There is a special smile that comes over Tim Loudermilk’s face when he looks at a tablet, or really any new gadget that he can get his hands on. You’ll see a Mac and a PC in his office at any given time, and an iPad by his side wherever he goes. Technology is his first love, but it wasn’t always that way. There was one other love in Tim’s life before his passion for technology began.
Tim Loudermilk was born in the small town of Norwood, Ohio, just outside of Cincinnati. His father worked in the auto manufacturing industry, like most people in the town since it was a prominent manufacturing location. Most kids who got out of high school either went to college or worked on Camaros. But Tim did neither; he just played ice hockey.
“I think I viewed education like most kids do–as an opportunity to play sports,” he said. “I was a big ice hockey player.” After high school, Tim took a year off and worked for the Boston Bruins as their equipment manager. The job gave him unlimited amounts of time on the ice. From there, he joined the hockey team at Ohio State University.
“I was a left wing at Ohio State University and just had an absolute blast playing hockey,” Tim said. “I enjoyed hockey, but finally realized that I was going to either play hockey or graduate. And since I didn’t really have a shot at the pros, I focused on my academics.”
At the time, Ohio State had one of the largest grants from NASA, providing enormous computer facilities and programs to its students. Tim took advantage of that and spent less time on the ice and more time in the computer lab.
After graduating college, Procter and Gamble recruited Tim to work in its management systems program. Out of the thirty-two selected, Tim was one of two who had a degree in computer science.
“Now, what were they doing throwing two computer science geeks into the mix with all these managers and marketers?” Tim asked. “Well, it took us about five years to figure out that at year four they were turning you into a marketer. So I spent half my time at Procter and Gamble in technology, and the other half in an area called marketing and promotions where you learned all about how to actually promote your products.”
P&G was a major influence on Tim. They taught him not only how to develop a product but also how to sell it effectively. One of Tim’s largest jobs was developing multimedia grocery store checkout lanes with South Florida inventor, David Humble. They made the lanes visual and automated, so there was no cashier required. The experience gave Tim the buzz for technology and inspired him to do more. “David really gave me the bug for taking technology and turning it into a business. He was a huge influence on me.”
After eight years at P&G, Tim decided to take his career in a different direction and study law at Northern Kentucky University. The decision was driven by encouragement from friends who were on the cast of the popular television show “L.A. Law”, and the influence of Corbin Bernsen, who played a lawyer on the show.
While Tim loved studying law, he did not enjoy practicing it. However, working as a venture capital lawyer did open a lot of doors for him. In 1992, Tim got the opportunity to create the education solution CollegeView. The program helps students choose the right college. Today the company is known as Hobsons. Tim ended up selling CollegeView to the Daily Mail & General Trust and then began his own business called, “Trivantis”.
Tim’s first project at Trivantis was creating the online learning authoring tool, Lectora Publisher. It became a huge success and was used all over the world to create online learning. By 2002, Lectora had beat every other competitor in the market—Macromedia, Adobe, and Authorware.
However, the incredible success of Lectora didn’t happen as Tim expected. He originally intended Lectora to be used by professors, but he ended up selling it to corporate trainers instead. The corporate training market skyrocketed because everyone needed to put training online, and consequently Lectora rapidly became the largest authoring tool used in the Global 2000 Leading Companies.
Despite Lectora’s huge success, Tim continued to seek out other opportunities in the realm of education technology. By 2010, Tim decided to sell his first startup company and take his dreams and ambitions in a different direction. It was time to refocus. Tim remembered how rewarding creating CollegeView really was. He admitted that there was a time he thought creating CollegeView was the most influential thing he could do in his career. But then he realized actually creating quality education could be even more meaningful.
“For me, doing something really important was my goal,” he affirmed. “And to have a parent come up to you and tell you how good the fit was because of the tool you provided was really an incredible experience. I thought, where could I go after that? Well, actually delivering high-quality education is even better than helping them choose a career path.”
Tim’s vision for online learning came in part from conversations he had with Vanderbilt University’s Professor of Informatics, Jeff Gordon, and also seeing a great need for better education and technology in the classroom. Tim saw how online education needed to be deeper and more flexible.
“It’s very unlikely that we’ll build a course, put it online, and not touch it for a year,” Tim said. “It will evolve. It will breathe. It will improve constantly. Professors want to put their own spin, their own image on the content, and we wanted to enable that to happen. So I refocused on AlvaEDU, really throwing away everything I built before from a tool standpoint, and conceptualized what was going to be the right thing to deliver for faculty and professors.”
Today Tim’s vision and dream is coming true. His new company AlvaEDU is developing solutions to problems students and professors face every day. Though there is a lot of criticism about online education, Tim is hoping to change all of that. “We don’t want to create education that’s third best,” he says, “…we want to create the absolute best on tablet, online, and inside LMS experience that can happen for students. That’s really important to me. We strive to create the ‘wow!’”
Creating education that is the absolute best it’s ever been involves a lot of creativity and hard work. Tim says the days of just putting content into a PowerPoint are gone. You have to engage the student with every type of media that is available today—video, audio, games, and animation.
Even with all of the hard work, time, and travel Tim is putting into his newest business, he still makes time to have fun. You’d think he’d ascribe to the motto “work hard, play hard”, but he actually believes you should work hard and play harder.
“I’ve learned over the years that it should be, ‘work hard, play harder’ because if you don’t work hard, you don’t get to play hard, but if you don’t play harder than you work, life begins to get a little boring,” Tim admits. “So for me, it’s achieving a balance where you do take the extra time to enjoy life, where you really keep the balance that’s right.”
For Tim, “playing hard” means going to wine events, attending concerts, connecting with his Hollywood and musician friends, and spending time with his wife and two daughters. Outside of those activities, technology is his first love, and he lives out that love every day of his life—inside and out of the office.