WHAT: Break down an experience -- something you've done or want to see others do -- or a topic into actionable steps so that other people can learn from and do the same thing. Writing the experience is intended to be as simple as posting updates to Facebook and Twitter (though Mightybell offers a detailed guide).
Like other social networks, people can follow an experience. Followers check off each step as they go, at which point they are prompted to share their achievement on Facebook or Twitter and indicate how they felt about that step. They can publicly comment on advice and share their own, as well as see the progress of their fellow followers. Experience "creators" can see metrics on their followers such as conversion rates.
Experiences can be anything, including travel planning, career guides, recipes and rules for success. Available as iPhone app.
LAUNCHER: Gina Bianchini, CEO, co-founded Ning in 2005 and was an entrepreneur-in-residence at Andreessen Horowitz just prior to founding Mightybell last fall.
WHY: A big goal is easier to take on when it's a series of small steps. Other types of online content, including how-to videos, don't always break things down or explain how smaller steps lead to the end goal. People like to share their expertise. Lots of ways to have online conversations but no great way to translate those conversations into better experiences in real life.
WHEN/WHERE: Limited beta Sept. 8, 2011 / Palo Alto. Company founded October 2010.
BACKSTORY: Gina didn't have an "aha" moment. Rather, the idea for Mightybell unfolded much like the company's premise, step by step. "Let's start with an idea -- that you can break things into a series of small steps into a goal or around a topic," she says. Then, "Hey wait a second, we could do some interesting things to make experiences more compelling." That lead to thinking about feedback loops for creators, which brought them to adding metrics.
Gina's team started building Mightybell in April 2011.
BUSINESS MODEL: Right now, having people pay for a premium experience [ best for those who already have large followings and non-profits seeking donations. ] Mightybell gets 25%.
Gina says they're also looking at deeper analytics and services for creators beyond what they offer today. The other stream could come from commerce -- buying the plane ticket, equipment or ingredients you need for an experience from a partner like Amazon, a scenario Gina says is "not outside the realm of possibility" though she notes it's still early days.
ON CHARGING PEOPLE $1 TO ACCESS PRIVATE BETA: Mightybell should have high-quality experiences when it launches to the public. Explains Gina, "A dollar is a not too troubling but certainly a bar-raising kind of mechanism."
COMPETITION: Udemy (anyone can take and build courses), ShowMe (create and share lessons on anything), Veri (learn through user-created interactive courses), Jig (connects your need with those who can help).
Gina doesn't think Mightybell has direct competitors, saying, "There's a fair number of companies all circling around this idea of how do you take online conversations and translate them into real life. I look at that as a good thing and something that is super, super compelling for the market in general."
CUSTOMERS/GROWTH: Not disclosing numbers. "We had a small set of creators that we used as our inspiration and muses," says Gina.
GOAL: "Take the first generation of online conversations and translate them into amazing experiences in real life."
WHAT HAPPENS IF NO ONE ELSE JOINS AN EXPERIENCE: "It's still something you could get value from," Gina says. "If you were the one traveler, we wanted to make it so you didn't need a lot of other people to have a high-quality experience. That was one thing that was important to us."
ON FOLLOWING STEPS AS PRESCRIBED: Gina fully expects people will not do steps exactly the same way as others. "It's like following a recipe and being able to add whole-wheat flour instead of regular flour," she says, "It's a great way to get started with something that's important to you in your real life."
ON GETTING CELEBRITIES ON MIGHTYBELL: "I believe the best social software services are compelling to people to have a small handful of friends to a large following and I hope we eventually see both on Mightybell," says Gina.
ON WHERE SOCIAL IS GOING: Gina sees social technologies -- she mentions Quora and Instagram -- as improving people's offline lives. "How do you enhance real lives and get them inspired and excited to engage, be more active and become increasingly interesting? I think that's going to be so much fun," she says. "It's almost like the reward for the first [Internet] wave, which was about putting the infrastructure in place."
ON THE COMPANY NAME: Explains Gina, "If you think about it, the bell is the ultimate social symbol. It’s been used for thousands of years to bring people together, ask for help, and celebrate in small and big ways. When you take that symbol and how it’s been used in the past and apply it to what is possible today with 2 billion people online, it is a pretty bad-ass bell."
TOTAL RAISED: $2.1M led by Floodgate and First Round Capital
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 9 plus a summer intern
A search for "Alaska" turns up a guide to a specific travel itinerary that includes its title, an eye-catching photo or graphic, info about the experience's creator, a list of some people already following the experience and answers to the questions "why should you join" and "what will you get from it?"
When you follow that experience, you receive a welcome message that gives you a generic bullet-pointed list of what to do -- things like "meeting your fellow travelers" and clicking "complete" when you've finished a step.
On step one, you'll see the current date in big type and just below that the first step explained in one to two sentences [ click "all steps" from the nav bar on the left to see everything you have to do ]. The checkmark you click for completing the step is just under the photo illustrating step one.
Below the photo in step one, you will see details about that step and quick tips. Under these items you see a list of videos from fellow travelers (if there are any) and the conversation/advice from those folks. Add a private note by clicking that link in the bottom-left corner.
Click the "metrics" link on the left to see how your fellow travelers are doing and cheer them on.
Once you complete a step, a box appears asking you to share the achievement on Twitter and Facebook. You can also give feedback to the creator by choosing one of four emotions to describe how you felt about this step: excited, happy, confused or bored.
The creator's metrics (not visible to others) vividly illustrate how people found the experience and the steps where they had the most trouble. Given this feedback, the creator can change a step, and all the followers will be notified and invited to check it out.
1. "How to Reach Your Goals" (WebMD)
2. "How to Be an Expert (and Find One if You’re Not)" (Lifehack, April 4, 2008)
3. "5 Things Ning Got Right" (Fast Company, April 16, 2010)
CONTACTS & LINKS
Email: gina at mightybell dot com
Floodgate: Mike Maples Jr [ @m2jr ] and Anna Miura-Ko [ @annimaniac ]
First Round Capital: http://www.firstround.com/portfolio/company/mightybell/
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