This article is part of Your Allies’s entrepreneurship series. We profile entrepreneurs and their business concepts which set out to do good for people or businesses and give our view on their marketing approach. There’s always something to learn from real startup and business growth experience!
What was your motivation to set up Skilio and what mission have you set yourself with it?
“We got the inspiration for Skilio living in rural France where many very talented people were facing financial difficulty due to a lack of employment and / or access to skills. Both my co-founder, Erwan Bezie, and I are passionate about finding innovative and surprising ways to use technology and we wanted to combine this with creating something that has real worth to the larger community. At a time of financial belt tightening for many people, building a tool that lets members easily earn money from sharing their expertise makes real sense.
Our mission is to create a truly collaborative knowledge platform, where each individual can have access to learning at a price they can afford, from anywhere in the world. A marketplace where members can not only easily earn money sharing their knowledge, but also gain recognition and build community around their expertise. and be the go to marketplace for live skill sharing.”
Your Allies says… Entrepreneurs who themselves have experienced the need or issue their business sets out to address have the advantage of being able to apply that first-hand experience to their business. To some extent they can also act as their own focus group, before testing their assumptions with others. Skilio illustrates how a personal experience or need, plus passion, drive and vision all play a part in growing a concept into a successful business.
Gelling the peer-to-peer model with technology tailored to their niche to give consumers an affordable service, whilst simultaneously helping skill sharers earn money, is a smart move. All the more so given today’s economic climate.
What makes Skilio unique, unlike any direct and indirect competitors?
“What makes us different is that we believe everyone has a skill to share, that you don’t have to be a professional teacher to bring value and learning to an entire community and inspire them. We actually try to avoid the terms ‘teachers’ and ‘students’ unlike other competitors. The thing is, we are not just about ‘education’ – we are about people sharing their knowledge, in whatever way works best for them. That could be via teaching of course, but also via mentoring, consulting, a one off conversation, a regular meetup.”
We allow anyone to join Skilio, list the Skill they can share and the skills they want to learn, and get interacting instantly. We don’t force people to go through a lengthy verification process prior to sharing their expertise. Instead, the community effectively self regulates, by leaving feedback on the session and person presenting it. Just like on eBay for example, people are both careful to deliver good sessions, and keen to bump up the number of ratings they have.”
Your Allies says… An inclusive marketplace like Skilio’s opens up a far wider audience than those networks asking for formal teaching qualifications from its members. Essentially any skill can be offered which may mean theirs is the only place where certain skills can be found. Making it easy for skill sharers to build their reputation rather than jump through hoops or demanding official certification, is another interesting move. Social reputation is only likely to grow in terms of value and importance.
What is your business strategy to accomplish that mission?
“Right from the moment a member signs up, we ask them what they want to share and what they want to learn, so immediately they become both Knowledge Sharer and Knowledge Seeker. This means that to a certain degree the categories begin to self populate and we have a wide pool of skills available. However, simultaneously to this, we work closely with key target areas and their networks, to stimulate community in certain categories and get them to a point where they are self sustaining before moving on to the next one.”
Your Allies says… This focus on listening to customers is something businesses can rarely do enough of. Best practice is then putting those learnings into action, whilst continuing to build and harness that community. The smart startups will realise they may be in a better position to react quickly, as they’re nimbler than more established corporates.
What marketing strategy have you put in place to reach your business objectives?
“Our marketing comes largely down to us being very resourceful, as we are a bootstrapped startup. Naturally we do things like integrate a members social media accounts with our platform to enable their Skilio activity to feedback to their other social networks; we look for partnerships such as Global Sharing Day to support like minded businesses whilst also expanding our user reach; we run hands on introduction to Skilio sessions in Business Libraries across London etc.
Primarily however, we pinpoint which are the largest networks within our target categories, and work closely with them in exchange for access to their community. We help network tutors and mentors to run sessions to encourage new members, and then educate and retrain the new community members from passive to active participation. We work hard on developing loyalty and also bring on high profile speakers.”
Your Allies says… Every startup knows it needs to make the most of its precious, restrained resources. Taking partner marketing seriously, and doing it well, can give the boost to credibility and reach a startup really needs.
What was your biggest challenge in developing Skilio so far and how did you overcome it?
“One of the big challenges is getting people to overcome initial nerves about appearing live on webcam to other people from across the Globe and talk about their chosen subject. Its a little nerve wracking for some, as it’s a totally new way of doing things and you are very much visible and ‘out there’. So we spend quite a bit of time handholding community members through setting up sessions, giving them advice on how to run their webinars and so on. Its very effective, and whilst it is not really scalable, it does result in confident users, who become passionate about what we are doing and themselves act as brand evangelists, educating other members in turn.”
Your Allies’s final word… A challenge when introducing a new concept to a traditional marketplace is that you’re asking customers to change their behaviour in some way. Being prepared to address such a hurdle, as Skilio does, by coaching your audience and supporting them on their journey is a must. Failure to do so can result in appealing to the early adopters and missing out on the potential elsewhere. Turning users from unsure or skeptical to brand champions means something is working, and working well. That’s one of the many reasons we think Skilio has such an exciting future ahead.
Ready for even more inspiration from real-life business experience? Check out the complete entrepreneurship series!