I know what you are thinking. You are very disappointed because “Track Our Ambition” was supposed to be the behind the scenes of Ambitious Tracks and we have published just one article in the 8 months we’ve been online. You definitely have genuine reasons to hate us for this, but we will try to fix it from now on, I hope we don’t screw it up again! 😉
As I have said, it’s already been a while since we started our journey in the online world launching Ambitious Tracks, around 8 months now. It’s been a pretty interesting journey with so many lessons learnt on the way and it’s time to do a balance of what are doing right and what we did wrong. Here come a few personal reflections!
1. It might sound funny, but with Ambitious Tracks, we have been too ambitious. Or let’s say, unrealistic
Sounds like a joke, right? Well, not at all! We have been too ambitious with the scope of this project. We aimed high too soon to be a big online magazine that fosters progress and innovation and blabla. All that with very limited resources. Just two guys, not even investing 20 hours a week each at the beginning and unwilling to spend a single penny in writers or ads.
Sounds pretty unrealistic and it was, the hard part is that I believed it could happen. I was probably biased by the success stories or I thought that the things we write about are more widely followed than what they actually are. The truth is that it will take longer than what I expected to build something of a reasonable size online.
This initial ambition led us to create so many sections. Some of them pretty time consuming like “The Start-up of the week” which led to inconsistent levels of publishing, not being able to match one start-up a week in many cases and with the side effect of leaving some sections pretty empty (like this one :/).
Solution: Although it will be still named “Start-up of the week”, the truth is that you shouldn’t expect one a week. Plus we will do different seasons to have time in the middle to write about other stuff related to innovation and start-ups but with different formats.
We have realised that the audience for these articles is pretty small: entrepreneurial wannabes that love reading how others are building things, serendipity seekers in search of new ideas and business models or just curious people that want to know more about what’s going on in different parts of the world. We felt that unless you know the start-up, or you are truly passionate about start-ups it’s unlikely that you will spend more than 10 to 15 minutes reading an in depth interview of some guys building something in the other side of the world.
However, we’ll keep doing them and with the same style since it’s one of our unique contributions to the world.
Moreover, we will cut the level of publishing in the section of travelling… we know we are losing visits and public interest with this decision but we find it more valuable for us to focus on the start-up world, given that we are developing a wide network of contacts and gaining knowledge in many interesting topics.
Lesson learnt: start small and focus in a niche (it will be innovation and start-ups for us), especially if you aren’t willing to spend money and big resources on a project, later you can start thinking big.
2. Lack of idea validation
You were taught this in all business lessons and you thought (or at least I did): Of course! Why wouldn’t I validate an idea before starting something? I’ll tell you why.
You get blind with the vision of your idea. You are so sure about it that you just think (or at least I did) that it’s going to work, everyone is going to love it like you do and that idea validation is a waste of time since everyone is going to love it… And although in some cases it might be like this, I’m afraid in most cases it’s not. That’s why so many start-ups and businesses fail.
In our case, it was a mix of this and the fact that we were not going to spend money on the project. It started like an experiment to learn more, we wanted to grow it organically and the only thing we could lose was just time, which is for sure a big loss!
With idea validation, what I really mean is validation of all the assumptions you have made to get to the conclusion that your project is going to work. In our case, we thought that the image of an online magazine would attract more people and would be more trustworthy than the idea of just two guys travelling around the world meeting start-ups and innovators.
It turned out that people tend to engage more, in the beginning, with brands that have a face behind it plus many people we have met on the way, were interested in the journey of two guys travelling more than an online magazine.
Solution: Test, test and keep testing. Ask, ask and ask some more. Now that we are online we have data, we pay more attention to what successful people in the startup content business are doing and we can better identify interesting content for our readers. Moreover, we are switching to a more personified branding strategy around us.
But the question is: well, you know this because you are already online and have had the chance to talk to many people, but how would you do this before starting? There are tools like BuzzSumo where you can check what articles are popular in a specific sector which might give you some ideas of what people share most and thus has more reach.
Another thing could be just creating a few different articles with different styles or landing pages saying what it’s all about and with a few euros on FB adds, you can check the engagement that each generates to better understand who is more interested in what and how your initial assumptions are working.
Lesson learnt: don’t trust your idea blindly. Validate it, talk to people but most important, see how people react because if they can talk, they can lie too. Just see their behaviour when they don’t know you are watching. Thanks Google Analytics <3
3. Where is the value proposition?
Good question. NOWHERE. Well, it was somewhere, and still is because we haven’t changed the “ABOUT” page yet (we will soon, I hope), but hidden in the middle of the conversation that looked kind of cool for us but not for a first time reader of Ambitious Tracks as they might think it a useless piece of sh*t where it’s impossible to find the answers to the questions he/she might have.
We focused too much on what Ambitious Tracks would be, the why and all these things (which I still think are necessary) but we didn’t pay attention to the readers’ needs. We didn’t think a basic and core question: WHAT are the readers looking for in the “About” page?
So what are they looking for? ANSWERS. They want to know what you write about, why you are doing it, who you are or what they can get from following you (this is the famous value proposition). They want to see clear and fast what it’s all about. Instead we showed them a long conversation with unclear answers to some of these questions.
The truth is that even we, didn’t have a clear idea on many things, we just put that. When we were asked: What’s your target audience? The only thing we could say was: mmmm, curious people interested in start-ups… I don’t know people like us I guess.
It was something similar with our value proposition. At the beginning we struggled to find our strengths and unique aspects. We just said: we want people to open their eyes, know about new countries, cultures, ideas or business models. The thing is that this value proposition is too wide and probably not enough to engage as many readers as we expected.
If we (the parents of Ambitious Tracks) don’t know the answers to these questions, it’s pretty difficult to communicate it to our readers.
Solution: Think, think and sometimes, even overthink, but not to the point that you get blocked and end up doing nothing. It’s necessary to find the balance between thinking and doing.
In 8 months we have had enough time to think, to find what we feel more comfortable with and what brings more value to us and to our readers.
Now we see more clearly that Ambitious Tracks is a place to look for serendipity and well thought out content written by people on the ground. A place where you can easily go from an unknown start-up in such an undeveloped start-up ecosystem like Laos to the most trending technology from Silicon Valley to a summary of a world brand tech event or to our thoughts about whatever passes our minds while travelling.
All in one place and without the monopoly that Silicon Valley stuff tend to have in this kind of start-up websites. Plus you can read (a little bit, not as much as we’d like) about the cities and countries we visit. Just in case you get too tired about tech and innovation stuff 😉
Serendipity seekers…welcome to Ambitious Tracks! And why serendipity? Because it’s the key to innovation and we love it!
Lesson learnt: if we don’t have a clear idea, how can we expect people to understand the value we are offering? People like to understand things and if they don’t, they’ll most likely go somewhere else. So it’s time to make things simple, clear and visible to readers.
That’s why we are redesigning (work in progress) the website aiming at showing in the “Home page” what Ambitious Tracks is all about at first glance so people can easily identify what value they can get from us.
That’s all I have to say. As you can imagine we have had many more mistakes, but most of them came as a consequence of these 3. The three main roots of our big tree of mistakes!
Do you still want to know more? Well, in case this article gets a decent amount of attention (meaning, please share it 🙂 ) we’ll keep showing the dirty rags behind Ambitious Tracks to fulfil that little perverse mind you have inside.
Otherwise the next article of “Track our ambition” will be about what we have done well! Come on, we are not that disastrous! We have done a few things well too.
Drop you email below if you don’t want to miss it, cheers!