It's not a secret that people from underserved areas receive fewer opportunities and access to equal education than their counterparts. What if education and access to learning were actually inclusive? What if learning could be designed around the individual, and not their circumstance?
In 2019, Tim Salau, Mike Yates, and Taban Cosmos decided to build their startup Guide around this problem. According to their site, they decided that there was an opportunity to leverage software to help all learners learn the essential skills that will lead to career success and empower every learner, no matter who you are, to be a creator.
Guide is the bite-sized skills training platform helping distributed teams and 7 million remote workers learn new skills, on-demand, so they can succeed on-the-job and in their careers. They are addressing the learning & development gap in a remote-first world for distributed organizations and building our vision for the future of work by building the modern personalized learning platform.
Recently, Mogul Millennial was able to catch up with Tim and Mike, two of the co-founders of Guide, and we learned why they decided to build Guide, how they’ve been preparing to launch, and how they are doing this all while working a 9-5.
What's special about Guide?
Mike: One of the greatest things about Guide is that we are creating a new industry.
We’re creating what we believe is the best form of learning, microlearning, and we’ve created a new media format called snapshots, 30-second courses, that people will use as their primary learning tool.
Snapshots are bite-size courses that they can take and learn from.
Learners will watch snapshots on entrepreneurship and communication by their favorite creators and can record notes on what their learning from these snapshots.
We know that attention spans are shrinking, we know that people love to be on their phones, so why not meet them where they are at, and give them skills in a digestible way that they would accept.
How did you all meet and start working on Guide?
Tim: Before Guide, I founded a community called Mentors & Mentees. Mentors and Mentees, now a Guide community, is a global community of students and professionals that I have been building for the past two years.
The community is focused on helping professionals take control of their careers to achieve career fulfillment and is the largest global community in the world centered on career mentorship.
Mike and our CTO Taban were active members of this community. Around November 2018, Taban had reached out to me while I was living in Seattle working with Microsoft as an AI Product Manager. He showed me a product he was working on that kind of looked like LinkedIn. He wasn’t really sure who he was building it for and he reached out to me because he wanted clarity and my advice on what the product could be. At the time, Taban and I decided that the product he had, in its current form, wouldn’t be the best thing to pursue, but we continued to keep in touch after that meeting.
Around March 2019, Mike joined the Mentors and Mentees community and he was frequently sharing content around the future of education and he got on my radar as someone Taban and I can seek for advice. Taban and I decided to chat with Mike and he explicitly shared that high school curriculum is broken because there’s a major gap in life skills education and nothing is being done about it – and that was it for us.
Realizing that this was a major gap, Taban, Mike, and I decided to build Guide, a social e-learning app that makes it simple for high school students to learn essential life skills from their favorite creators and a tool teachers and parents can use in the classroom and beyond the classroom.
since then Guide has pivoted into the only SaaS platform solution for enterprises with distributed teams intended on improving and measuring learning & development, on-demand, for a remote-first world. - Editor's note.
When did all of this take place?
Tim: Startup life is truly crazy; this was only a few months ago (in March 2019).
How are you all preparing to launch?
Tim: Before going to market, we’re focused on getting the product at an amazing shape. I am working on product development with our engineers to ensure we have a polished product by our launch date. Also, we’re laser-focused on building anticipation and letting educators and parents know that there is a powerful solution coming that addresses the issues they are facing with teaching life skills to high school students.
We want to make sure there is immense visibility for our brand as we go to market, and that we start putting our product in the hands of our end-user, high school students. The process for this has been closely working with our engineers and maintaining a consistent and rigorous two-week cadence of product demos. We’re also testing the product with a few select high schools in the U.S.
What’s next for you all?
Tim: Once we release the product on the app store, it’ll be a matter of ruthless marketing, and I genuinely mean ruthless grassroots guerilla marketing. Our mandate is to get Guide into the hands of every high school student in America. We really want to build a powerful community around Guide being that we’re a community-obsessed company.
What’s beautiful about Guide is that we are defining the future of education by establishing the standard on what life skills are. Life skills are made up of KSAs (knowledge, skills, and attitudes). Often people have a narrow view of life skills and consider them only to be meta-skills like time management, instead, meta-skills are derived from teaching life skills and activating a child’s KSA (knowledge, skills, and attitudes) cognitive network.
The beauty of our platform is that Guide is backed by extensive evidence-based research on the core competency areas for life skills development. With our product, we’ve standardized on the 10 core competency areas and created a simple solution that high school students, parents, and educators can easily use. We’re the first platform in the world to ever do that.
Once we’re done polishing the product, we are going to be really focused on marketing, getting investors and brand ambassadors on board, and getting strategic partnerships in place.
What’s something that you wish more people knew about launching a startup while working a 9-5?
Mike: I wish people understood that there are more hours in a day than we think. For example, I have 4 kids, a wife, a full-time job, I’m working on Guide, and working on several other side projects. I’m able to do them well because I prioritize the hours in my day.
A lot of people look at me and wonder how I get everything done, and I’ll tell them that yes, it’s a lot of work, but you can do it too. For example, maybe you can sell your video game system, go to the gym for one hour instead of three, work from 8:30 pm until midnight when your kids go to bed, and then wake up around 6:30 am or 7:00 am and start working again. Really try to maximize the hours in your day and you’ll see you can do a lot more.
Also, I reject the premise that entrepreneurs have to quit their job all the time, just like I referenced in the article for Mogul Millennial. Before you quit your job, really take time and think about it. There are some instances where the organization or startup can’t go forward without the person quitting their job. But in our case, the app space can be run easily today than any other time in history. This is the easiest time in the world to become an entrepreneur because all the code is already written. Right now it’s a matter of organizing the code and using it to your advantage. The formula is there, we just have to maximize the hours in our day and be intentional.
The craziest thing about Guide is that none of us have ever been in the same place right at the same exact time. Until recently, Tim and I have never met face to face. But that’s the future of work. That’s the beauty of it.
Tim: I agree with Mike. I’m a future of work nut; it’s something that I discuss with the CEOs, VPs, executives, and world leaders I meet as the Global Evangelist with WeWork and just like Mike said, I don’t prescribe to the notion that entrepreneurs have to quit their jobs because I believe we are living in a generation where you’ll see intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs in the workplace.
We are living in a dynamic generation where people are going to do what they love regardless and it’s really a matter of creating opportunities in your life that enable you to do so.
Have you had any challenges since preparing for your launch? If so, how did you overcome them?
Mike: As far as challenges, my biggest one has been time management. [However] I’ve remedied that by orienting my schedule around the work I want to do. So far, I don’t feel like we have had any major issues as a team pre-launch.
Tim: Also, early on we had challenges with nailing down our target audience and product strategy, but we eventually decided to build Guide with a rigorous focus on addressing the life skills gap in high school education which eventually led us to align on a simplified core value proposition, which is high school students can learn essential life skills from their favorite creators on Guide.
What are three actionable steps that someone can take to get their app from idea to launch?
Mike: First, surround yourself with amazing, passionate and smart people. Next, establish strong differentiators. There are lots of apps out there. We don’t need clones or duplicates. Third, establish a strong BRAND!