You will: work faster, deliver better analysis, innovate more, and be successful. These are the promises 5miles makes. They have taught the essentials of Excel and PowerPoint to over five thousand professionals, making sure all the useful knowledge is offered in a practical, interactive, and, most importantly, efficient manner. “We help you decide what you learn… and when,” says Chris van Voorden, who created 5miles together with Sjoerd Boonstra.
How would you describe 5miles in one sentence?
“Allowing business-professionals to acquire the essential skills needed to reach business success. And all that in just 5 minutes per day.”
A more elaborative description?
“It helps you become more adept at programs such as Excel and PowerPoint. These are essential for many common challenges in the business world, like giving that crucial presentation where you persuasively make the right call to action.”
What problem does 5miles solve?
“The corporate environment is ill-suited for people to improve their skills in certain common computer programs: people just don’t have the time. We have noticed many people working with big data and company information, yet they seem to struggle finding an adequate way to use this for their target audience. 5miles offers a platform for fast and efficient support in dealing with these issues. The name stands for ‘5 minute learning system’. We are your daily espresso in learning, allowing you to keep on growing.”
How does this work for a user?
“Every day, you receive a challenge in your mailbox. Our platform then lets you work for 5 minutes on your analytical, presentation, and data skills. That’s about the same amount of time in which you could drink a cup of coffee. Using 5miles makes your work significantly more efficient, which results in better decision making for your company. Our online learning-platform makes learning every day a habit.”
What exactly does “significantly more efficient” mean?
“Our research has shown that the average employee at a corporate business can save two hours in their schedule each week by solving their inexperience or incompetence in important computer programs. This is almost one hundred hours on a yearly basis. And that’s just for one employee, so you do the math.”
So other, regular training is insufficient?
“Wasting an entire day on a training is something of the past. Not only does it take up a lot of time, but it also remains to be seen if the training can be applied directly in your work. 5miles sends you challenges that improve your skills in less than 5 minutes, and the use of real data and business cases means your newly gained abilities is directly applicable. Every 5miles challenge is tailored to personal learning goals. That’s the feedback we receive from our users. They are professionals at multinationals, banks, insurance companies, and consultancy agencies.”
Who are your customers?
What do you consider the essence of 5miles?
“We break the tedious routine of drinking coffee, sitting at your desk and going through your e-mails. The core of a 5miles challenge in your mailbox is always that you only learn by doing.”
Can you give us an example?
“Presenting on a subject in your area of expertise on short notice can be challenging. The topic can be anything: the number of licensed bars in the Netherlands, the latest price of oil, or the price of a Volkswagen after the diesel scandal. You check your email and go to the platform. Here you are presented with an overview of the situation. Then you learn by doing. For example, you look up and change a word in Excel, or you determine the best option for showing a large amount of data in a clear diagram. There is no right or wrong, and you receive feedback right away. It’s the process that matters: challenge – discover – learn.”
How do you keep things challenging and avoid it getting boring?
“Everybody starts at a different level. The algorithm sees how fast you learn. The user is completely free in deciding the frequency of challenges coming his or her way. You also decide when you want to receive the challenges. 5miles currently has about five thousand users who regularly tackle our challenges on the platform. You learn at your own pace, in your own time.”
What is your background and why did you start 5miles?
“I worked at ABN AMRO for seven years doing mergers and acquisitions, spending hours roaming around in Excel. I noticed customers and colleagues struggling with the same problems. When I met my partner Sjoerd, I was instantly charmed by his idea of challenging people in 5 minutes every day and helping people learn new skills. That is really a passion we share: helping people grow. We started in 2015, and things went fast from there.”
What does your team look like now?
“The team consist of sixteen people, including Sjoerd and me. He is the guy with ideas; he worked as a strategic consultant for eight years and never stopped looking for ways to improve. We spend our time working in the Netherlands, but besides Amsterdam we have offices in Paris and Kampala, Uganda. We have eight different nationalities on our team.”
When did you know this idea was viable?
“When —a week after launching 5miles— a big Dutch healthcare provider showed interest and became a customer: Achmea. That’s the kind of recognition you’re after. Naturally, we ourselves were convinced of our concept, but its viability is only confirmed when your idea is put into practice.”
Do you have any competition? What do you consider 5miles’ distinguishing quality?
“I got the same question during a pitch at the Accenture Innovation Awards in October. The answer remains the same: No. Even now, only at 5miles can you gain and directly apply useful and practical knowledge in Excel and PowerPoint in less than five minutes. And the challenges are based on examples from your personal, every-day work. I would like to add we are currently also focusing our attention on other common tools, besides VBA, Excel and PowerPoint. Tools such as Outlook, SAS, SAP, Think-Cell, and PowerBI.”
What’s the most remarkable user experience thus far?
“I remember when we just got started: a user called us to ask for the challenge we had forgotten to send her that day. That’s how we can see our challenges are really becoming addictive. Some users have compared us to the sudokus people solve in their daily newspaper.”
What kind of opportunities does 5miles offer marketers?
“The opportunity to have a clear overview in a world that is overflowing with data. For example, having a clear view on prospects and customer needs is important. Also, we are very successful because we offer challenges every day that are relevant and appealing to our target audience. Our success proves that content is king. It’s the same with Netflix: if they offer content that people want to see, people will continue watching.”
What is your revenue model?
“5miles works with SaaS, or, rather, LaaS: learning as a service. We focus our attention on big corporates by means of yearly licenses, i.e. b2b. The price varies because of the custom-made approach that is needed for these internationally oriented organizations.”
What did your participation in the AIA17 do for your business?
“Participating was a lot of fun. It gives the team a positive impulse. Our pitch got us in contact with the jury members, which has opened up all kinds of interesting doors. It’s remarkable that we are looking for ways to help customers together with Accenture.”
Anything interesting on the horizon?
“Currently we are adapting our model to the large number of demand we are receiving from organizations. This is necessary if we want to be able to keep helping everybody. Also, it is important to keep investing in our learning technology and the trainings we are offering.”
At what point will you be satisfied?
“Cool, yeah — this is a very important question. Of course, we set clear goals when starting out with 5miles. Being a successful company has been important. At the same time, we realize it is important to really enjoy our journey. Personally, I get a lot of energy being surrounded by my team and our partners. I try to take things one step at a time, slowly improving.”