Peter here again. Today I want to share with you something I’ve been meaning to write about for a long time. It’s an honest look into why we do what we do here at InnovativeLanguage.com. Thanks for stopping by to read!
Financial Freedom through Teaching Bulgarian
On July 2nd 2012, our team launched a Bulgarian language learning website: BulgarianPod101.com! We worked just as hard, just as long and put in just as much passion on this language site as we did all of our previous websites!
Do we expect a financial windfall now that Bulgarian is live?
The Harsh Business Reality
No. In fact, early indications are that this language will not return our investment for a long, long time. If ever. Growth projections are currently angled at about 1 degree.
The plot thickens. We didn’t just launch 1 niche language on July 2. Our team actually launched 6 new language learning websites. And much like Bulgarian, we worked very hard to bring a good product to market.
But will we turn a profit on these languages?
Good question! We’re not sure quite yet. Each language is unique and the market is always changing, but some are definitely more profitable than others.
The Danger for Some Languages is that the Economics Don’t Make Sense
I remember speaking with a business mentor. He is beyond successful and one of the savviest business people I have personal contact with.
We went over our bottom-line numbers language by language. He looked at them, and then drew a line through all of the unprofitable languages and circled the profitable languages.
“Abandon these,” he said, pointing to the crossed-out languages.
“Focus on these,” he said, pointing to the circled languages.
Needless to say, there weren’t many circled languages. And the sad part about the situation for many niche languages, is that he was right. It’s not profitable or practical to take on these languages. It’s a better business decision to invest in the bigger, more profitable languages.
Without investment, innovation in language learning material slows. Other, more profitable, languages get more investment. More competition leads to better and more widespread tools, and the number of students increases.
In the end, we didn’t take my friend’s sound business advice, but instead produced content for several unprofitable languages and continue to do so.
So Why On Earth Invest in Small Niche Languages that May Never Be Profitable?
That was a question to which I had to give a lot of consideration. I think the best way to explain it is to explain our thought process, which is kind of like a recipe.
Thought Process Recipe:
1 part passion
1 part competitiveness
1 part emotion
1 part familiarity
1 part business sense
and a dash of arrogance…er…I mean hope.
Add lots of sleep deprivation and do not expose to investors!
A Closer Look At the Parts
1 Part Passion
It’s cliche, but we really do like languages. Almost everyone here at the company speaks two languages, with the average being 2.5. We work with people around the world, and have made many connections and friendships.
1 Part Competitiveness
We’re pretty competitive at our core. If someone is doing it, we often challenge ourselves to put forth a competitive product. Said another way, if someone’s doing it, we’re trying it too. And we want to be the best of breed in the language learning field.
1 Part Emotion
Several of our languages were chosen because of personal connections or relationships. We have created language learning content because team members or fans have made compelling cases for it. We have juggled the order in which a language was created because of a team member.
1 Part Familiarity
Creating awesome content is what we do well. And sometimes it just easier if your team is structured in a way that sticks to what you’re good at.
1 Part Business Sense
In order to be a legitimate language learning company, you need to cover a lot of languages. The big ones will be profitable, but you’ll need some smaller, less profitable and unprofitable languages in your portfolio.
A dash of arrogance…er…I mean hope!
When my business friend told us to abandon some languages, a part of me definitely felt like we could prove him wrong. We didn’t. But…my competitive nature is one of the driving forces behind why we move so fast and cover so much ground.
There has been a lot of good that has come from this, but also a fair share of hiccups. With every new product and website we release, we learn more about ourselves and what’s important to us. On the dark days where we feel like we’re wasting our time, we refer back to the numerous emails from fans thanking us for paying attention to their often neglected language. That helps to rekindle our motivation to drive forward.