Robyn Vinter on Future Start

Robyn Vinter on Future Start

I came to Future Start with not much more than an idea and a basic plan. I’d worked as a journalist for six years, but felt that a lot of what I was writing at various newspapers and magazines didn't really appeal to my friends who weren't journalists, and thought that I could do better.

The first thing we did was learn the value of research. I'd done a lot of research about the market and what was currently out there in the space, and I'd done a business plan, so I felt confident that the idea was backed up by something solid. But I realised that apart from asking friends and family what they thought of my business idea, I hadn't done any first hand research.

We learnt about the Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick. It's the idea that anyone you talk to about your business is going to tell you what you want to hear, so in terms of research, it's not that valuable. We learnt how to ask questions to the right people and get some honest answers. This was hugely valuable for me, as some of the assumptions I'd been making about what people wanted to get from their news were wrong. I thought most young people were bored by news, which actually wasn't the case when I asked them. It turned out they hated clickbait and were embarrassed to read listicles and articles about cats (but still read them!).

This research helped me shape a minimum viable product (MVP) - a very basic version of the site I could use to gather information about whether people read the articles that I thought they would. For me, the MVP involved me publishing some stories on the blogging website Medium and checking to see if they got the traffic I hoped they would. Thankfully, they far exceeded the expectations I had. Some of the articles performed better than others and it was interesting to see that, for example, people were more interested in an interview with one of the fittest men in the world than an article about cannabis clubs, which I thought would be the most successful.

Something I learned during the workshops was that I wasn't very experienced at talking about the business which meant I sometimes had trouble describing it to other people. The MVP also served to show potential partners what’s different about us, when I wasn't great at explaining it! It helped us get our early advertisers on board.

These lessons were vital to getting us to where we are now. We’ve now launched The Overtake (theovertake.com) and have been overwhelmed by the number of readers we’ve picked up so far and the positive comments we’ve had from them. We've still got a long way to go (we're looking for more advertisers who want to reach millennials!) but I'm really confident that we can get there.

- Robyn Vinter