It’s called Accel.io and its like a kindle + appstore for step-by-step guides.
Why we built it
Having run several startups and mentoring, advising, and hanging out with many more, I have seen a pattern with the challenges that we all face. Startup teams have passion and energy, but don’t necessarily know how to do the things they need to do to be successful. Things like direct sales, traffic generation, hiring, legal work, business modelling, etc… At best this leads to inefficiency. At worst it leads to procrastination or “geting stuck” on an issue. And although there are lots of blog posts, books, and even online courses that are springing up on many of these topics, as an entrepreneur we don’t have time or the need to become “experts” in these things. We just need to get them done.
And lots of people have done them successfully. And they’re often not that hard. And they aren’t what makes your company unique – they’re what allows you to bring your unique idea, product, or service to market. So we started capturing great processes.
The Inspiration and format
We work a lot with project templates and to do lists, so capturing successful processes in this format just made a lot of sense. As our inspiration and prototype we used the Home Depot Home Renovation Guide. This guide has saved me many times on many projects from tiling a bathroom to minor electrical work. It’s the perfect resource for someone who wants to patch a hole or upgrade their bathroom. They don’t want to become a master plumber, they just want a toilet that works. And anyone can follow the simple steps in this book.
So we used this format for inspiration and are working hard make it even better by taking it online and adding multi-media and interactivity.
The Rollout Plan
Although we immediately saw the opportunity for this format across all types of industries and businesses, we used a lean approach to developing both the idea and the solution by launching in a market we understood – startups. We launched startupplays.com in February with the objective of building (and testing) demand in a space that we already understand. This enabled us to quickly evolve our messaging, our sales approach, and improve the user satisfaction. In a world where people expect video tutorials, we found it challenging to get across a succinct user proposition that people would understand… and then follow-through with the process.
We also had to hustle to find subject matter experts – in this case successful entrepreneurs – who we could work with to build the content. We had high standards and although almost all entrepreneurs are willing to collaborate openly, they are very busy and it can be time consuming to capture every step of their process. We used a lot of manual and one-on-one work to improve the creation and publication process before implementing the tools to “self-publish”. Now we have automated a lot of the process and we have a backlog of authors who contact us and want to be on the platform. However, it wasn’t for those first authors believing in our platform and our vision (Dan Martell, Aaron Hall, Sam Zaid, Adrian Salamunovic, Jeremy Olson) we never would have got off the ground (HUGE thanks!).
The result so far? We’ve sold over 5,000 plays with a low return rate and very high repurchase rate. More importantly, we have a lot of very happy users who swear by our guides to help them focus and achieve extraordinary results. We have a clear dev roadmap for the product, and feel confident in moving to the next phase of our rollout.
Accel.io: The AppStore Model
With the success of startupplays.com, we are expanding into other verticals, content areas, and geographies. Rather than trying to build markets from scratch, we are working with partners who already have a large audience and want to generate additional content specific to their users. So Accel.io becomes the “catchall” or Amazon of step-by-step guides ranging from guides on entrepreneurship to sustainability, new immigrant guides, personal organization, entrepreneurship guides in Spanish and Italian, and much more. We make it easy for anyone to launch a marketplace with their branding and they can select from our inventory of plays or create their own. We split revenue 40 / 30 / 30 between the author, the marketplace, and Accel.io. This makes a lot of sense for authors, who can publish a guide on “how to build a website” (for example), and get distribution, sales, and build brand awareness in many niche marketplaces. The marketplace can tailor content to their users and earn 30% distributing other people’s content, or 70% selling their own.
Initial discussions have been overwhelmingly positive and in the next few weeks we’ll be launching marketplaces on several popular blogs, on consultant sites, media websites, and professional and government organizations.
Accel.io: The Kindle Reader for Step-by-Step Guides
Although lots of people want to own and / or market content – as well as the relationship with their customers – most don’t want to get into “owning” an application and dealing with support, upgrades, returns, etc… So while we promote niche marketplaces, the actual guides are consumed on the accel.io platform. Similar to buying an e-book on Amazon and reading it on a kindle (or the kindle app for iPad), consumers can purchase “accel.io guides” through many marketplaces, but their “accel.io reader” is personalized for their use. This enables us to provide great support and continue to improve the experience based on user feedback. We already have several improvements in development (mobile and tablet versions, easy ways to share and consume the information, etc…), and allows our team to stay focused on the experience of the consumer and make it as rich and simple as possible.
Why it Matters
I will talk a lot for several months about the benefits of step-by-step guides for many situations, industries, and roles. It is not a substitute for education and does not work in many instances. But for getting sh*t done efficiently with high quality, it makes a whole lot of sense. There are too many smart people who can improve their execution speed and success rate dramatically by following a proven process instead of relying on passion and luck. Being able to collaborate with such smart and successful authors has been amazing. And ultimately, it is extremely rewarding and humbling receiving feedback from people who genuinely benefit from our service.
If you haven’t yet, please check out accel.io and let me know what you think. If you have any suggestions on what we’re doing and how we can make it better, I’d love to get your feedback below.