Collaborative Pioneer Interview With Gaston Irigoyen from Guidecentral

Gaston_Irigoyen_3bGuidecentral is a global community platform that brings together makers and DIY enthusiasts. Its multicultural founder & CEO, Gaston Irigoyen, tells us how Guidecentral is helping people monestise their crafting passions and how the content is becoming multilingual with the help of crowdsourced translations from local community makers.

Describe yourself and what fueled you to start Guidecentral.

I’m a bit of a globetrotter – I was born and raised in Buenos Aires Argentina, have a French name, Italian & Spanish roots, and lived in multiple countries including Ireland, Switzerland, Peru and now USA. I studied International Relations (not surprisingly) and have a bit of a corporate background, having worked 5 years for Google and YouTube. I’m a big fan of extreme sports, worked as a ski instructor and tried bungee jumping, skydiving, paragliding and rafting among others. I suppose it’s that combination of global citizen, tech experience and constant desire of adrenaline that made me an entrepreneur!

What exactly is Guidecentral?

Guidecentral is the destination of choice for like-minded crafters and DIY enthusiasts around the world. We’ve created a mobile and web platform for instructional how-to projects that help makers and crafters grow their business by distributing and monetising step-by-step DIY crafting guides to a global audience. Guidecentral provides DIY fans with a simple way to discover and consume how-to information anywhere at any time about creating crafts, learning new skills and using different materials and tools.

How did you get the idea?

It was combination of three different things: 1) my experience working at YouTube, where I helped launch the Partner Program and realised there was an opportunity to build a business while helping people share their content, chase their passions and professionalize their skills, 2) a small app development team that had been working together and achieved great results during the early days of the app stores (sold a mobile app to KIA motors), and 3) the momentum around the Maker and DIY movement, which led to billion dollar companies like Etsy and Pinterest.

Why do you think now is the right time for Guidecentral?

We are witnessing momentum around 3 or 4 key areas that are implicit to Guidecentral’s model including but not limited to the massive adoption of smartphone devices, the unprecedented growth in content creation and sharing through those mobile devices, the renaissance of the shared economy and handmade products, the emergence of the Maker Movement, the rise of companies such as Etsy and Pinterest, and the amount of capital flowing to this space as a result.

How long did it take to build Guidecentral – and where did you get the name?

The very first version took about 4 months but it’s a never-ending process. I don’t think any entrepreneur is happy with their product or company, or at least I’m not. There’s always room for improvement and we still have a long way to go. For the name, we were brainstorming ideas with the word “guide” and all of a sudden we saw an ad about Comedy Central, so we ended up combining both. The reality is I’ve never been entirely happy with the name, and I feel it’s limiting when contrasted with our vision for the company, but our users seem to love it, and that’s what really matters.

In your opinion, why is Guidecentral successful?

Guidecentral provides a space for makers to not only monetise their content by providing step-by-step guides for other crafting enthusiasts to follow, but to truly professionalise their passions. Our Maker Program helps them earn money by creating online guides for craft projects and helps to bring them a step closer to becoming full-time makers. Through the platform, they are also able to connect with other makers and DIY fans on a global scale. Our community members are from the US, Italy, Ireland, Russia, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and beyond, and makers have told us that they have become more motivated in their work, in improving their craft, and in pursuing their passions as a result of being part of the Guidecentral community.

And it was Guidecentral’s community makers that launched the idea for multilingual content creation, right?

Yes, our first push was into English speaking markets, which make up 75% of our current user base. But we also have large maker communities around the world – Mexico, South Africa, Eastern Europe – with some of our best makers in Russia, Italy and beyond. These active makers have helped the platform gain traction into new countries and local markets, and they were the ones to reach out saying they’d love to share their content with their local communities and friends, most of which didn’t speak English. In response, a few months ago we started Project Babbel, an internationalisation initiative aimed at bringing Guidecentral’s top content to 7 different languages including Spanish, Italian, Russian and German among others. Four months later we have about 5,000 projects in those 7 languages and almost 50% of the translators involved were community members! We are blown away by what happened and are working behind the scenes to build new features and take it to the next level.

What are some of the challenges you have faced?

Our space is in its infancy and I’ve no doubts there will be massive opportunities for multiple companies. Our makers love our value proposition and some say they couldn’t live without us. The challenge is to convince people, from investors to clients to talented individuals, that we can build something massive even if in the short term we don’t have a super sharp revenue stream.

A unique fact/statistic that surprises people about Guidecentral is… our top makers spend up to 10 hours a week creating crafting guide content on the platform. That’s 25% of a working week and a brilliant part-time job if we consider that they are doing what they love most.

Another example of Collaborative Consumption I admire is… Uber, Airbnb and Kickstarter. These three companies, and well many others, have completely disrupted traditional industries in a very short period of time. Seems so obvious now!

If you weren’t working with Guidecentral, you would be… travelling around the world! Startups are so intense that I can’t wait to take a sabbatical ☺.

What advice can you share about building the right team? After making several hiring mistakes, my main advice would be to look for people who share your core values, are really passionate about the startup idea (and are willing to take a salary cut to join), are extremely ambitious, constantly challenging the status quo, not afraid or in fact empowered by being uncomfortable and who are ultimately better than you and willing to challenge you. I love every time someone asks questions, challenges my ideas or thinks of ideas to improve my suggestions. They help me improve and be better prepared.

What have been the top guides on the platform so far?

Two DIY guides have been the most popular – one was how to easily cut a glass bottle, and the other was how to make a lip gloss container out of a plastic bottle cap.

Guidecentral by Numbers

Team: 8 full-time, 6 part-time

Content Languages Available: 7

Global Reach: 4.5M users (75% in English-speaking markets, remaining from many different global markets)

Funding to date: $1.5M

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