February 15, 2017

Vireo Labs Creates Connective App For Students, Higher Ed

Jessicah Lawrence  /  Beaufort Today
Vireo Labs Co-founders - Jose Mallabo & Ian Leslie Vireo Labs Co-founders - Jose Mallabo & Ian Leslie

Considering what career path to take can be daunting for a college graduate, let alone a ninth-grader just entering high school.

But a tech company based out of the city's newest venture, the Beaufort Digital Corridor BASEcamp, is creating a simpler way to connect students to their futures.

Ian Leslie of Vireo Labs says the startup's first product, C'reer, was developed as a way to help students and higher education institutions. "We learn. We suggest. You explore and connect," is how the mobile application is described.

Leslie said C'reer provides a 20-question assessment that a student can complete in about five minutes, giving high school guidance counselors another tool for the career planning part of their jobs.

"Guidance counselors have a huge workload, from career planning to addressing emotional and behavioral issues, along with academic problems," Leslie said.

"There's really a gap there in helping students find a career path, and the tools needed to help with career planning sometimes come at a high cost to the schools. To help solve that problem, we've created this free app that creates a profile for the student based on their personality and shows a list of careers within that profile."

Students can see whether they are considered "entrepreneurial, realistic or artistic," which jobs are geared toward that classification and the best colleges and universities to attend to prepare for that career.

"The way we recommend those schools is through a proprietary algorithm," Leslie said. "We've pulled in data from sources and have a formula that provides the recommended schools largely based on how they place professionals into those certain careers, but also factors in school indebtedness of post-graduates and the default rate on loans."

Once a student finishes the profile, it is up to him or her whether to connect to the university suggested–- which brings in the other side of the C'reer product.

Leslie says the college recruitment process is expensive.

"To recruit a student, the college or university needs them to stay a very long time before they can actually make money on that student," he said.

By using the C'reer app or web portal, a college can discover students who are "raising their hand that they are serious and interested in attending," Leslie said.

"But we're not just providing the college with the name of the student who is interested; we're actually giving a way for them to live chat with those students. It is all student-initiated, so the student must opt in and say they want to chat with the school," Leslie said.

Since launching C'reer last month, Vireo Labs has had more than 500 downloads through Apple and Google Play. The company is networking with guidance counselors in 40 states to push for more students to use the tool in preparing for their future.

The digital corridor is connecting the startup with potential investors while providing office space and local connections to the University of South Carolina Beaufort and Technical College of the Lowcountry.

Leslie and his partner Jose Mallabo hosted the first "Fridays at the Corridor" forum last week, using it to advocate for C'reer and show how BASEcamp is providing new opportunities for tech businesses.

"It's an opportunity to put a good foot forward for the corridor and show early success for this initiative," Leslie said.

Corridor program manager Karen Warner said the "Fridays at the Corridor" events will be held the second Friday of every month to keep the doors open to the community.

"We want to invite them in to showcase these businesses that are part of the fastest-growing job market," Warner said.

As a resident of Port Royal since 2002, Leslie has had to drive to Savannah for job opportunities. He is encouraged by the corridor's goal to diversify the Lowcountry's economy for professionals like himself.

"We are talking to USCB about internships on the developer and programming side of Vireo Labs, and that's a great start. When we become able to hire, we hope that to find that talent locally. And it's all about just putting Beaufort on the map," Leslie said.

"The more we can grow this economy, the better. I'm excited to be a part of that."

To learn more about C'reer, go to www.creer.us. To learn more about the Beaufort Digital Corridor, go to www.beaufortdigital.com.