NeuroNet Learning isn’t the average family business. Managing Director Jonathan Rowe was a graduate student at the University of Florida (UF) when he started the company with the help of his mother, Nancy, and brother, Gordon. Dedicated to learning enrichment, NeuroNet develops “learning through movement” programs based on neuroscience research.
Rowe’s mother Nancy, a speech therapist and audiologist, is the educator behind NeuroNet’s inventive learning techniques, which use rhythmic exercises and activities paired with digital content to improve motor skills and learning capability. Rowe saw potential in the movement-based learning programs and elicited his brother Gordon, a computer engineer, to develop software based on Nancy’s series of exercises and activities.
“I felt there was an opportunity for [my mother’s NeuroNet programs] to be something much bigger,” Rowe said of his involvement in the business and commercialization process.
NeuroNet was settling into the Florida Innovation Hub, a UF startup incubator, when Rowe discovered the FloridaWorks Healthcare, Biomanufacturing, Occupational & Technology Training (HBOTT) Program. HBOTT is designed to allow employers to hire, train and retain qualified program-eligible employees in permanent positions by providing on-the-job-training (OJT) funds. The grant-funded program provides more than $3 million of training funds for local unemployed workers in healthcare, bioscience, advanced manufacturing and information technology occupations often filled by foreign workers under the U.S. H-1B visa program.
When asked about his favorite thing in the HBOTT program, Rowe paused to smile.
“The money,” he laughed.
But more than the money, it’s what the funds are used for: customized, job-specific training. Participating employers may be reimbursed up to 90% (depending on company size) of the salary amount for training expenses for new positions being created.
“HBOTT helped us grow and train new staff,” Rowe explained. “For any expanding company — especially a startup — that’s huge.”
Initially NeuroNet received funds for four OJT positions and has experienced such success that the company was awarded funding for eight additional positions. So far Rowe has hired for seven of the 12 OJT positions, including an instructional designer, marketing associate, writer, programmer, chief technology officer and two graphic designers.
“We have three things working in our favor. We have revenue growth, we’ve taken on investment and we’re combining both of those with the HBOTT program,” said Rowe. “I think that creates ideal conditions for us to access and benefit from a program like HBOTT.”
According to Rowe, the expansion of the company has been “incremental,” taking a “one-step-at-a-time” approach. “In the world of tech that we’re in, if you look ahead five years, it’s so far out, that it’s incomprehensible,” Rowe said.
Still NeuroNet is able to expand with help from FloridaWorks, currently providing programs in English and Spanish and focusing on U.S. and Latin American schools. Today Rowe operates NeuroNet from the Sun Center, the heart of downtown Gainesville and home to the Downtown Technology Center. NeuroNet reaches more than 4,000 customers in 14 different countries and now provides six programs for schools (grades K-2) and speech, occupational and physical therapists helping children with learning challenges.