Vadim Eelen knows quite a bit about making a lasting impression. In 1990, he was in Moscow directing a play about the year leading up to the 1980 Summer Olympics — a time when the Soviet Union displaced prostitutes and other undesirable people before athletes and visitors from all over the world descended upon the country.
Margaret Thatcher, then-England’s prime minister, and several other dignitaries were touring the country at the time of the play’s run. During that visit, a woman in charge of England’s cultural exchanges saw Eelen’s production and later invited him to teach at St. John’s College at Cambridge.
“She saw my show, but I never met her [at the time of the performance],” he recalls. “I got a letter that said they would like to meet with me and offered me this opportunity to teach at one of the most famous universities in the world. … I was 24 years old.”
More than two decades later, Eelen, who was born in Uzebekistan, is no longer a professor, but his time in academia and his interest in merging digital technology with the arts has influenced his work developing and selling software that allows teachers to reach students anywhere at any time.
The company, called Amvonet, recently received $250,000 in funding from JumpStart and is headquartered in the Technology Accelerator Alliance — a Stark County partnership between the city of Alliance and the University of Mount Union.
The software Amvonet makes isn’t the only product of its kind in the marketplace, but Eelen says it offers a distinct advantage in that the software allows for multimedia creation while also integrating with Moodle — an open-source software package for creating Internet-based courses and websites that makes the product far less expensive than its competitors.
“They’ve created a much broader toolkit for teachers,” explains Jerry Frantz, a managing venture partner at JumpStart. “They’ve made a better mousetrap.”