In mid-2012, we came across Narratively, a Kickstarter project aimed at bringing sustainable long-form human interest stories back to prominence. It was right up our alley, and after talking with their team we knew Marquee could be used to build something amazing.
By early 2013 we were moving content from their initial Wordpress site onto our platform. After redesigning it from the ground up, we launched Narratively in March, just a little over a month after we began. It wasn't long before their engrossing content, coupled with the kind of story-specific layouts that could be built on Marquee, was getting substantially more attention than any of us had expected.
Almost immediately we were inundated with requests from people who wanted sites just like Narratively; but we realized a few things.
• We didn't want to just build Narratively-like sites. Not only would that be unfair to their brand, but focusing on cranking out sites that all looked and worked more or less the same is what got us into the whole web-publishing quagmire in the first place.
• Building the underlying publishing platform we had in mind meant focusing on exploring new, uncharted territory. We couldn't play it safe. Safe is boring.
• We had a whole bunch of work ahead of us before Marquee was ready to be opened wide.
Instead of going for scale and network effects, we were ultra-selective with whom we let onto Marquee. As a small, bootstrapped company living in the most expensive city in the country, we needed to make sure we were not only building what the market wanted, but that the projects we took were in service of the larger vision we had for the platform.
We started only taking on projects with clients whose requirements aligned with our roadmap. We made sure to be transparent, letting them know that they were paying us to build features into our platform that would then be applied to their work. This let each client take advantage of new features as soon as they were ready, while also giving us the flexibility to go back and improve the product for our earliest supporters.
We went on a nine-month run of client projects. During that time we worked with amazing editors to launch sites tailored around the creation of beautiful, sustainable web content. At the end of the sprint in client work, it was time to distill everything we had invented back into the core product.