Karl Rectanus is an educator, entrepreneur, advisor and the co-founder and CEO of Raleigh-based Lea(R)n, Inc. the B Corp that produces LearnPlatform, the comprehensive edtech management system for educators and administrators to organize, streamline and analyze their classroom technology.
Karl has lived, worked and studied in more than 12 countries, was an NC Teaching Fellow and James M. Johnston Scholar at UNC-Chapel Hill, named a BMW Herbert Quandt Transatlantic Leader and completed graduate courses at UCLA’s Anderson Business School and CalTech Executive Extension. He advises K-12 districts, higher education institutions and state education agencies in their efforts to increase student achievement and expand equitable access to education technologies, and will serve as a Professor of the Practice for UNC-Chapel Hill’s Master’s of Education Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship (MEITE) in 2019.
1. What is in your pockets?
I have my cellphone and wallet. And I travel a lot, so right now I have some lip balm.
2. What exciting thing has happened recently for you or your organization?
LearnPlatform started four and half years ago and we have doubled our revenue every year. We did it again last year and I am most excited, not about our revenue growth, but the growth of our team. We went from 11 people at the beginning of last year and we’re approaching 30 now and that includes some really top-notch, nationally recognized talent in our space to grow our leadership team to go along with the great local talent that we’re adding.
3. What is your favorite coffee spot?
I’ve been traveling a lot these days so I get more coffee at shops outside the area than I do locally. We just moved down to Glenwood South where we’re sharing space in the Centerline building. It’s not a public coffee shop but it does have this nice coffee area that we use here. One of the reasons I love it is there are actually a number of different types of coffee that you can get there and for me, the darker the better.
4. What keeps you up at night?
What keeps me up at night is how, as we grow quickly, we can ensure the diversity of our workforce, customer base and offerings that support everybody and not just traditionally served populations in the technology space.
As a company, we are almost 50% female and have pretty good gender split as we’ve grown, and we certainly beat the average in terms of our ethnic diversity across our team. But right now, I’m really trying to think about how we ensure, as we grow quickly, we get as broad a set of individuals and employees from all backgrounds because we know that’s what’s going to help us grow the most.
Our mission is to expand equitable access to the tools and teaching that works for all students and because if we don’t, the digital divide between those who have and those who traditionally have not had access to resources in learning will continue to expand, and that’s bad for everybody. Not just those who are directly affected but also for our economy and our workforce and all students. So, we really care about this. We built this into our business model and our approach but as you’re running quickly, it’s really hard work, but it’s really critical that we have a more diverse team so that we will have more ability to deliver for more people. I would say that’s one of the harder parts of high growth.
5. What is your favorite restaurant or happy hour?
I moved back to Raleigh 10 years ago after being gone for about a decade and the growth in restaurants, craft breweries, and options in Raleigh and the Triangle has just exploded. My wife, daughters, and I love going to Waraji for sushi. Great sushi. My wife and I met in Japan and we love those tatami rooms; they’re fantastic.
6. What is next for you or your organization?
Our team is having a lot of fun. We’re getting buzz nationally, we’re having impact in the education market and we have a number of new initiatives that we’re going to launch this year that we think can continue to expand our national impact. I can’t talk about all those yet.
Our work is to help school districts and states organize, streamline and then analyze the tools and technologies they’re using and that are working best and in which situations. There are some great new opportunities that we think, with the success we have had to date, we can just only expand. One thing I’m really excited about is we work mostly with school districts but over the last couple of years we started working with states. We do state-wide work in places like Utah and Connecticut, but now we’re going to be launching some new work in states like Massachusetts and expect other states to be jumping on board as well. That’s a great growth opportunity for us.