March 30, 2022
February 3, 2021

Focusing in 🔍ー End of Month Update, January 2021

I've been writing these every month for 10 or so months now. In those 10 months some wild things have happened in the world. Here to say that January was no different ^^

In any event, NativShark has continued on the grind. We've done a lot! Much of it has been on the admin side. Let's talk about that a bit :)

What we've been up to

As you may have noticed, if I can, I like to find a general theme for the past month if I can when I write these updates.

January for us has been about focus.

Focusing in on what's most important, and getting that thing done.

In the past we've done a little bit of updates on our CMP, and then a little on the student side, or gone full student side and ignored the CMP for a month or two.

January we've sticking with finishing what needs to be done on the CMP until new Units and content begin flowing again. Our target was a new Unit by January 29th, and we nearly hit it. The content is in now, but on Thursday and Friday engineering ran into a problem with dialogue importing and audio processing on AWS. Which is now resolved, but it made it so that we didn't get to publish at the end of the month as we wanted to.

I'm excited though, it is right around the corner, and what we've done to get things working has been worth it because with our new focus we've been finding this year, we're building with sustainability in mind. When it gets going, it will be able to continue.

It's like getting a massive heavy ball rolling, but once it's rolling, it finds momentum, and it gets easier and easier to keep moving. That's our content production ^^

On that note, if you're interested in what the work flows look like / how Niko's systems are coming along, here's a screenshot:

R is being done by Rei, our Content Architect. N is being done by Niko. ✔ is being done by contracted workers. 🕒 is being done partially by contracted workers, who are still in training.

I'm honestly impressed with what he's been able to accomplish. It makes building the technology around it so much more straightforward to have such clear stages and workflows. Like I was saying... Once the ball gets rolling ✨

We've started putting out a lot of media and community content lately which has been really fun. Chie is doing a great job leading that. Just take a look at our Instagram, YouTube and two podcasts coming out regularly!

The Laid-back Japanese Podcast has been so good. Super proud of Chie and Ty. The response has been amazing, too. Thank you everyone! You can find the most recent episodes on Spotify, Apple, Google, Amazon.

You also may have noticed (especially if you got this update via email) that we've started a weekly newsletter. If you haven't noticed it then... Go check your email and make sure we're not in your spam folder! It's awesome. We've been rounding up all the various content we put out on a weekly basis, shout out some student stories from #learning-progress and highlight cool creators we've found recently in the Japanese learning space.

We wanted to talk with some of our students who've been with us studying since launch and check in on their progress that they've made over the past couple months as well as take some time to talk about studying in Japanese. Chie made a really great video on that, and a huge thanks to Cinder, Miles and Ben for being interviewed and speaking some Japanese! I know how nerve racking it can be to try speaking any amount of Japanese in front of a camera, especially after only a few months of study, but you all killed it 🔥

Here's that video:

Love to see it!

As for the business, here's the stats summary I posted on twitter the other day:

Not fully out of the woods yet but we're making progress and it feels good to have a couple months of data to be working with and making decisions based on. The student study hours and total student numbers are for sure the most exciting part.

Lastly before the next section... I just want to say that I'm really proud of our community. You're all doing so well and I'm really encouraged by how much support and care you have for not just our product but us as well. I'm thankful to be building something for you all. Someone asked me the other day about how to launch a new product and I said, "build a community first. If you already know who you're building for, it will make it a significantly better experience".

What's coming up:

Next month, February, we'll see new Units coming out, then it's a matter of doing what we can to increase at what rate they are released. That will be the next challenge to solve for there.

In order to optimize that, Engineering will still be spending more time working on the CMP and fixing bugs on the student side as they come up. After that, we'll be working on general usability and discoverability updates on the student side.

Things like: making adjustments on the flashcards because the way they are now, they can accidentally become overwhelming if you're not careful, and that's never our intention. As we've always said, flashcards are meant to be an additive to your learning experience, not the entire experience. And right now it depends far too much on the type of student you may be as to how your experience with flashcards on NativShark is, so we're making at first small steps to improve them, but then increasingly larger steps over time.

We're also looking at getting a sitewide search feature in as soon as we can (yay!).

Beyond these immediate updates looking further down the line, we have our eyes on bringing in archiving / bookmarking and placement testing. But bringing in placement testing requires us to refactor the progression system and review system a bit. But! That's actually really exciting and I'm looking forward to being able to share more about that when the time comes.

Ultimately, we're heavily focused on the fundamentals of NativShark, providing you more Japanese material, and improving the core experience for you.

I'm not entirely sure how much content will begin coming out, but I'm looking forward to writing a future update about this when I do have that data, it's been a long time coming :)

I do know that as time goes on, we'll continue to focus in on our core principles. We're learning from our past lessons, adapting and continuing onwards. I think in previous months from a messaging standpoint we've often seemed very "excitable" if you may, and generally speaking it's because Nicholas and I are very future-oriented ambitious people, but at our core we are really focused on what we're working on here and now— building the best Japanese learning platform available. So going forward, I want to help make that side of things, that focus more known.

Additionally, last update I mentioned that we're working on pulling together a funding round. We've been making progress in that regard. In the past 2 - 3 months I've learned a lot about raising money. There are so many different ideas and opinions out there on it, but my goal has always been to find a path forward that makes sense for NativShark, who we are, and the type of company we want to become.

We've identified that we're looking to raise the right amount of capital, not too little and definitely not too much, with the goal of becoming a long-lasting sustainable company. There's so much hype out there when it comes to startups in the media and what you see on Twitter. But the reality is actually quite different and for us, being a calm, sustainable company that can build an amazing product and pump out sweet content is really important for us. We can worry about the moon later ;)

So that said, I'll be putting together a seed funding round this month, we'll raise just the right amount, and carry on building for our community! The support from the community itself is amazing, and if our entire angel seed round ended up coming from community members, I think that would be incredible. I feel that there's no one who would do better at helping keep us accountable, as you already do! If you have interest in learning more about our funding round, send me an email or DM me on Twitter. Happy to chat about it.

I'm looking forward to what this year brings and what we have coming up on all fronts— content, development, media and business!

With that, as always, thank you for reading and many thanks for your support. Feel free to reach out to me at any time! My DMs on Twitter, Instagram, Discord, email etc are open.

~ Caleb

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