Whether it’s the Mona Lisa behind a foot of glass or century-old birth certificates in a county courthouse basement, a surprising amount of human life still happens outside the digital world.
Yet, few of us spend any time thinking about how collections are managed. How challenges like humidity, temperature, and light exposure are managed over the life of a document is the difference between an iconic painting lasting for centuries or crumbling in storage in a decade.
Meet Conserv, an environmental monitoring subscription for collections.
Conserv delivers continuous, automated data collection and analysis backed by a team of preservation professionals so you can manage your collection environment with confidence.
Conserv is unique because its sensor network takes 5 minutes to configure while being much more powerful than the market alternatives, and because Conserv offers actionable real-time analytics.
Austin Senseman is Conserv’s CEO and co-founder. He and Nathan McMinn were looking for a tough problem to solve when they visited McMinn’s mom, the conservator of the Wedgewood collection at the Birmingham Museum of Art. They watched as she walked from sensor to sensor, collecting data and swapping dead batteries. Senseman and McMinn knew there had to be a better way to help passionate curators preserve valuable collections.
What does a leading innovator in collections environment monitoring have to do with helping your team Know How to do everything?
Let’s take a look.
The Rise of Product Education
Production Education is everything your company does to teach customers how to obtain the most value from your product.
This isn’t a single moment. Instead, it is every interaction your customers have with your company, from the first paid ad or word-of-mouth referral that makes them aware you exist, through sales and onboarding, into every survey, support ticket, and account call many years into a happy customer relationship.
In the face of crowded marketing channels, endless substitutes, and growing customer exhaustion with an overly complex market, Product Education provides an edge.
“Education is a huge piece. I mean, 70% of collections don’t have monitoring, so we spend a lot of time educating people on why [collections monitoring] is important and then getting [customers] comfortable that you’re going to be supported in learning how to do this work.”
This is a perfect example of how Product Education begins the moment a customer learns about a problem. For Conserv, education often starts by teaching collections curators that monitoring needs to happen at all… and is affordable.
What counts as a collection goes far beyond paintings in museums. Conserv needs to educate private collectors, libraries, and even government agencies that store historical paper records such as birth certificates or deeds.
But, most teams know why knowledge sharing matters. The challenge is how to do it easily, quickly, and sustainably.
“What we’ve found in customer interviews is that almost everyone knows an awful lot about their job. It’s their area of expertise, and they’re really proud of that. The problem is actually in knowing how to communicate all that Know How to other people in a way that makes it easy to learn. Our target market are frustrated because it’s hard to share what they know.”
At its best, Product Education helps companies sell their product faster, lose fewer customers, and waste less team time.
Why? Because it’s important to start by saving what you already have.
Saving What You Have
Conserv cares a lot about preservation.
“So the origin story starts at the Birmingham Museum of Art with [co-founder] Nathan’s mom. She was the Objects Conservator for many years. Her expertise is Wedgewood and we have the largest Wedgewood collection outside the UK. We went on data logger day with her. She was walking around the museum and finding how the 30-year data loggers and batteries are dead. We decided that we weren’t sure what the solution here is, but it might not be this.”
Why place so much value on preservation?
Because it is a lot easier, faster, and cheaper to take care of what you already have than to make new great works. It is impossible for the world to imagine replacing the famous Mona Lisa with a 21st century lookalike because the curators let humidity or light damage the historical treasure.
This counts for teams as much as famous artists.
Your team has spent a lot of time, money, and effort learning the best Know How about your product and customers. In fact, they probably know more about how the product actually works in the world than anyone else in your company.
This wealth of team knowledge is exactly why Extelli was founded:
“We started with a simple problem statement: ‘it’s hard to share what you know.’ Each discovery interview showed us that everyone we talked to knew practically everything about their job. They were all by how hard it is to turn that expertise into good communications, into good training, into a learner’s change in behavior.”
When you don’t document that Know How, it stays trapped inside the minds of a few team members where it can degrade, be damaged, or be lost… just like valuable historical documents.
Also like those documents, it’s impossible for the world to benefit at scale from all that Know How if it’s not being documented and taught to the team, company, and customers.
By saving what you have, you create better experiences for less time and money.
New Ways to Save Old Things
The 2020’s have brought sweeping changes to how everyone lives and works. Trends like distributed, flexible, and remote work sped up while traditionally safe investments like commercial office space became risky.
What we have found as the changes settled is that, instead of throwing out all the “old” practices in favor of the new, people have created new ways to save old things.
In one example, the company Teeoh invented a shared virtual environment so that people who are tired of Zoom calls can create avatars that simulate the office environment in a virtual space. This is an entire company dedicated to a virtual product to let us feel like we are in the office. That’s full circle.
With all that flexibility comes the need for new tools, features, and processes. Competitors focused on expensive WiFi-based systems that benefit them by requiring dozens to hundreds of expensive sensors per collection.
Conserv brought a new sensor technology with essentially unlimited range to the problem. The unlimited range reduced the need for expensive network upgrades and complex systems. By understanding the “old way”, Conserv solved the curators’ real problems: Monitoring needed to be affordable and simple
Extelli targeted customer pain by turning instructional moments into a shared resource:
“Extelli’s mission was to make it point-and-click simple to document Know How. It might take you 10 seconds or a few minutes to build a great Guide and share it with someone that day. But that Guide will live in your Library forever, so that any team member can find it whenever they need it. We’ve built a tool that turns every single customer interaction into a documented best practice.”
For both companies, innovation was about bringing new ways of doing things to preserve what is hard-won and valuable.
How Systems Shape Everything
We all live inside systems. These are the forces, mechanisms, and choices that decide how the world works. We all have influence over these systems… unless we ignore them.
Conserv understood early that a systemic approach to collection preservation was needed. With old systems focused on one-and-done sales that left the customer with responsibility but not support, there was an opportunity to create a plug-and-play solution that gave customers the actionable intel they needed, when they needed it.
“In a 140,000 square foot building like we’re in right now, an old Sears with max concrete and steel, setting up Wi-Fi for a monitoring network could cost $50,000 or more. We would need routers every 30 or 40 feet. Or I could put 2 Conserv devices in here, and you could put your sensors anywhere you want in any room, and the 2 devices would cover the entire building.”
That’s another way of saying Conserv’s product helps their customers know how, right now.
Product trends today try to help customers create custom technology stacks from a huge menu of options, with tools like Zapier thriving because they integrate all these tools. Most of the work is pushed to a customer who may not understand what help they need, yet.
Solving the systems problem became Extelli’s North Star:
“Creating product education that people don’t use, can’t understand, or don’t understand in context is wasted effort. It clears your backlog today but creates expensive problems in the future. The only problem worth solving was making sure that people knew what they needed to know, when they needed to know it.”
By recognizing that systems shape everything, Conserv and Extelli were able to pinpoint the real customer problems.
What makes Conserv unique
The common wisdom is that a product should be 10 times better than the competition.
Conserv’s sensor network is 50 times better.
This translates into rapid, accurate, on-demand environmental data.
Instead of forcing curators to interpret the data, Conserv shows them the trends and measures that matter most.
Low cost. Easy install. Huge range. Actionable data. Ongoing support.
That’s a powerful combination.
What makes Extelli unique
Extelli is built from scratch to help teams and their customers know how, right now.
With great Product Education, your team can sell your product faster, lose fewer customers, and waste less team time figuring out how to do something they have done a thousand times before.
Create quick Guides in seconds using the point-and-click extension.
Curate Guides by enriching them with context, bundling them into helpful Collections, and sharing them by link or email as a public resource.
Collaborate with your teams and customers by assigning Learning Modules that show someone how to do every process they need to know, by sharing Guides in a Library, and by taking community feedback on every Guide.
Whether you are preserving collections or preserving Know How, it’s important to find the right partner.
Extelli is on a mission to help teams and their customers know how, right now.
Conserv is on a mission to preserve the world’s collections by smart environmental monitoring.