One thing that is true about companies — and maybe any entities that is exposed to the public — is that failures aren’t discussed often. As CEO of Soccermetrics Research, I need to face up to one such failure now.
Last month we launched the Integral Magazine project on Kickstarter which was to be a preview magazine for the new Premier League season from a fantasy players’ perspective. We were working with a well-known digital magazine publisher to make it happen and we sought to raise $15,000 to make it happen. Well, the facts tell the story: we raised less than 15% of the target and the fundraising campaign failed.
To say that the final outcome hurts is a big understatement. We felt that we were developing something of interest to fantasy football fans and those other football fans interested in analytics, and we were disappointed to see such little traction. It especially hurt in that I used considerable amounts of networking capital to secure interviews with Martin Tyler, Damien Comolli, and Murray Innes (Football Mythbusters). The feeling that you’ve let people down is palpable.
In the clear vision that hindsight brings, we weren’t focused enough, the project wasn’t designed well enough, it hadn’t progressed far enough to take advantage of a Kickstarter, the campaign wasn’t polished enough, and the execution wasn’t good enough. I take sole responsibility for those outcomes. Even worse, I fell victim to the “if only we could get x% of a large market” trap, which my experience with Lean Startup and Flashpoint should have beaten out of me. It does no good to develop a product for an imagined percentage of a pool of customers if you can’t get solid interest from 50-100 living and breathing prospective customers.
So what now? We have created significant amounts of statistical data on every player in the Premier League, including those players who arrived in the summer transfer window. We’ve also created some really good print and video interview content. We’ve made the interviews with Comolli and Innes available on our YouTube channel, and we’ll place the Martin Tyler interview online right after this post is finished. But the magazine is on hold for now. Maybe we’ll revisit the idea for the 2014 Major League Soccer season and the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but the creation of Integral has to be in line with our overall business strategy.
I do believe that fantasy football presents a testing ground for some of the concepts bandied about in football analytics. Pay-to-play fantasy football is a nascent but growing industry in the UK, and there are sites that have created a following by providing statistical analysis and advice on fantasy teams. Our challenge is to learn from our mistakes and create something innovative and compelling that fantasy footballers would want to pay for.
Finally I would like to thank Matt and Aaron for their many hours devoted to the Integral project, as well as the unnamed digital magazine publisher for his interest, advice, and willingness to work with us on the magazine layout. I am sorry that this project was not more successful, but I’ll make sure to internalize the lessons to ensure a greater chance of success in future projects.