ENTREVESTOR: FIRM AIMS TO BRING BOOKS CLOSER TO READERS

In the next few months, a Halifax startup will launch an collaborative learning platform that will deepen the relationship between some of the world’s leading personal improvement authors and their legions of followers.

The company, sageCrowd, was founded on the belief that such writers don’t change their readers’ lives because people fail to engage with a book in a way that changes behaviour. SageCrowd transforms each author’s work into a series of monthly online lessons so followers can develop habits that improve their performance, brings them success and make them happier.

“What we’ve really come to believe is that in the self-help and personal development market, you’ve got a tremendous volume of content that is poorly assembled for adoption,” said Sean Sears, the chairman of sageCrowd. “We set out to change that.”

The company has signed up two of the world’s leading personal improvement authors: Marshall Goldsmith, whose 34 books, including the bestselling What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, have sold millions of copies; and Justin Gittelman, author of Whole Mind Thinking.

Sears said the company is also in discussions with five other leading authors who are interested in launching sageCrowd channels.

“They know there is a holy grail in the Internet,” said Sears. “They just haven’t figured out what it is yet.”

Sears has been involved in tech development in the region for years, having built and sold three previous startups. In 2000, he was one of the founders of Abridean, Inc., which was one of the first companies anywhere in cloud computing. The founders sold the company for $25 million to a British concern in 2005, and were able to buy it back a few years later. They formed Ogden Pond Technology Group to serve as the holding company for Abridean, and then incubated sageCrowd within Ogden Pond.

The sageCrowd story began 2 1/2 years ago when they teamed up with Ryan Cameron, a Chester resident who had served as chief technology officer of several software companies. Most recently, he had developed a learning tool for a single author, and he proposed to Sears and his partners that they do something similar, but for a whole portfolio of authors.

In May 2012, they began to develop the program, which allows a vast audience of an author’s followers to take monthly courses. Everyone joins the same month, interacts with one another, and they are extensively tested to measure the teaching’s efficacy. SageCrowd invited about 250 people to participate in a closed test with the product in the spring, and about half them ended up completing it. The company is planning an open beta test in August and launch to the public in September.

Sears says he expects to be charging for the service by the end of the year.

Sears said sageCrowd will focus at first on the professional development market, and is interested in expanding into two other market segments, health (including the huge diet market) and enlightenment.

There are now nine people involved in sageCrowd, including president Peter Bidgood, Cameron, content specialist Bob Atchison and marketing head Iain McGlashan. The founders have invested $400,000 in the venture, which allowed them to tap additional funds from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

Sears said the company expects to eventually raise outside financing, but is first focusing on developing its learning network.

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