How to write an end of year update for a year like 2020… Well. For NativShark, it had it’s high-highs and low-lows, that's for sure. But we've managed to make it through, and so have you, one way or another. We're on the "other side" as it were. Let's take a look at what we've been up to lately and then take a moment to reflect on what's coming up this year. It's 2021.
How to write an end of year update for a year like 2020…
Well. For NativShark, it had it’s high-highs and low-lows, that's for sure.
But we've managed to make it through, and so have you, one way or another.
We're on the "other side" as it were.
Let's take a look at what we've been up to lately and then take a moment to reflect on what's coming up this year.
In December, we put out the new learning experience, the most significant feature update since launch. It represents a huge improvement to learning new content. Check out the patch notes from that release to read more on it.
We also put out an update to streaks, we added streak saver! Now if you accidently miss a day, as long as you studied the 2 days prior, your streak will not be broken. Your dashboard let's you know if streak saver is available, and whether it was activated or not. Also! If you really dislike the idea of streak saver, you can turn it off in your settings.
So that's pretty exciting. But! Streaks themselves are still giving us trouble. Many of your are still seeing the number being off. So while the streak isn't randomly breaking anymore, the actual count is off. We're working on fixing this, we opted to just re-write how we calculate them. The tasks was coupled to too many other tasks, so decoupling. This was one of those things we wrote pretty early last year, and has just persisted. Looking forward to getting it fixed!
Everything else we did in November / December was focused on bringing improved performance and stability across the site, the feedback we've gotten since spending time on this has been amazing. Definitely I feel taking time to pause and work on stability has been the right call, and we've still managed some time to push out a couple big features along the way.
Lastly, we managed to get our student referral program, creator program and affiliate program set up! Student referral program is really exciting and there's lots of room for expansion there, check out your settings and get your referral code :)
You can see how many people you've referred have subscribed, how many units in total and how many hours spent studying they've done.
Do you have an audience? A blog? A YouTube channel? Instagram? Send us an email to learn more about our affiliate program if you're interested. Right now it's reach out / invite based, but we're working on growing this as well. Reach out!
Have an idea for a sponsored show like a study vlog, a zero - fully proficient, life in Japan etc related series, show, podcast etc? We want to hear from you.
We also managed to get caught up on all of the reported content issues that had been reported. We got behind in October / November due to the team moving across the world again, but once everyone got settled in to Fukuoka, we were able to get the focus in and fix those issues. While going over some of the content fixes, we started a couple discussion threads on reddit about how to approach some challenging topics as well and the discussion was actually quite great. Much appreciated to everyone who participated.
We've been hard at work on the logistics of building a sustainable system that produces the quality of content that is required for a NativShark phase such that new units come out consistently. We've worked through a lot of the challenges of the system and charted a path forward technologically and process-wise. Getting to the point where the only barrier to content production speed is financial (i.e. hiring the employees and freelancers required to create the content at a faster than 1 unit per week pace). Once it's only a financial issue, we'll be right where we want to be.
So, Soon™. It's the most important thing in my mind right now.
In the meantime, our sentence library has grown massively, and we've been taking a look again at how to best utilize the vast lesson library from NihongoShark that we have. A year ago, we thought we'd be able to use that content as the basis for the NativShark system. Turns out we weren't able to use it as core content at all. BUT we can find a way to use it as free floating lessons. Which would add around 800 or so "extra credit" / "free-floating" / "non-path" lessons to NativShark which would be great. We could phase rate and tag them so students have some idea of how to use them supplemental. Just a matter of time there.
So all in all, a lot of very meaningful real progress made in November / December towards our content issue.
The weekly live streamed "NativShark Podcast" with Nicholas and I is on audio platforms now! 🎉 Find us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, etc.
And on that note, media team is bringing a brand new podcast to audio platforms soon! It's called "Laid-back Japanese". Look for that announcement.
Our Instagram post archive has gotten quite large at this point 👀 Give us a follow over there if you haven't yet! Will eventually bring this word of the day and such content to the NativShark platform itself but for now, still posted to Instagram.
We also have started posting regularly to the NativShark YouTube channel. We made a fun holiday video for Christmas, take a watch:
We're so close to 1,000 subscribers, go subscribe ^_^
In December Ty started streaming weekly again! Come hangout with the community there on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday~ Ty does his NativShark studies, talks about staying motivated to study and plays games for native material exposure and gives tips on how to integrate it into your NativShark studies-- it's a good time. Find us at: NativShark.tv
Lastly, December saw over 300 new members in our discord community! Come join, it's the best place to meet like minded language learners. Lately there's been events being organized not just by the community team, but by members as well. Some are language related, others are just to hangout. We're all in need of strong community, being involved is a massive success signal for reaching your goals :)
All right. So, now looking more to the future.
As a company there are three "creation" areas: new to the platform features, consistent content, and in-house media.
If you were to ask me "Hey, Caleb what is your focus right now?" it'd be getting new Japanese units coming out consistently.
Followed closely by working on a funding round for 2021.
So yeah, coordinating with the team such that we get on a schedule for new units coming out is priority number one right now.
Secondarily as I mentioned above, we're working on getting our vast content library of sentences and extra credit lessons available to students.
The challenges to getting this stuff out there are fourfold:
1) the content logistics side, actually organizing, creating, editing it. Niko talked about that in his lost post.
2) the development time needed for adding updates to the Content Management Platform that support a consistent inflow of content, and support the adding and editing by non-developers of our content library. Sure we could hard code and upload content to our database, but this wouldn't be sustainable.
3) the development time needed for connecting the content and associated features to the student platform.
4) the finances to do it at scale.
Step 1 is mostly figured out, enough that we have content ready to publish. Thus we're waiting on step 2 and 3, which is what we'll be focusing on in January. In December, we were primarily working on getting the site to be significantly more stable and as a bonus we put out a very important new feature in the form of the new content quiz.
Regarding step 4, that comes in the business strategy side of things. Currently we have 7 full-time employees and about 4 freelancers that we work with on a consistent basis. With this team size, we can continue to make improvements to the platform + get some new units on a monthly basis. But, to add something significant like a mobile app, or language content coming out at a rapid pace, we'll need to grow the team by quite a bit. Both full-time employees and freelance / contractors. This is of course the goal. So how do we get there?
Up to this point, NativShark has been "boostrapped" as they say. We've built off of revenue and any personal capital the founders had, it's all gone into NativShark. Though there have been challenges, it's been overall very effective. We built the platform, we have traction, revenue increases monthly. However, after much consideration, we've come to the conclusion that give the company a "boost" if you will, it makes sense to do a capital raise.
So, as I briefly mentioned above one of my personal priorities as CEO right now as of December 2020 / January 2021 is the search for the right funding partner. We are able to operate off of revenue and continue to grow as we are now so I am being very intentional and cautious and am only interested in finding the right partner that makes sense for NativShark.
Anyway, that's the update on the business side of things! We're making it. I'm so excited about it. Thank you everyone for supporting our work. The dream is alive and we are well on our way to turning NativShark into the best possible platform it can be. We're going to make an impact on education together.
If you enjoy hearing about the experience of building and growing NativShark, feel free to follow me on Twitter, I build in public and talk a lot about NativShark there:
I know we've just come off a globally difficult year. But we made it. 2021 has many challenges, things won't get better immediately. Or even quickly. But I am very hopeful for the future and I'm excited for it. 2020 was the year NativShark come into it's own and I'm thankful for that. Much work to do going forward. Let's see it happen. There's so many great things I'd love to see NativShark do for global education and this year is really going to be the start of that, I can feel it!!
As always, thank you for reading. Thank you for your support. Feel free to reach out to me any time, my DMs on twitter, instagram, discord etc are open.