It's already the end of 2019! I can hardly believe what a year it has been and how much I've learned through Nextpat. Here are a few of my takeaways:
1. If you ask for help, people will nearly always give it to you - even when they don't get it, they tend to be rooting for you. When you are upset about the world or something more specific, it's pretty amazing to step back and realize that most folks are hoping most people make it! It's like my favorite NPR Host when I was in college once said "at our very best, millions of people are honest and caring and respectful and kind—every day of their lives. People work so hard to cultivate these good things we call virtues. I find it impossible to be cynical when on a day-to-day basis I interact with people who I know are doing their best to be caring and kind and to work for the good of the community.” ~Fred Andrle (Host of WOSU's Open Line)
2. Everything in a startup is harder than you thought it would be. But, planning certainly helps. I met with the DC Small Business Administration earlier this year for some social media support - they suggested a production schedule - the consistency of the writing was really due to that - it also helped me plan in advance to get interviews scheduled and written up. Next year's schedule (only monthly) is already created!
-Resilience matters. Out of the 43 responses to journalistic pitches I sent, only three were used! That's a pretty low average :( Still, those three hits were a pretty big deal, and hopefully can keep me going next year. I also found that talking to the folks that are using Nextpat's information was hugely motivational!
3. Just because there is a need doesn't mean there's a market. Attending the WERC Conference this year and meeting global mobility professionals was instructive. I learned that many professionals saw a need for what we're offering, but they also didn't know anyone else doing it. On the flip side, talking to interculturalists they noted that it was hard to convince companies to invest in their people in this way - largely because they assess that most folks taking a position overseas are doing so to move to a different organization in the long run.
--This is one of the primary things I hope to explore this next year.
4. Know what you are measuring and pursue it aggressively. This one has been really difficult. While I measure folks who visit the website, we still have pretty limited engagement. We also haven't actually gotten paying clients yet. Those numbers are far more important, so we keep seeing what we can do to keep people coming back, having a conversation, and how to convert that energy into funding. I certainly welcome your ideas and thoughts!
So, what's next?
When I relaunched Nextpat at the beginning of the year, I planned on giving it three years to see what would work. Based on this year's work, we have some important data points to consider and harder goals that we must achieve to demonstrate viability. In order to prove there is a market we need to be paid for a pilot within a company/organization. We've got a few leads, which is exciting, and we'll continue to pursue those. However, if we can't launch at least two pilots next year, we'll be reconsidering if this route is truly viable. The website is paid through the middle of the year and depending on how our talks with companies go, that's when I'll make a call on continuing.
The need for repatriation support is clearly out there, so if this model doesn't work, it might be an issue of the business model; alternatively if might just be too early! Time shall tell. One of my takeaways from the conference in Boston was that many companies are moving to a model of converting employees to local staff or sending them on shorter trips, to support lower costs. If this trend continues, which is likely, our market will also diminish. All things I'm considering as I decide where to go next.
Regardless, this year has been an incredible reminder of how you can use your time and energy to do things that matter to you. I have met incredible people in all sectors who have been supportive, interesting, and helpful. I cannot express how much that has meant to me as I tried out something far outside of my usual lane!
Happy New Year - see you in 2020!