Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Interview with Milo Sindell, Knowledge Genie
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
This morning, Knowledge Genie (www.myknowledgegenie.com) launched a new web site that helps experts and authors publish online information to the web. We sat down and spoke with Milo Sindell, one of the founders of the firm, to learn more about how the firm came about and what it's trying to accomplish.
What is the idea behind Knowledge Genie?
Milo Sindell: Knowledge Genie is a software platform that anybody can use to capture, package, and publish what they know into an interactive online software application. Essentially, it guides the author through a four step process to design, build, test, and publish their creation. It's a very linear process, and allows them to capture knowledge and link to centralized resources that relate to a topic, including documents, pictures, files, video. We call this a "Genie," and you can build a Genie using Knowledge Genie. Once you've finished your Genie, you can publish it in one of two different ways. If you want it to be private, for example if you're a consultant or teacher, you can share it with a pre-identified audience for that knowledge by publishing it privately and inviting others to log into Knowledge Genie to share that knowledge.
The second example, is you can publish it in public. If you're an expert in a certain technology--say, business process design--and have thought about publishing a book, this is a quicker, faster, and more comprehensive way to share it with the world. You could create a business process design Genie, and announce it through public relations or social networking efforts, and direct them to a login page. As part of your launch, we can integrate Google or Paypal payment options into the login page. People can come to the site, pay you directly, and we provide them with access to your genie, and away they go. The great thing about Knowledge Genie is as your knowledge changes, you can update that Genie, so that it is relevant and always stays in track and in tune with the state of the art within the field.
What's the business model behind this, and does this involve any revenue share or commissions?
Milo Sindell: In terms of business model, it's a subscription service. Our model does not involve commissions or revenue share with our customers, unlike the traditional publishing model, where you give out your knowledge for a small fraction of what a publisher gets. Our online publishing platform allows users to monetize and share what they know.
How did the company start?
Milo Sindell: My wife and I, Thuy, have a background in business consulting. We'd spend a decade or so looking at that area, and wrote three books - Sink or Swi: 12 Weeks To Get It Right; Job Spa, 12 Weeks To Refresh, Refocus and Recommit to your Career; and The End Of Work As You Know It. But, it didn't seem scalable. Instead of writing a book, we wanted to develop a platform to bring our methods to life, and scale our knowledge. That became our company Hit the Ground Running, which we launched in 2007 to help a number of Fortune 500 clients with our technology and methodologies. More recently, we licensed our platform to leadership guru Marshall Goldsmith, so that he could transform his $200,000 coaching engagements into a virtual program, so that a much wider audience could benefit from Marshall's process and work. That platform turns out to be applicable to anyone with a body of knowledge, so approximately eight months ago we modified the platform and turned it into something that uses the subscription service model, and more importantly, we created a process that really guides and facilitates an author to capture their knowledge, easily and linearly, in a fun, intuitive way. We have patents filed on this process.
Can you talk about the pricing and how the business model works?
Milo Sindell: It's a monthly subscription, ranging from $24.00 a month for two Genies, and unlimited users or customers. You can integrate Google or PayPal options--either or both--and it provides a big chunk of storage. The plans range up to approximately $190. There's also a free plan as well, which allows you to test out a Genie and build it out, but where you can't integrate payment options. You'll also be stuck with a few, well-placed Google Adwords ads, as well. One of our hopes, aside from creating a way to package knowledge, is to essentially allow entrepreneurs to create their own publishing company. They can package Genie, put their knowledge into the Genie format, and sell it in the marketplace.
Could you walk through what a Genie looks like?
Milo Sindell: Essentially, a Genie is an online web application that is organized into certain sections, by day, week, month, units, steps, or classes. An author can structure their Genie as appropriate. Every section of a Genie has an overview, and then specific guidance or instruction. It has links to supporting web site and resources. If an author is so inclined, they can upload a document or a file, or even a video, and can include certain checklist items that an author deems important. We track certain statistics, including checklist items and usage. Essentially, the foundation of the Genie learning process is that human beings learn by doing. What a Genie does is provide structure and guidance, and resources in a web-based, flexible application, so that learning actually takes place as part of the user's environment or real world. So far in alpha testing over the last number of weeks, we've had people create companions to books, someone building out a surf report Genie, and other things like a manicure Genie, which guides a primarily female audience through the process and products for a lasting manicure. We've seen a full range of applications.
Are there any specific people you are looking to offer this too--it seems like it's somewhat geared to book authors?
Milo Sindell: There are three broad markets. It's anybody or any organization with a body of knowledge. That could be an expert, a consultant, and author--it's a great way to bring knowledge to life. If you've written a book, it can help reinforce that knowledge. For an educator, it helps to bring classroom training to life. You might be teaching a class, and you can use it to hold your curriculum, important documents, links to important sites, and you can even track participation and usage of the curriculum to help reinforce the learning. The last is for organizations, where they can use this for sales training, as well as for an alternative learning management system, so that any individual or manager can quickly and easily develop programs for their employees or customers.
It's really anyone with a need to share information and knowledge, in a flexible, dynamic format. It is differentiated from a Squidoo, eHow, blogs, or Google Knol in that it has a greater depth of information, and provides deeper information to the user. Plus, there's also a way to monetize that knowledge as well.
Speaking of other site, how does this play into a world where there is so much free content out there?Milo Sindell: Certainly, there is a lot out there. But, people charge for books and consulting, and this is simply an extension of those experts. It's worth charging for that, and this way you can truly control, and monetize, and share that with the world. Even from the blogger, who spends months sharing their knowledge, the challenge is that information in unorganized. Knowledge Genie allows them to take the key bits of their knowledge, put it into a Genie, structure it, and sell that. In a way, it's kind of like a book I'm reading right now on web SEO, which was packaged form individual blogs.