DriveIT, a membership-driven adult tech training center that opened with great fanfare last year in Akron, has powered down, apparently for good.
Crain's Cleveland Business reported founders Eric Wise and Eric Ward left to join New York City-based Trilogy Education Services and the intellectual property was sold.
"We're shutting down DriveIT and joining Trilogy. It's not an acquisition, more of an IP/licensing arrangement," Wise told Crain's.
The DriveIT website posted a notice dated April 8 that its leadership team joined Trilogy Education Services, a young company that partners with colleges to provide software boot camps for adults. That same date, Maryland education technology company 2U Inc. announced it was buying Trilogy, founded in 2015 and based in New York City, for $750 million in cash and stock.
The links on the DriveIT website go to Trilogy’s website. The DriveIT phone number is disconnected.
The DriveIT homepage reads: “We are excited to announce that we joined the team at Trilogy Education Services. As full-time employees of Trilogy, we will be winding down day-to-day operations of DriveIT while remaining committed to creating exceptional learning experiences as part of our new employer.”
The April 8 date announcing DriveIT was closing and the Trilogy purchase was a coincidence, said Ian Schwarber, a minority owner in DriveIT and its chief strategy officer. No one at DriveIT was privy to the 2U purchase of Trilogy, he said.
Schwarber called DriveIT a local success story.
"I hope this shows other entrepreneurs Akron is as good a place to launch a business as anyplace else," he said. "We certainly had a positive outcome. I think we made a contribution.
"I had much bigger dreams on where to take this company," he said. But DriveIT's two majority shareholders, Wise and Ward, decided joining with Trilogy was the better path forward, he said.
"The company in New York did a licensing agreement to take over the products we created and our book of business," Schwarber said.
Trilogy will fulfill all open DriveIT membership agreements, he said.
Schwarber said he intends to remain in the Akron area and hopes to launch a new business within a year. "I'm from here and I believe in this area," he said. "Northeast Ohio has a lot of opportunity and a lot of potential."
DriveIT opened in early May 2018 on the fourth floor of what was Stark State Akron’s White Pond Drive satellite campus offices.
Among the dignitaries on the opening day were U.S. Rep Tim Ryan, D-Niles, who is now running for U.S. president; Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro; and Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan.
Ryan said at the celebration that DriveIT was a public-private partnership that could help the Midwest compete against Silicon Valley and the U.S. compete against China.
DriveIT was billed as a tech training center for the Akron area and as a business recruitment tool for the region. It intended to partner with local employers to help entry-level and midlevel employees improve their skills and knowledge. The center taught data science, cybersecurity, business intelligence, software architecture and cloud computing.
The business model, similar to how gymnasiums and fitness centers operate, involved selling memberships to individuals or businesses who then got access to courses. The company described itself as “a gym membership for your career.”
Founders were Wise, the chief executive officer, and Ward, chief learning officer. Wise had been chief executive of the Software Craftsmanship Guild, created in 2013 in Akron to teach software coding. Kentucky-based Learning House Inc. bought the guild in 2015.
Summit County government paid $10,000 to send county information technology employees to the White Pond offices for training, said Jason Dodson, chief of staff for the county executive.
“Multiple people attended. We were using the membership,” he said. But the county was unsure as of Monday if it received full value for the $10,000 membership, he said.