Looking back, I think this was the year that Monoceros finally found it’s feet as a business. Until now, we’d been directionless, unsure of our purpose (beyond making a living for the founders!) But over the course of 2022, in the process of losing old clients, gaining new ones, and launching new projects, we’ve opened the door to some very exciting opportunities and steered the company in a new direction. Now, in 2023, we have a clear roadmap of our future.
We began the year with one important consulting gig at a large company, providing basic Linux administration services to support their in-house staff. The work doesn’t entirely align with our core goals, but it’s stable, reliable work, and provides the most positive and enjoyable work environments we’ve ever experienced in a lifetime of working IT. This client provides the bulk of our income, but has also provided the seed for Monoceros’s future growth by offering projects outside the original scope, and linking us to valuable industry contacts.
Our second big contract for the year was to provide digital marketing services, a Dubai-based IT business specializing in secure connectivity. This contract started promisingly, but ultimately ended when it became clear to all parties that there was a mismatch between what we expected to deliver, and what the client was expecting to receive. We learned a valuable lesson on clear communication during the sales phase!
We also lost the business of a local Free Wi-Fi hotspot company. We supported their compute back-end for several years, until this year when they went out of business. They made extensive use of AWS EC2 compute instances to provide the back-end of the service, and Raspberry Pi-based Wi-Fi routers of their own design.
We also began the year with the launch of PC Builder, a WooCommerce-based PC parts store. We established a relationship with a local wholesaler, who provided us with an API to their stock control system, and we wrote code to keep our WooCommerce website synchronized with available stock. This meant that we could advertise and accept orders for their product range, without ever needing to purchase and keep stock. We built a fast, solid and performant ecommerce website, but failed to make an impact on the market. After 6 months with no appreciable growth in sales, we ended the experiment and shut down the website.
Around mid-year, our major client introduced us to one of their partner companies, which provides a streaming broadcast service for events. They were planning to expand their product portfolio and wanted to explore using AWS’s range of AI image and facial recognition services to automate the creation of downloadable highlight reels. We developed a proof of concept to test and refine this idea, eventually creating a working tool to generate the required videos with minimal human intervention. We are currently working with a 3rd party developer to create a front-end interface to develop this tool into a consumer-ready product. We hope to test the market and make our first sales early in the coming year.
On the marketing side, we also entered a new contract with a major digital marketing agency. We are providing a digital specialist to assist with creative and campaign development. This contract has provided a valuable revenue boost to Monoceros, and we hope to nurture this relationship throughout the coming year.
Our final, and most publicly visible development, is our entry into the Mastodon space. We’ve watched the rapid migration of disillusioned Twitter users to Mastodon, and other members of the Fediverse, and have been impressed by the decentralized and open nature of the Mastodon network. We believe that the network will be best served by a large number of small/medium servers, rather than the handful of giants that currently dominate, as smaller instances are more likely to foster a sense of community with their users. Building a small community, and avoiding trying to recreate the social media giants, solves many of the scaling issues around moderation and relationship management, and also avoids many of the technical difficulties in hosting a large instance. We believe there is a market for privately hosted Mastodon communities, ranging from schools and neighborhoods to churches, sports teams, local political groups and clubs. We also believe, despite the apparent hostility of the greater Mastodon zeitgeist towards commercial interests, that the nature of private instances can be extremely beneficial to businesses and enterprises, provided they don’t try to recycle traditional social media marketing strategies..
Our plan with Mastodon is two-fold:
- Foster the creation of a large network of small instances. We will provide a managed hosting service, providing a complete standalone Mastodon instance, and taking responsibility for patching, maintenance, security and backups, with a guaranteed minimum uptime. We’ll also provide guidance and advice on how to manage and build an online community. The owner of the instance, in turn, is responsible for managing the community, developing their own policies and terms of service, and moderation of content. This will not only help grow Mastodon as a network, it will also demonstrate the superiority of large numbers of small instances, and grow the market for managed instance hosting.
- Provide a marketing and branding service to commercial entities. This will begin with a private instance, customized with their own branding, but we’ll also provide training and consulting on how best to use this instance to market themselves. This will include an explanation of Mastodon culture, strategies for organic growth in a world without paid media, and detailed explanations on the decentralized, community-based moderation structure of the Mastodon network presents both risks and advantages. As this is such a new environment, we expect the rules of engagement to evolve rapidly, so we’ll constantly develop and update our best-practices, and communicate them to our clients.
In the coming year, we’re looking forward to completing our video editing project, and adding it’s owner as a cloud consulting client, to monitor, maintain, and improve on the tooling we’ve provided for them. We would also love to take on more projects of this nature. But our primary focus for the next year is growing the Mastodon service to the point where it becomes a sustainable business on it’s own, and in future to become a local authority on Mastodon, and a market leader in managed Mastodon hosting services.