This week the Ottawa-based founders of CRM tool Network Hippo announced they’re shutting down the online platform to focus on a new startup, Accel.io. Network Hippo launched in 2009, debuted its tool in public beta in 2010, and presented at the DEMO conference in spring 2010. It was designed to be a smart contact manager, and started as a CRM tool for small business, and eventually became a social CRM tool targeted to professionals and individuals.
NetworkHippo has shut down as its founders move on to their new startup, and founder Scott Annan said there wasn’t a clear way to monetize the product. ”NetworkHippo continues to be an area that I’m passionate about, but eventually it kind of ran out of juice,” Annan said. “We realized that the CRM space was very crowded, and it’s very expensive because it’s all based on education.”
In an email to Network Hippo members yesterday, Annan and the team said they’ve been working on building out Accel.io for the past nine months, a platform that offers step-by-step guides on a variety of subjects. Accel.io grew out of StartupPlays, which Annan said was really a test product of the larger Accel.io platform. It provides action plans for entrepreneurs, which range in price from free to $99, and Annan said the company has sold 5,000 “plays” since its launch.
“With Accel.io we’re essentially providing a platform for any kind of template or step-by-step guide, that can be not just for tech startups, but for any kind of a business…but also in other verticals or industries.”
It will offer guides on everything from starting a business to medical best practices (although right now all guides are business-focused). Each guide provides step-by-step tasks, and each task has a to-do list, tips, file templates, and links to resources. Accel.io will follow a similar model of charging for guides, and will take a cut from each guide sold on the platform.
Similar to how StartupPlays crowdsources its guides from entrepreneurs and startup experts around the world, anyone can create their own Accel.io guide and sell it in the marketplace, almost like a Udemy but for guides instead of classes. Guide authors have to first submit their idea, which is vetted by the Accel.io team, and once approved they can create their guide. The completed guide is sold on Accel.io and its partner marketplaces, and authors get to keep 40-70 percent of their sales.
The company is also looking to partner with bloggers, publishers, companies and consultants to create white labeled marketplaces for their members or customers. Partners can create their own guides or resell existing Accel.io guides, and for partner marketplaces, authors earn 40 percent of each guide sold, the third-party marketplace keeps 30 percent, and Accel.io keeps 30 percent. Current partners include Startup Canada and the YMCA.
Both Startup Plays and Accel.io (and Network Hippo until it shut down) were part of Annan’s Mercury Grove ”startup co-op,” which also counts companies like Openera and VeganCuts in their community-focused organization. The StartupPlays brand will continue as a site under the Accel.io umbrella, with additional features for startup founders as well as the guides.
Accel.io will be launching new marketplaces next week on topics like personal organization, and will be launching in over 30 countries by the end of the year (some in local languages like Spanish). Annan said he will be looking to raise funding for the company in early 2013. As for social CRM, a nut that Network Hippo ultimately couldn’t crack, Annan said he still isn’t satisfied with the tools that exist for personal and professional CRM. ”I don’t think anyone is doing it right,” Annan said about alternative social CRM tools. “There’s a fine line between being able to leverage your relationships in a way to get better understanding, versus leveraging a social network in order to be creepy and try to create associations that aren’t real.”