Similar to many entrepreneurs/aspiring entrepreneurs, I often dream up what I think is a “game changing” business idea…..Google it….then disappointingly find out that there are 10-plus variations of what I just thought of already in the market – many of which have taken my “genius” idea and gone even further with it than I could ever conceptualize. This falls in line with the phrase, “There’s an app for that!”, because more than likely there probably already is. Though, at the beginning of this year something different happened.
I was unassumingly searching online for a brief, unbiased explanation of a fairly complex topic to email to my girlfriend so she could better understand what I did at work – perhaps putting some context to my longer hours at the time. You see, I worked in Finance Technology, she was in Nursing, and explaining the complicated financial regulatory overhaul “Dodd-Frank” easily and effectively was becoming rather difficult. To my dismay regarding this ‘simple’ online task, I found nothing – all of the resources out there had their problems: biased content, lengthy articles, inaccurate information, advertising overload, etc. none had delivered a well-written, concise, fact-based explanation for anyone to easily comprehend (here’s the Wikipedia page for reference).
It was this lack of clear cut and concise explanations, and the hope to solve that problem, that ultimately led me to create the AbridgeME knowledge platform. My entire career leading up to this point revolved around solving complex problems and delivering technological and operational solutions. This problem however was a bit different (in a good way!), it was neither complex nor highly technical…the solution was simple, build a user generated content platform that the world’s professional and amateur writers alike can explain subjects related to their own expertise in always in 100 words or less. The constraint of 100 words fell in line with the famous Einstein quote “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” – which I believe is a key concept in learning and life in general.
While I really thought I had a great business idea on my hands, I needed to validate it with the general population (that would utilize AbridgeME to get up to speed on topics) as well as experts and writers that would contribute to the knowledge base of the platform. So what I did was quickly develop a basic landing website that explained the overall premise and had a way for visitors to sign up, send comments, and learn more about the to be developed platform. I also posted this simple infographic which provided a visual explanation of my goals with AbridgeME.
The feedback I got was highly positive; I was receiving comments and support from all around the world to build this type of resource. One piece of feedback, coming in all the way from Eastern Europe, really resonated with me as I had not even thought about how AbridgeME could be beneficial in this way:
“What a wonderful idea! AbridgeME will be especially helpful to people whom English is their 2nd or 3rd language!” -Thalita
With the idea validated, it was time to bring AbridgeME to life. While I had a background in consulting and product development, I myself was not an expert programmer. My vision was to develop the crowdsourced website as well as a simple iOS app where users could quickly reference any explanations in the website’s database. I briefly shopped the concept of AbridgeME around to outside investors, but ultimately decided to fund the initial project myself and not waste time on the investor circuit. With myself leading the vision and product design, I was confident a contracted development team could bring AbridgeME to fruition.
With any side-project, especially one of this size, I knew this would mean late night and early morning working sessions to balance both my “real job” and developing the AbridgeME platform. This was a bit of a challenge at first, but I eventually changed around my routine (both at night and in the morning) to devote uninterrupted/focused time to the project – I believe this is key for anyone attempting to build a company while working a full-time job.
As we kicked off the development process, I also began actively reaching out to subject matter experts in various areas to get them to start helping build the initial knowledge base of AbridgeME. What I did not want to happen was to spend 6+ months developing a product, bring it to market, and there is no useful content available for users to take in. I got pretty bold and reached out to everyone from Steven Hawking (did speak with his protégé) to Neil Degrasse Tyson (no response :/). In the end, I was able to bring on some awesome writers from across the globe and am excited to say that we launched our open beta last month with over 500 topics summarized and ready to access. Most notably we had the world’s leading expert on Child Welfare at UPenn contribute her explanations on the Impact of the Sandusky Scandal and the current Child Migrant Crisis.
Within one week of our beta launch, we were covered by both Betalist and Erlibird – two of the most coveted technology early adopter websites. This was great in getting initial users to the platform to test and provide actionable feedback on the sites functionality and layout. Additionally, I had been in contact with my alma mater, Texas Tech University, and they wrote a great piece that explained my vision and goals with AbridgeME. The positive early press was another important validation and also helped greatly in driving both general site visitors and bringing on new contributing writers.
Where we stand now – just 1 month into the launch of AbridgeME.com and two weeks away from the launch of our iOS app – the AbridgeME story is still in its infancy. Other than continuing to actively develop our technology, our big challenge/push right now is reaching out to experts across the globe in various fields and getting them excited to contribute their knowledge to the platform.
I truly believe over time AbridgeME will become the household name for delivering quick, fact-based explanations on any topic. At the very least, I know the next person trying to explain Dodd-Frank to his girlfriend won’t have the original dilemma I had…
I have learned quite a bit in my professional career since graduating from college, but the last 6 months developing AbridgeME has taught me more about myself and my mindset to succeed than all of that time combined. Entrepreneurship requires a level of focus, ambition, and resourcefulness that a 9-5 job just does not bring to the table. I am excited as to what the future holds for AbridgeME, but am enjoying every step of the journey as I know each hiccup and road block I encounter is just part of growing into a successful entrepreneur.