So we have been on an experimental mode for a pretty long time and here is a quick summary of what has worked* and what’s the way forward.
A business like ours has 3 possible paths:
- Media – i.e. 1-way editorially driven content which is basically 99% of what you see on the web.
- Platform : enabling people to express themselves and engage in meaningful debate. Simplest example is medium.
- Community : enables P2P conversations. Almost like a platform, but here debates are done over a specific context. For eg HN or Reddit, where debates happen over a link/post. Community expresses themselves/shares insights around that specific context.
Option 1, i.e. media is totally out of scope for us. This ain’t even an option we care about (bluntly put).
Last year, we did a major change to NextBigWhat and took the community way (i.e. discourse forum). It was a damn good success and we are quite proud of what we achieved, but the sad part was that it was extremely limiting as the tech and startup community in India is still evolving. We are big in numbers, but original thinkers (and the ones who can pen down their insights) are very less in number. Largely, we are still a ‘derived insights’ economy (which shows up in the number of me-too startups we have). To summarize, at NextBigWhat’s scale we had different ambitions but a pure community approach was limiting us. We are here to bring different perspective / have interesting conversations – and the ideal solution lies between the second and third – and that’s the platform route.
If you notice, 80% of the articles on NextBigWhat are now driven by the community. We cut through CXO/Geeks/Designers/Founders/Investors and the product community. This is where you get discovered, where you build your brand authority and reach out to a an audience which is a mix of LinkedIn, medium and well, buzzfeed too.
That is, we are mixing 2 and 3 – platform + community, driven by profiling great products and insightful articles.
We are also opening up the platform for ‘quick takes’, ‘short format’ opinion/debates and hence the change in homepage design.
Bringing the other context
Startups are a silo. Frankly, the entire startup and tech ecosystem (including media) is one incestuous echochamber-ish community and we often miss out on the big picture.
Without sounding political, let me ask you this:
- Baahubali has more tech than many foodtech + realtyTech startup combined. How many tech startups have participated in making of this? Why are we not talking about these?
- Aadhar is now mandatory for pretty much everything. We can revolt it within this community / within Twitter – but how can we reach out to a bigger community and get our thoughts across? What’s actionable to this anger over Aadhar?
- Chetan Bhagat’s 5-point someone will now be included in DU’s syllabus. How is this going to impact the ‘literature’ culture ? Where are we headed?
- Why are we not talking about health / lifehacks when many geeks/founders are struggling with one?
Today, India is divided on several new parameters – not just on religion/region, but on what we eat, what do we drink and which side are we aligned to? You have to take a side, else you are trolled and beaten to death. We need more perspective and more open thoughts / platforms to discuss all of this. Remember: tech is a silo unless it impacts the society.
The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters [Antonio Gramsci]
Humanities + Tech
Winning companies are a combo of understanding human behaviour, cultural shift and fitting tech in the process (in the same order).
The Indian youth is far more aware and blunt about the new changes than the Gen Y generation. As a society, we are changing and it’s time to broaden our focus and bridge the gap between real world / Baahubalis and several siloed-tech companies.
So what’s changing?
Well, you will see new products, desi + global every day – like this Bali startup going after desktop email client market to Bangalore startup using ML to solve for fashion discovery. These, we believe will bring fresh new ideas to India’s product ecosystem, which is now using the new buzzwords (AI/ML) to look cool (fact: great products are always fucking cool).
As far as our content platform is concerned, we are now an open platform (selected members get direct publishing rights, otherwise goes through approval process). You can just go ahead and start sharing your insights / your take on things that matter to you.
We guarantee you an outreach to a very amazing audience that runs across the age group and interests.
Plus, let’s go easy and learn to laugh / joke. This country has gotten too serious over everything. For us, WhatTheGoat is a starting step towards *cooling off*.
Quick changes: We have reverted to our earlier design to integrate better with voting. We have also changed the homepage to give it a ‘stream’ sort of experience (you don’t need to click on short articles. Just consume and go – make it simple). We are phasing out the earlier forum (discourse) on May 15th. The popular articles will be ported to the main site (will reach out to users separately on that).
Founder, NextBigWhat (for any collaboration/partnership/suggestion: please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org).