Jack Herrick, the Man Who Started the World’s Collaborative How-To Manual

In 2005, entrepreneur and wiki enthusiast Jack Herrick founded wikiHow, an online collaborative how-to manual that aims to “empower every person on the planet to learn how to do anything.” The website is similar to Wikipedia but is for-profit and focuses on step-by-step instructions. The main English version of wikiHow currently has over 146,000 how-to articles written by knowledge philanthropists, i.e., someone who freely creates, shares, or organizes information to help others. Every month, more than 40 million unique visitors come to the site to learn how to do pretty much anything, be it potty training one’s puppy, treating dandruff, making a beaded bracelet, repairing an LCD monitor, or curing alcohol breath. WikiHow attracts more worldwide traffic than The Los Angeles Times.

Seeing himself as the steward of wikiHow, Herrick is committed to continue doing all that he can to help achieve the community’s shared mission of creating the world’s most helpful instructions. “In the event that the community no longer feels I’m the best steward for this project, the community retains the right to fork the content and software to a new host and continue the mission without me,” he writes on his user page.

Herrick takes pride in wikiHow’s collaborative, self-managing approach, as it “challenges old assumptions about how organizations need be built.” Additionally, wikiHow has been self-funded from day one. Between 2005 and 2008, the 14-person, Palo Alto company turned down financing offers from VCs on several occasions. According to Herrick, “Bootstrapping… really forces you to invent your way out of problems rather than spend your way out of problems.” He has declined to sell wikiHow to a “large public Internet company” as well. “Accepting the offer would have made me a lot of money, but money isn’t everything,” he says. “We get a lot of joy in continuously improving our ability to offer free how-to instructions to the world.”


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