Thrive15 aims to be the Khan Academy for small businesses, but can the middle-America site teach Valley-style methods?

By Carmel DeAmicis , written on June 20, 2014

From The News Desk

If our Startups Anonymous series has taught us anything, it’s that nobody in Silicon Valley knows what the hell they’re doing. From raising funding rounds for the first time to learning how to hire and then fire, nearly everyone seems to be winging while to learn the ropes as they go.

There’s plenty of bootcamps that have formed to furnish the technical piece of that puzzle. Places like General Assembly and Hack Reactor run engineers through intensive coding classes to bring them up to date on the latest languages and platforms. But the non-technical startup individuals have been less well served. Just in the last six months, newcomer Tradecraft became one of the first to focus first and foremost on such non-tech skills — marketing, design, product management, business development. Unfortunately, the program is available to only a very select group of individuals. With an 8 percent acceptance rate, it’s not exactly training for the masses.

Enter Thrive15, a subscription Web-based education platform chockfull of video content aiming to train users on all those less scientific business processes. It’s like Khan Academy for the early business owner. The topics range from marketing and branding to overcoming adversity, raising capital, and networking. Its videos range from the type needed by small business owners to the sort of challenges startups hoping to scale might face. The subscription also comes with one-on-one mentoring with other business professionals.

Sounds great right?

But there’s a snag. Thrive15 is an organization based out of  Tulsa, Oklahoma. What’s the likelihood it has the connections and networks for truly top tutorials and mentoring talent? How can it stay abreast of the latest trends and information startups need to know if its not connected to the heart of Silicon Valley? Or even the next tier of startup hubs like New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, or Austin?

Thrive15 CEO Clay Clark believes that the basic principles for launching a business stay steady and apply to both small companies and technology startups looking to scale. He’s targeting both markets and hopes the foundations of the two have more overlapping qualities than you’d expect. The site will be in a beta phase through July as it adds new trainings and beefs up the course offerings. Clark hopes to launch soon after.

The educators gracing the Thrive15 videos aren’t exactly tech elite, although they’re big names in their own industries. Lee Cockerell, who use to manage Walt Disney World resorts, teaches a session on management. David Robinson, from the NBA hall of fame, teaches a session on leadership. Singer Mike Posner teaches a session on marketing your business. Even Kathy Taylor, former mayor of Tulsa, graces Thrive15’s site.

It’s possible that these fifteen minute video bites might prove truly helpful for early stage founders wandering the abyss of the Internet, trying to figure out how to launch their business. But beware: Just because a piece of advice from corporate or middle America works in those arenas, doesn’t mean it’s the way great startups are built.

[image via Thrive15]