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Startup of the week – Achieved wants to help you track your life-long learning Written by Charmaine Li on 18. September 2013

Free online courses now cover everything from organisational management to forensic science. Starting a course isn’t hard. Completing one poses more of a challenge, especially when there’s no one to monitor your progress or keep you accountable.

Achieved – a yet-to-be launched startup currently in Berlin’s Startupbootcamp programme – wants to quantify learning, whether it’s a formal course or just the latest book you’ve read, and help you track your career goals. There’s no shortage of other companies tackling this space, including habit-tracking app Lift, personal development startup Mentor and work performance tracker iDoneThis. Where does Achieved fit in?

We caught up with cofounder and CTO Jasper van Nistelrooy to hear more about what Achieved offers and how companies as well as individuals could use it.


Who are you and what are you doing?

Achieved is an inspiring and personal way to reach your professional development goals. It’s an online platform that helps professionals improve their skills and knowledge in three steps. First, set your professional development goals. For example: I want to become a better social media manager.

Second, find inspiration and activity suggestions from others with the same goals. For example: You see that your experienced colleague who has the same goal watched a video about “upcoming social media trends” and you decide to add it to your to-do list.

Third, capture and share all achievements that bring you closer to your goal. For example: You watch the video from your colleague, but you also read a book about social media management, and you read several blogposts a week – so you add this to your profile, most of which is automated, so others can start learning from you as well.

How did you come across your idea?

We always spend a lot of our personal time learning new skills and gaining knowledge – partially to be more effective in our career, but also because we’re curious and enjoy learning about topics that interest us.

Today, almost everything you want to know or learn is available for free, and you don’t need to depend on expensive courses from your employer to develop yourself. We had the feeling that we should inspire people to grow, by showing them that you’re in complete control of your own personal development if you can make effective use of all sources that are available out there.


Who are the founders, what have you done before and how did you find each other?

We are Rob Hermans and Jasper van Nistelrooy – we started Achieved about half a year ago. We’ve known each other for more than eight years and became friends during our time studying but separated ways a bit after graduating.

Rob worked in the finance department of an insurance company, moved to consulting and ended up quitting his job to set up a game startup incubator programme in Utrecht in the Netherlands. I started working at ING Bank, and have done several jobs there. In the last year, I led the concept development in the mobile division in the UK and later joined the concept development team in the Netherlands.
Rob and I cycle a lot together (race cycling), and we always talked about things relating to Achieved so we finally decided to quit our jobs and build the company.

What makes you different from everyone else?

Learning sounds boring but at the same time, everybody has some curiosity and loves to see personal growth. We take the immense offering of online and offline learning content, and bring this to people in a way that’s personalised and social. Developing yourself in small steps, together with colleagues or friends, is what makes Achieved different.

How many users do you have?

We’re still in the phase of testing our product with a select group of users. We aim to launch a closed beta version of Achieved in the near future for over 200 people.


What is your business model? And how big is the market potential?

We see huge potential for Achieved within companies – setting clear, high-level goals for your employees but letting them freely define their own path towards achieving them. This can make human resource development cheaper, but also far more effective. It’s truly a win-win for both employees and employers. Achieved will be a SaaS solution that does this in a structured and effective way.

Who is financing you?

Startupbootcamp, and a small group of angels. We are still looking to raise more money.

Is there anything else you’re missing?

Although we have a great team of five people right now, we are always looking for passionate talent to join us. Anybody with good skills ranging from web design to Python web development is welcome to contact us.

Who would you like to have a lunch with and what would you talk about?

If I had to name one, it would be Seth Godin. He’s a brilliant guy who’s a big advocate of people teaching themselves, producing things and adding value to the world without even having a traditional job.

He calls this “pick yourself”. Don’t wait for a publisher to pick you to publish your book – with the help of internet, you can “pick yourself” and publish what you want. He sees how learning and education is changing, and argues that gaining new knowledge will be more important than proving it (with a diploma, for example). My favourite quote from a recent blogpost is: “The learning is valuable, not the proof you took it.”

Any advice you’d give for fellow startups?

Entrepreneurship equals learning. No matter how experienced you are, you should adopt a growth mindset and be convinced that there is no skill you need that you can’t learn.

Image credit:
Featured image – via Achieved’s website
Goals image – Flickr user lululemon athletica

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