Simone Collins, GigaverseBy Simone Collins, Gigaverse co-founder 

Elevator Pitch: Any literate person with Internet access has the tools required to generate his or her own livelihood, yet pursuing alternative careers is difficult, as our education and support system is geared to churn out cogs who work for corporations. Gigaverse exists to help people create independent careers by offering free courses for pursuing online jobs and building home-based businesses.

Product/Service Description

Alternative careers are widespread yet seldom discussed. Though society and higher educational institutions alike direct us to traditional jobs offered by established employers, more than a fifth of workers in the U.S. (and more globally) work under arrangements that differ from full-time, regular employment. Younger generations, facing a tougher job market than their parents, are even more attracted to alternative careers— 27 percent of millennials are currently self-employed, and half to two-thirds are interested in entrepreneurship.

Gigaverse steps in where societal norms and conventional education fall short, offering free courses on pursuing alternative, Internet-facilitated careers such as freelance work, entrepreneurship, blogging, authorship, online entertainment, social media and community management, and online sales (with more courses constantly under development).

To build our courses, we interview successful professionals within the fields we cover to discover emerging trends and effective tactics (many of which run against conventional wisdom). We are constantly investigating and building curriculum around new and emerging alternative careers.

Founders’ Story

Before creating Gigaverse, I served as director of marketing at HubPages, an online publishing platform that peaked as the 45th most visited site in the U.S. during my tenure. At HubPages, I was flown around the U.S. to teach people how to launch successful online careers as writers, and was invited to speak at SXSW Interactive about changes in the online publishing world. It was during this time that I discovered the vast number of people that are creating independent careers and businesses using the Internet, plus the dearth of trustworthy resources available to them.

My co-founder Malcolm Collins specializes in the millennial generation’s use of online resources to create alternative careers and shape mainstream culture. He is presently finishing his second year at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, where he is studying entrepreneurship and using his thesis as an excuse to study the manner in which people are building careers around gaming economies as video game coaches, commentators, esports writers, and cosplayers.

Market Opportunity

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: “millennials launched almost 160,000 startups each month” in 2011. Most of these startups aren’t the showy Y Combinator types most people imagine when thinking of startups, but rather practical, home-based businesses. Just amongst that age group, we have a huge opportunity to be the go-to resource for these types of ventures—especially given that half to two-thirds are interested in entrepreneurship (if there are around 80 million millennials, that’s anywhere from 40-to-52 million people).

If over a fifth of U.S. workers have alternative jobs, and given that, as of September, 2013, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there are 144,303,000 employed people within the civilian labor force, over 28 million people are already pursuing the types of careers we cover and could use Gigaverse as a supporting resource.

Though there are over 144 million employed people in the U.S., well over 11 million professionals are still looking for work. These people could use Gigaverse more than anyone else.

In short, there are a lot of people who would be interested in our courses, and who would benefit from learning that they don’t have to find a job with an established organization to begin generating income.

The businesses that some might see to be our competitors (MOOCs, online training sites and platforms that help people make money online), we see as our potential partners. These businesses offer skills and tools; we show people how to leverage them and turn their new skills into an income.

Marketing and Promotions Strategy

Nothing beats word-of-mouth marketing, and we aim to spur organic promotion of our brand by creating the best possible resource for people pursuing alternative careers. We are constantly tweaking our site and adding new materials based on visitors’ feedback and requests.

Conveniently, much of the promotion we enjoy comes from those who contribute to our site. Successful professionals we interview for our courses often share our site with their followers.

Concerted efforts we are taking to introduce even more people to Gigaverse involve partnerships with other career-oriented online resources. We are working with several businesses to develop branded courses on Gigaverse that will help their users make the most of their services, and introduce our brand and courses to a wider audience.

How Gigaverse Is Different

MOOCs (massively open online courses) like Coursera and edX are brilliant at bringing the college experience to a wider audience, however many of their courses are purely academic in nature and won’t leave students with skills that employers actively demand.

Founded by professors from established universities, many of these MOOCs are attempting to copy and paste a university model onto an online environment (similar to what Encylopedia Britannica Online did when attempting to bring its materials to the Internet). This format is not optimal for online learning. People online get addicted to games and modularized, interlinked information rabbit holes like YouTube and Wikipedia—not today’s MOOCs (this becomes astoundingly apparent when you look at their courses’ completion rates).

Even online learning resources that are designed for Internet-based learning and intended to give people practical professional skills—like Codecademy, which is interactive, fun, engrossing, and great at teaching people highly-demanded skills—don’t show people how to turn the useful skills they learn into a source of income.

Gigaverse fills in the gaps left by other players in the online education field by being purely practical in nature (not at all academic or theoretical), optimized for online learning (through text-based, searchable, modular, interlinked lessons and guides), and oriented around pursuing jobs and building businesses with the skills people already possess.

Business Model

During Gigaverse’s early stages, our goal is to build a robust user base and tweak/expand our course offering to provide the best possible resource for pursuing alternative careers. Depending on our user base’s most pressing needs and predominant behavior, we will eventually monetize through back-end business support systems that make it just as easy to pursue an alternative career as a freelancer or home-based business owner as it is to pursue work for established organizations.

Current Needs

We are actively seeking people who pursue alternative careers as freelancers or entrepreneurs. If you would be interested in interviewing and being featured on our site—or better yet, creating a course of your own showing how to follow in your footsteps, let us know!

As we prepare for our second phase of development, we are also seeking external investment.

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Gigaverse logoWebsite: www.gigaverse.com

Founders: Malcolm Collins, Simone Collins

Headquarters: Palo Alto

Investors: Bootstrapped

Year Founded: 2012

Employees: 2

Twitter: @TheGigaverse

Facebook: facebook.com/thegigaverse

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/3171035

AngelList: angel.co/gigaverse