Why waste time reinventing the wheel when you could learn life lessons an easier way?
Phil Strazzulla, a newly-conferred Harvard MBA, was an undergraduate at New York University when he spent one miserable summer working for a big bank. At the time, he wrote himself a note as a reminder of what he didn’t like about the position.
Then, the financial crisis happened.
“I was about to sign this offer and found this note,” Strazzulla said. “That 10-minute exercise literally changed my life.”
Strazzulla narrowly avoided making the same mistake twice, and started thinking about how he could help others do the same.
He began by having people quickly write down what they wanted to accomplish over the summer. Strazzulla then sent out a reminder in the middle of the sweltering season and checked in at the end to remind participants of what they forgot.
“A lot of people responded favorably to it,” Strazzulla said. “One girl said, ‘This is actually changing how I’m going about my career going forward.'”
Come September 2013, Strazzulla was channeling that exercise into what is now LifeGuides, a startup born out of the Harvard Innovation Lab focused on sharing knowledge that’s helped others successfully tackle life’s challenges. Questions LifeGuides can help answer include: What do companies look for in a college hire? Should I get an MBA? How will learning to code help me in life?
The startup formally launched roughly two weeks ago, but was seeing growth far before that. LifeGuides has grown by 50 percent week-over-week. As of Wednesday, the company’s user base had doubled again, according to Strazzulla, encouraged by the team’s mid-week metrics.
“People see the thought leadership incentive,” Strazzulla said. “Most people also just want to pay it forward and give back to their respective communities.”
When building the beginnings of the business, Strazzulla reached out to his network to see if any of his peers had interesting stories they wanted to share. From there, he cold-emailed when necessary and now individuals can easily apply to become a mentor. Creating a LifeGuide is as simple as spending an hour recording lessons via a webcam. Roughly 400 videos are currently floating around the site, equaling about 15 lessons in total.
The curated platform first focused on career-related life events. Most recently, the site has started featuring guides around “The Business of Life,” or rather financial planning around major moments like getting married or having a child.
“The plan is to use ‘The Business of Life’ to transfer to other life events,” Strazzulla explained, whether that be how to be a sibling to a special needs child or handle epilepsy in the workplace. “We view it as a broad platform at the end.”
Strazzulla, along with the help of four interns, is working on building out a host of tools for mentors to use, including text message alerts users could set up through a guide.
The heightened features will come at opportune timing, given Strazzulla’s plan is to try and raise money in the fall to build out the team. Given how much money people tend to spend throughout life events, Strazzulla said he could see LifeGuides becoming “an advertising platform that you consume during the course of a life event.”
But at the core, a powerful message will remain: “Save time, money and stress by learning from those who have been there, done that.”
As for those who upload a guide? “Instead of affecting one person that day,” Strazzulla said, “you can affect thousands.”