HowDo is a new way of giving and getting ideas. Little nuggets of information are laid out in a short selection of images and wrapped up in step-by-step audio, all compiled using the technology in your pocket.
We spoke to co-founder Emma Rose Metcalfe about how a trip to India and some clever collaboration opened the door on knowledge sharing for thousands of users.
Launched as an app in October 2012, HowDo is fast becoming the place to go for things you need to know. It’s a platform that lets makers get inspiration and share micro guides, tips and tricks – and users have stretched its boundaries far and wide: find out how to tell if an egg is good or bad (embedded below), or how to make a bench, how to remember the number of days in each month, and how to make your own light-up clothing (embedded below).
The value of each short selection of photos and sound clips is immense. As one user puts it:
“Awesome app! Educational, simple and super fun! Nowadays I learn at least ten new things a day!”
A creative approach to learning
Whether producing or absorbing HowDos, it doesn’t feel like learning in the traditional sense. As the app – and now the website – grows, so does a community with a shared interest in doing things independently and cleverly. Or as Emma puts it: “It’s not a case of ‘I’m really good at this and need to show off’, it’s more humble than that, more ‘I can help people by showing them something’.”
This ethos of sharing is great for the creative thinker: there is no keeping things to yourself, no hogging all the skills and any showmanship is there to benefit the masses or make learning fun. Seeing how other people tackle challenges can also make you think differently about your own approach to problem solving.
Creating a meaningful experience
HowDo came about when Emma – who has a background in service design and an interest in behaviour, as well as a desire to create something meaningful – met Nils – an expert in sound who shares Emma’s passion for creating an authentic experience. They’re pictured above, along with technical co-founder Edward Jewson, at the Maker Faire in New York.
Though Emma insists they never wanted to create an app (“it’s so cliché”), a Masters in Stockholm, time spent with the Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship, a couple of boot camps in India and the question ‘What is the future experience of authenticity?’ soon led them there.
This was a quick and scalable way to share information – something they saw as precious in an era where things can be lost with quick-fire ‘advances’ in how our daily lives are run and when cultures combine or clash.
The pair, along with Jewson, built on their previous experiences at SoundCloud and research in the design and distribution of meaningful experiences to launch HowDo in the end of October 2012.
The iPhone was the tool of choice – “Everybody carries a microphone and a camera with them now and so it made sense for HowDo to be an app,” Emma said – and the app is available on the app store for free.
Building the business
HowDo secured significant seed round funding led by Wellington Partners, along with angel investor Peter Read and Horizon Ventures, which manages the private venture investments of Li Ka-shing in the technology sector.
Having been built last summer, Emma admits they may have launched a bit too quickly, however this gave them a real chance to see how users would take to their idea. Beta testing gave way to real life use and a cascade of analytics and observations followed. This fed into the next round of features, soon to be released.
HowDo is not just a great service for people who like to make, it is a great example of philanthropy entrepreneurship. The founders’ time in India made them realize the enormous amounts of untapped knowledge, particularly of the small things in life – and they started a path to collect and share this knowledge.
The range of users is affirming: from nail art tutorials to the suggestion that autistic children can make their own HowDo to learn how to get dressed, from companies like Sugru giving tips to customers and the funny videos that are just a bit of light entertainment, HowDo truly has something for everyone, from every walk of life.
Company alignments with Sugru and Technology Will Save Us sit well with HowDo’s ethics. “I believe in companies doing things for a better future, not just making money,” Emma says. “The website and ability to embed is hugely exciting. Bloggers and companies can now embed their HowDos on their own websites.”
Emma believes the rush to launch and the investment they received was priceless both in terms of getting in the right headspace and learning from experience. Her advice to start-ups?
- Find a perfect fit with your collaborator or project. “Finding a great co-founder with a different interest but enough overlap that we could make a successful project was really important, I feel very fortunate. Our shared interests were excitement to scale and passion for people sharing their perspectives on the world and connection to a world of start-ups.”
- Not being afraid to hustle. Getting a grip on how things were done in the business world.
- Believing your project has the scope and deserves to be out there
- Not getting stuck on all the short term goals – a common innovation killer
And finally, here are some of Emma’s top Howdos:
- Create a dreamcatcher https://www.how.do/guide/create-a-dreamcatcher
- How to get knot-free hair https://www.how.do/guide/how-to-get-knot-free-hair
- Paper LED dimmer https://www.how.do/guide/paper-led-dimmer
And a fun gif of Emma to finish our profile…