Pivot Puzzle: This platform went from 20.000 members to 30, on purpose - Part 2
Read the answer to last week's pivot puzzle!
Missed part 1? You can read it here. You might miss some context of the journey if you just read this article.
Celebrations: I had a Go/No Go meeting for my PhD-project and I got a “GO”! 🤩
📝 Quick recap
Beatrice wants to empower scholars by surpassing the slow universities. After a failed first version, their 2nd attempt, SmartTribe, got 20.000 members within 12 months.
Yet, they feel they are not achieving their mission. They are just generating more unpaid work for researchers. They are not able to monetise this platform, yet.
💡Key insight: Researchers as the underdog
Beatrice noticed that the academics were the underdog on SmartTribe. "Oh please, can I have a job", she recalls hearing. "Come on, dude, this is not how you do it. I want the academics to be in charge."
They wanted to give scientists a tool to empower them instead of going around and asking.
"[Scientists] are so valuable, but they are being so misunderstood and undervalued outside of academia", says Beatrice.
It is here where true entrepreneurs separate themselves. As an entrepreneur, you got access to so much data. Figuring out which conclusions to go on, and which interpretations of data to ignore, is tricky.
What mechanisms are crucial for Beatrice to enable her vision? She had data points that underpinned the reverse of what she imagined: the scientist as the underdog.
She used this insight as inspiration to think of solutions that overcome this challenge. How can we really put the researcher in charge?
🛠 New goal: A solution that puts the researcher in charge
One of their beliefs is that translating research into usable, applicable and actionable content was crucial to bridge the gap between industry and science.
While aiming their pivot, Beatrice was attracted to a content creator model, such as Patreon. In this model, the academic would become the creator, deciding what to share and what to charge.
This was a much better fit with their vision.
👩🔬 Finding your niche customer segment
However, this looked like that first attempt, where they tried to get academics to write on their platform and failed.
Not a single scientist they contacted wanted to write on their first platform. It's hard to change people's behaviour.
Were academics the wrong target group? No. But there are many flavours of scholars.
She started looking for scientists that were already writing accessible content or aiming to. For them, the change would not be as big.
This is a new generation of predominantly young scientists, internet savvy and very open to change (the world), Beatrice tells me.
For them, this new solution would enable them to monetise the writing.
With such a model, they would generate monetary motivation to write for the academic and put the researcher in charge.
📊 New goal: Get evidence for the new solution
To test that, they did a landing-page experiment on a new proposition to academics that never heard of SmartTribe before.
Meanwhile, in a survey, they found that a lot of the people from industry were willing to pay $10 dollars for the good scientific content.
📣 Like OnlyFans for Scientists
They adopted a new name: ScienceSays was born. Within 2 months, using no-code tools as ShareTribe, they build their platform.
It's like Patreon, but for scientists. It's like OnlyFans, but for titillating scientific content. I could go on but you probably catch my drift.
Here are some examples of scientists on the platform:
Depending on what you pay, you get different types of content and access to scientists. The latest insights relevant for your market niche.
📈 Current traction of ScienceSays
Right now, they launched with 18 scientists in Food Sciences, with 10 paying industry subscribers. 9 days after launching, there is 50 more people are on the waiting list
This niche focus makes it easier to deliver quality and work closely with their customers to develop their solution.
They are working with these 28 people as launching customers to optimise the food sciences niche before jumping to other verticals.
Why Food Sciences? Food Science was the most consistent vertical on SmartTribe in terms of traffic. SmartTribe provided them with this insight.
Tip from Beatrice: Once you feel you need to change business direction, go for it directly. Waiting can cost you too much. Do it in the smart way, get some arguments and evidence for it before plunging.
🪞 My reflections on this story
Conviction and vision. Most startups have conviction, but not all startups have a clear vision. Working with a problem for 20 years can really help you to synthesise your vision.
A lot of startups I encounter are new to the problem they work on, and often a vision takes longer to emerge. This is okay.
However, without a clear vision, it can be hard to make decisions. This platform went from 20k members to 30 members, on purpose, because it served their vision better.
The 20.000 was the confirmation that there was a need in the market. This was an important steppingstone, compared to the traction they had for their first version.
Still, it was a bundle of various needs being met via their open platform. They could've gone in many directions from this.
For instance, they could've gone the recruitment direction, based on the activities on the SmartTribe platform.
But they chose not to, as it was not in line with their vision. Beatrice didn't want anything to do with the recruitment market.
A vision is an abstract entity that helps you to make decisions. SmartTribe was a step away from their vision, but it helped them to learn to make a step closer to their vision.
"The biggest problems the world is facing in healthcare, education, climate change and many other issues will not be solved without the help of science."
This is what she used in emails at the start of SmartTribe 1.5 years ago, and now she is still using the exact same words to describe ScienceSays.
In a couple of months, I will report back on ScienceSays, to reflect on the growth that they have experienced since today.
Interested in how ScienceSays was funded? Beatrice wrote a post on Medium about it
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