) would do," he said. "With my relationship with school districts and a strong selling concept, we were able to start before actual development three years ago. The clients paid to help build it and we had enough customers to start producing it."
Neubig said ScheduleSmart has been used to schedule 140,000 students, with its biggest clients in New York City.
"It has saved me time with doing some of the manual work and it allows me to use the data about the students to build schedules without doing all the manual work," said Julie Gambale, a counselor and teacher at New Dorp High School in Staten Island, N.Y.
Neubig said ScheduleSmart recently was picked up as a product endorsed by Pearson, an independent education software vendor.
"It's an independent software vendor known in education world, which helps validate us a lot," Neubig said. "We had to go through some things to get validated, which proves the need in the market."
As his client list grew, Neubig watched his company grow out of his home and into INC@8000, the New Albany business incubator on Walton Parkway.
He and Lawhun worked with three other employees before deciding they needed more space.
A week ago, the company relocated with 11 employees to 68 N. High St. in New Albany.
"We had a lot of individual investors and in a two-year period, we raised $1.2 million," Neubig said. "We needed to expand and add programmers and additional technology sales staff that can sell and technical customer support staff, and we needed money for growth of the company itself."
Neubig credits the business incubator and workers from TechColumbus with helping to make the business a success.
"We got lot of (Ohio TechAngels) funding behind us and money from the all-Ohio based North Coast Angel Fund in Cleveland," he said.
New Albany continues to support the homegrown company by providing an incentive for the recent move, which kept Capture Education in the city.
New Albany City Council on May 6 approved a 40-percent income-tax credit for the next five years. To receive the credit, Capture Education has committed to add four jobs by the end of 2015, six by the end of 2016 and eight by the end of 2017.
The current annual payroll is $567,000, which will increase to $800,000 by the end of 2017 when all 18 new employees are added, Jennifer Chrysler, the city's community-development director, reported May 6 to New Albany City Council.
"Capture Education is a great example of why investing in small businesses and entrepreneurs matter to communities of all sizes," Chrysler said. "It is in our New Albany DNA as a community to support entrepreneurs. Their growing success proves that the Columbus region is truly a hot spot for emerging technologies, and we have the assets that enables businesses of all sizes to succeed."
For Neubig, it's satisfying not only to help school officials, but also to help students benefit from more efficient scheduling.
Neubig said he himself could have benefited from the program when he was in school.
"I was an average student and not a lot people had gone to college in my family," he said. "I was the youngest of five and I had no opportunity to take a lot of those (more advanced) classes.
"ScheduleSmart looks at more than just what a teacher recommends or what they think the student can do."