Considering that the Web is changing and evolving every single day, the learning curve for newcomers — and even old-hands alike — can be steep. For those who are starting businesses and looking to learn more about how to use certain sites, products, or tools, the onramp can be difficult to find, not to mention maneuver.
Back in October, a startup called Grovo launched with the goal of tackling this very problem. Dubbing itself “the field guide to the Internet”, Grovo positioned itself as an online education and training platform to enable Web users to find and learn how to use the Web’s most-frequented sites (and vice versa) — beginning with sites like Twitter, Mint, and Amazon.
Hiring an in-house professional team to create high-quality (and free) instructional videos, Grovo focused primarily on Web companies (unlike some nominal competitors like, say, eHow). Today, Grovo offers over 600 video tutorials to everyday consumers looking to increase their Web street cred. And, since its launch, Grovo has begun giving more of that special attention to business owners looking to build a Web presence and make the most out of social media, eCommerce, and business productivity sites and apps.
In March, the startup launched its first real money-making effort by adding premium content, available at $19 a month, or $190 annually. These premium guides offered beginner roadmaps to sites like Basecamp, Facebook Pages, Google Apps and Analytics, Retargeter and Twitter for Business. While paywalls can sometimes kill a young business, Grovo has apparently benefited: “We’ve have seen triple digit traffic growth since March, and are now delivering 2,000 to 3,000 lessons a day”, said Grovo Founder Jeff Fernandez.
Expanding its reach to enable individual businesses to make how-to and instructional videos for their customer-base is an intelligent move on the company’s part. As a young startup scales, its team often experiences difficulties in educating its customers about new product offerings, new tools available on the site, and so on — while maintaining that critical level of customer service and training. It should be a natural extension for a site that calls itself the “Field Guide to the Internet”, amirite?
To further help young startups with education and business training, the startup is today announcing that it will now be offering an embeddable widget to allow companies to take that user training to the next level. In doing so, Grovo has recruited inDinero, which is essentially Mint for businesses (we covered them back in September), and ReTargeter, a re-targeting
platform for online advertising, to embed Grovo’s video lessons on their own sites, to help train, educate and retain their users.
“But, can’t sites just suck it up and do this themselves?” I hear you asking. Of course. If your business is simply looking to create a video explaining why users should use your site or product — say, a single introductory video — it’s probably easier to do it yourself. But for those sites who may have several layers to their company or product, or perhaps software that performs a very specific or complicated task — this can be difficult. Not to mention, Grovo’s training programs are agnostic, so they’re not marketing fluff. And for many startup teams, immersed in their visions, it’s hard to step back and be objective.
For these reasons, Grovo can be fairly handy. You can think of them as your video pit crew, considering they’ve spent their early stages hiring a professional writing team, video production crew, and voice talent. And each Grovo tutorial comes with pre-written notes, quiz questions and glossary terms.
So, what are these startups using Grovo for? inDinero, already with a robust FAQ and customer happiness team, is using the Grovo Widget on its help page to showcase the site’s intuitive financial dashboard and automated data entry. Retargeter is using the widget before the site’s pay wall to help users better understand the experience that awaits them. The Widget presently constitutes Retargeter’s entire “help” section; the site also plans to feature the Widget behind its paywall shortly. The startup is also working with Aviary and Hy.ly to add customized how-tos to their respective sites.
To further help its macro-Web-guide vision, Grovo is also announcing today that it has closed its first round of seed funding, led by Krishna “Kittu” Kolluri, general partner at New Enterprise, who invested personally. Ajay Vashee of New Enterprise, Andy Dunn (Founder and CEO of Bonobos), Mareza Larizadeh (Larizadeh Capital Partners), Jon Emery (Chairman, Linkstorm), Steve Kowarsky, (Cofounder and CFO, CosmoCom), and Ajay Rajani (GEIG Tech Farm), among others, also participated in the round.
The seed funding will be used primarily to drive the startup’s product development, the Grovo CEO said. In the future, Grovo is looking to position itself as an education and training platform that companies can also use to assign courses, track progress and manage employee development.
Eventually, Grovo will have to decide whether it wants to be Joe The Plumber’s Web For Dummies, or whether it will primarily focus on being a full-service video training agency for startups and SMBs. Until then, it may experience a bit of an identity crisis. I could see myself using Grovo under either scenario, especially if it offers me a How-To for WordPress or Drupal or Python, but in the end, it’s one or the other. I’d go with the startups. They could always use more help, those startups.
But either way, you should check ’em out. Let me know if this sounds like something you’d use.