A most promising pair
By Shasta Clark
surface, the companies that share this year’s award for Most Promising IT
Company don’t appear to share much else.
One is an online education provider for manufacturers, and the other develops
software for physicians and hospitals. One has a well-established
bricks-and-mortar parent company, and the other was founded by a group of
But there are more similarities than meet the eye. Both companies received
their first venture capital investments this year, and both are working to
become leaders in their respective industries.
Tooling University LLC
Jack Schron Jr. and his son, Chad, are heading a 10-person Cleveland startup
that teaches factory workers every manufacturing function from welding to metal
cutting — and here’s the kicker: Tooling U teaches manufacturing skills via the
In only two years,
Tooling U has developed 90 online
manufacturing courses and its classes have been taken by more than 2,200
students. One particular manufacturer, which did not want to be identified,
purchased 40 classes last fall and ran a pilot test with 200 more classes this
spring. It was so pleased with the 7% productivity gain from those who took the
courses that it went active with 500 more courses this fall, said Greg Jones,
Tooling U’s director of marketing and sales.
“If we could gain 7% productivity for every company, we could rekindle
manufacturing excitement in the U.S.,” said Jack Schron Jr., who also is
president of Cleveland-based toolmaker Jergens Inc.
Jack Schron Jr. launched Tooling U to answer a question that had dominated his
family’s dinner conversation for years: “Who’s going to educate the next
generation of manufacturers?”
“I said, ‘I’m done hearing this. We are,’” he said.
Tooling U has its own space on the second floor of Jergens’ industrial,
two-story brick headquarters on Waterloo Street in Cleveland. Just below it is
manufacturing space where skilled laborers (most of whom have taken Tooling U’s
courses) are hard at work on multi-million-dollar machines.
So, what does Jack Schron Sr., who founded Jergens along with his father in
1942, think of his son’s and grandson’s Internet venture? “He loves it,” Chad
Schron said of his grandfather.
In fact, he went online and bought a Tooling U-embroidered baseball cap. But
instead of paying in typical e-commerce fashion (by entering his credit card
numbers online), he paid his grandson with cash.