I often look back at the things that we’ve done at MAEKAN and wonder “what if.” What if we had not been so stubborn about investing massively diminishing returns into stories that only a handful people would see? What if we had spun up a creative services business way way earlier (Adam Studios) and generated revenue? But looking back, this solution only appeared after we’d made some distance in our journey ahead. Just as we did, many startups go out and create their version of something as a reaction — the internal belief that they’re offering a solution to a problem.
At the time, MAEKAN was a solution to what we thought was a lack of inquisitive and thoughtful content around creativity… but done through the lens of highly-produced audio stories and a paygate. It seemed as though, in hindsight, every prospective layer only further served to reduce the actual audience size. Add in the fact that as a start-up, a niche works well, but you also need to understand how to grow and develop your product to make it accessible beyond the initial scope. These were things that ultimately we (or mostly me) never really figured out.
I love the challenge of poking holes in my own ideas. To me, the internal stress test is a mental tool which ultimately exists to improve the product. If you adopt the mindset that your product can always be better or that you need to always be aware of its pitfalls, the outcome can only be better moving forward.
But whatever idea it is your start, you come to the realization that your solution to today’s problem cannot be the forever solution. Not only will your approach change relative to the original problem, but so will the world around you. I’m pretty sure I’ve used this catchphrase before, but in this world, “the only certainty is uncertainty.” In the case of MAEKAN, it was a solution to what we deemed to be a lack of content and perspective that we wanted to see, in a way that truly focused on the power of pure storytelling. Audio was, at the time, that format for us. But as we now look at the bigger picture, the audio medium was our preferred solution at the time. But it actually isn’t our solution to getting our message across. The celebration of people, process, and product can happen in multiple formats, and audio proved to be at times a stifling angle for us full of missed deadlines, unhappiness with the outcome, and a lack of broader audience traction.
This idea of a poly-phasic approach is so critical to whatever you do. The mentality and grind of getting yourself even to the starting line is not the same strategy when you’re five years out and on your last legs. Your success is defined by your ability to understand the phase you’re in, and determining the solution to move you forward.
The last few months have been a moment of reinvigoration. I finally feel like we can start dedicating more resources to MAEKAN and the structures are slowly coming into place. It took me awhile to let go of a few things because I didn’t have an answer on, but it’s becoming more clear that the act of relinquishing is already a step in finding a solution.