What started as playbooks for startups has grown into a global mission-based platform for grassroots knowledge sharing on topics that matter.
Hi. My name is Scott Annan and I'm the founder of Guides.co. This is the story behind this website, platform, and community (so far).
Guides.co started in a red brick converted theatre in downtown Ottawa -- an office posing as a free drop-in for startups to hang out, work, and talk about changing the world through code. At the time there were very few people investing in startups, so we decided to create an accelerator similar to Y-Combinator that would be more community oriented. As I worked with startups, I noticed a common challenge.
Creating a startup is hard. As Reid Hoffman said "entrepreneurship is like jumping off a cliff and assembling an airplane on the way down". It requires you to do things you've never done -- or even thought about -- before. From incorporation to fund raising, product development to sales, and legal to accounting, you don't just have to learn stuff, you have to get things done, and fast. Or your company and your dreams die.
Fortunately, sharing knowledge is fundamental in the startup culture. Every founder knows how hard it is to be successful, so is happy to share what they know, their lessons learned, and what worked for them. Startups frequently "share free code" through open source websites and apps to help reduce the time it takes to build new technology. And while shared code is easily found online, practical lessons, processes, and best practices were harder find and in a much less rigorous format - in blog posts, videos, or online presentations.
So I set out to build "playbooks for startups" - a library of standardized how-to guides created by experienced founders who were willing to share their lessons with others. The early creators of those guides were generous with their time and knowledge. Inspiring founders like Dan Martell, Cameron Herold, Sam Zaid, Paul DeJoe, and Jeremy Olson. They -- along with dozens of other busy, successful entrepreneurs -- took the time to share their processes for achieving success in parts of their business.
Thousands of entrepreneurs from all over the world benefited from their playbooks.
While my passion for startups was the inspiration for guides.co, it was apparent that nearly every organization faces similar complex challenges. There was (and continues to be) a strong emphasis on workplace learning, but there is a lack of tools and platforms for translating learning into doing. Business "playbooks" are still predominantly employee handbooks that read more like legal documents than how-to guides. Businesses do not tend to share their best practices and lessons learned within their industry to make everyone more successful. And people's jobs are getting more complex with new technologies, distributed teams, and constantly evolving regulations and procedures.
So we developed guide hubs - a way for organizations to create and share private, internal guides for and by employees that were more practical, could be updated in real-time, and were more secure than PDFs and other files that couldn't be tracked. We also made it possible to share those guides with partners and customers by managing access through "channels", which are like virtual folders that could be turned into portals or published securely. And we wanted businesses to be able to subscribe to external guides and channels that could help them grow their business and employees and wouldn't require them to "reinvent the wheel".
We had a lot of help developing the platform from organizations that shared our vision including Philips, Coleman, VMWare, Microsoft, and dozens of startups, franchises, small businesses, and associations.
In 2017 we received a call from a group in Houston asking if we could help coordinate safety and emergency response information as Hurricane Harvey descended on Texas. Working with emergency groups on a national and local level, we developed guides that could be published across multiple websites and notify residents as they tried to find support following the devastating storm. A few weeks later, we assisted in south Florida as Irma arrived.
This experience made me realize that guides.co could be a powerful platform to help anyone facing new challenges, that it could be a platform for sharing practical information by people and organizations that have figured it out and are willing to share it with those just starting out. Since then we've had the opportunity to work with dozens of organizations creating meaningful change in their communities, in schools, and the world. Their stories, lessons, and willingness to share with others led to the creation of our mission and purpose of building a platform that could help all of us manage change in an increasingly complex, connected world.
The Guides story was never about me, startups, or technology. The story is about the thousands of people who have invested time to create guides that help people live and work better, by our distributed team of ambassadors, associates, and investors who believe in the mission and potential for creating positive change, and by the thousands of organizations, associations, and groups who trust us to keep their documents secure and deliver relevant guides to make their businesses and lives richer. This is their story.
As I look forward there are many challenges that we face on a global scale. New ways of working and living for which we will need guides to navigate a complex and changing world. Now, more than ever, we need to share our knowledge, ideas, and ways forward to build common knowledge and work collectively to build a better world.
I hope you will help us write the next chapter.