4 Years….that seems like a ridiculously long time to launch a website…..and yes it is. But the thing is I’ll be honest here we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into and what kind of struggle that this would turn out to be.
The two of us that started Talentblend, me and my good friend Milan Madar, had absolutely no training or education in building websites. We are both actually trained ballet dancers.
I was in my last year at the Royal Ballet School when I decided that I was going to make a website. I had noticed how many talented people around in dance, art, acting, music or whatever were having such a hard time to get anywhere because they didn’t have the time, resources or network to optimize on their talent. I thought that there must be a way to fix this. It just seemed wrong that there were people with real talent not getting noticed. So I decided in my youthful naivete to go for it.
So, I started. I bought a domain and made a logo (on paint) ……..and thats about as far as I could go without knowing how to code…..now what. Well then i thought I better learn how to make a website….I didn’t get very far in those first few months as you can imagine, i managed to write a heading and add a google search box….still i was very proud of having some space on the web. but it was of course totally useless.
I moved to amsterdam to dance with the Dutch National Ballet. There I met Milan, a very friendly Hungarian who was also with the company. We were out drinking one day in Amsterdam when he told me that he builds websites as a hobby. Milan learned everything how to build websites on his own and his knowledge for someone that is self taught and without any real education or without really studying is incredible. I told him about my plan to build a creative resource website. And to cut a long story short we agreed to go for it.
The first site was called Skillcircus and it was a comment board, one page. The next four years involved me getting home from long days at the ballet company to sit studying about how to get this website put together and also compiling and categorizing a monumental list of skills, professions that could be selected for the site. It was exhausting and took a great deal of determination, spending 6 days a week at the theatre and then studying and working in the evenings really takes it out of you but to do it for 4 years is a real sacrifice. The amount of times that we had to modify or change features or redesign the system was painfully demoralizing, just when you think you’re done with it and ready to launch, you realize that what you have just made in reality is just not good enough.
After the first year we built a site, and we were ready to go. Then….we got an email from our hosting company telling us that there had been a fire in the server that was storing our site…….being two young dancers thinking that these guys are professionals and know what they’re doing, we were not gonna be paying the extortionate fee of 5 pounds a month for backup…….the result was that we lost everything that we worked on.
It was decision time, do we start it all again or let it go…..We gave it one more go, but this time we had to get serious about it. The first time we built it we just jumped right in without any kind of plan at all and spent maybe 5 times longer to build it. This time we had to be efficient and we had to be clear about everything from the beginning.
We went back to the drawing board and started with the name….Skillcircus……dont forget I was 19 when I came up with this name and was studying classical ballet all day long, I had no real idea about branding or marketing, I just thought a catchy name would do. Skillcircus…..well what does that really suggest….it suggests that this is actually a website for a circus…..and not a very good one at that, not even a fun circus, just a very descriptive and appropriately accurate description of what you might expect to see at this particular circus….a display of some skills possibly executed by various forms of skill presenting disciplines.
At this stage, I had been studying a lot about internet marketing and actually the message is pretty clear for much of it, cut out the crap and be honest and simple. Who are our intended users? talented people and people interested in creativity. And what do we offer them? The tools and resources to collaborate with others, people helping people to achieve whatever goals they have. But we weren’t a cold professional network….we were kids, we liked listening to drum n bass and smoking weed at parties and like any human being and especially young people we wanted to feel part of a community. So we decided to call it Talentblend. Talent was obvious….but blend was perfect, it suggested things coming together but not in a rigid way or in a “serious” way like “network” or “platform” but in a comfortable way, something that’s flexible and organic.
And thats what we liked about it, it really conveyed the message that we had in mind. This website really is about people. As I got (a little) older I started to appreciate that side of it even more. Although Talentblend does offer a good system to connect with what you may need, or who you need, its really about people. It is vital that human beings have the space and opportunity to be creative. We are creative beings and if we dont have that then we become absent tools. We wanted to counter the disconnected culture of today by offering a community where people feel free to create and interact. And if it works, well then that’s a beautiful thing and hopefully it can be a community that people can get something out of, whether its a way of maximizing on their talent & creativity or even just making some new friends.
It’s Not Competition, It’s Collaboration.
I hope you’ll enjoy it & get some good from it.