Ning cofounder and former CEO Gina Bianchini is back, and she’s launching her latest startup: a service called Mightybell. Its promise? To help you accomplish things in small, incremental steps (and to let you show others how to do the same).
Yep, that’s a broad description, but that’s intentional — Bianchini says that the verdict is still out on exactly how people are going to use the platform, so it’s premature to say whether it’s going to be good for travel guides or workout exercises or recipes or any other number of things (it may be good for all of those, by the way). The service is now open to the public as both a website and iOS application.
When you first arrive at Mightybell, it’ll probably be through a Facebook or Twitter update — the site encourages current users to share the guides (called Experiences) they’re currently working through. You’ll land on a splash page that outlines the purpose of the guide. These vary greatly: thus far, some people are writing out step-by-step travel guides to cities, others are using it for lifestyle guides.
A guide on ’10 Vacation Rules to Save Your Life’ currently begins with an instruction to block out three vacations in the next year; subsequent steps include defining what exactly you want to do on your vacation and picking three ideal travel companions. Other guides include ‘Feel Like A New Yorker in San Francisco’ and ‘How To Pack Your Bike Like A Team Garmin-Cervelo Pro Mechanic’. Some guides feel overly-simple, others are clearly the product of hours of work.
Once you opt into the Experience, you’ll see the first step, which will include photographs, text outlining exactly what you’re supposed to do to complete that step, and some quick tips. A section at the bottom of the page lets users who are working on the same Experience share comments and advice. There’s also a grid of ‘Fellow Travelers’, where you can see a list of these participants — mouse-over one, and you can quickly send them a Congratulations on their progress. If you’d like to keep in touch with a given user, you can become a ‘Supporter’, which is analogous to following them on Twitter.
As you view each step in an Experience, you’ll notice a large right-pointing arrow at the bottom of the screen. Click it, and you’ll move to the next step (you can jump to previous steps at will). Each time you complete a step, the site will prompt you to share your progress with friends. If it sounds straightforward, that’s because it is, but the site is very polished — everything looks clean, and the site isn’t overrun by banner ads or other irritants. The site also has a heavy emphasis on analytics — users can view slick visualizations of their progress, as well as who their Supporters are.
Which brings us to premium Experiences. Mightybell will allow Experience creators to charge for their guides, which means you can earn money on your step-by-step guide to training for a marathon or learning how to juggle or trekking through the Amazon. Mightybell takes a 25% cut of each transaction and handles the payment processing. The site also gives creators tools to refine their guides — they’ll be able to see funnel analytics detailing where people may be giving up on their Experience (perhaps step five is too hard), and they can also see which of their supporters are driving the most traffic, via sites like Twitter, to the guide (you can then send messages to these advocates to show your appreciation).
Mightybell will also be generating a small amount of revenue, at least initially, through signups: anyone can sign up and consume content on the site, but in order to create an Experience, you’ll need to pay a one-time fee of one dollar. This appears to have more to do with ensuring the site is populated with high-quality content (that $1 hurdle will fend off plenty of spammers) than with serving as a long-term business plan.
The company, which currently has nine employees, raised a $2.1 million seed round late last year led by Floodgate and First Round Capital; notably absent is Andreessen Horowitz, where Bianchini was an executive in residence for a period beginning in March 2010.