The Story Behind iCohere
In 1976, five years before IBM introduced its first PC, Pascal Kaplan received his Ph.D. in Theology from Harvard University and was appointed Dean of the School of Liberal Arts at John F. Kennedy University in California. His charge was to create an undergraduate curriculum that would be engaging and meaningful to the working adult students JFKU was founded to serve.
Though he had no experience with anything digital, by the time the PC came out, Pascal had come to appreciate the benefits of word processing and purchased his first computer. At about the same time, he was helping friends start a preschool and daycare center and, as the only one among them who owned a computer, was asked to find software to handle registration and billing. Not finding suitable software, he taught himself to program.
Several years later, he delivered the billing program to the school. To his surprise he soon received a request from one of the school board members, the CFO of a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, to create a similar program for her agency. Having moved on from JFKU to start an educational nonprofit for adult students, Pascal decided he could do both: run the nonprofit part-time (which he still does to this day) and write computer code. Through word of mouth, the software business grew rapidly, so that by the late 1980s The Kaplan Consulting Group was developing custom, enterprise-wide applications for AT&T, Bank of America, and the State of California.
Though successful as a software entrepreneur, by the late 1990s Pascal was beginning to consider how to integrate his long-standing commitment to adult education with his company’s sophisticated skills in software development. The turning point came in 1999 in a conversation with his son, Soren, then the manager of Hewlett-Packard's Internal Strategy and Organizational Development Consulting Group. Drawing on their backgrounds in education, technology and organizational development, Pascal and Soren envisioned building online learning communities where professionals could come together collaboratively to share ideas, advance their knowledge, and develop best practices.
They didn’t know what to call such software, since the terms “social networking,” “Web 2.0,” and “cloud computing” had not yet been coined, nor had MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter been founded. They settled on “iCohere” – “i” for the Internet and “Cohere” because their goal was to provide the glue for professionals from anywhere in the world to learn and grow together personally and professionally.
Soon Soren resigned from HP and the two Kaplans set out to build a company that would not only develop and sell a secure, flexible software platform, but would work hand-in-hand with clients to host and produce innovative online courses, virtual conferences, and professional communities of practice. With those principles in mind, iCohere was launched in 2001 – and continues today, as then, to harness advances in technology for the purpose of creating meaningful, engaging learning experiences for adult learners.
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As CEO and principal architect of iCohere, Pascal oversees the company’s development efforts and helps client organizations create strategies for their professional development and online community initiatives.
Soren continues to contribute to the direction of the company, to use iCohere's tools in his work at InnovationPoint, and to support leadership development and training around his latest book, Leapfrogging.