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Pushing athletes' online branding to new limits.

Niche vs. Mass Market – Why we chose to go small.

Medalist is a website builder made exclusively for athletes. Let's face it, we are in a niche market. Sure there are millions of athletes of all kinds in the world but it remains a slight subset of the website building market. 

The venture-backed mantra would suggest that it's unsustainable to go after such a small niche. The preferred way would be to go after a bigger market, aim to reach a gazillion people and publicly claim that we are tackling a "[insert arbitrary number here] billion dollar market".

When we deployed the very first version of Medalist, we were so stoked with its quality that we considered for about 5 minutes the idea of going for the masses. Honestly, it was tempting. The platform is flexible and easy to use and is superior in many ways to what's available on the market.

Nonetheless, we decided to remain focused on our original plan: make it dead simple for athletes to create and update their website.

Evolving in a market where every customer is obsessed with efficiency, details and performance has its perks. In our situation, it's the best place to be. Here's why: 

We can compete and even outperform the 800-pound gorillas.

In this market, our four-guys-bootstrapped startup is on the same level as the venture-backed website builders out there. We can compete with any website building company on this turf. Sure we'd love to have millions in advertising dollars but we have an angle that money can't buy: Medalist is for athletes by athletes.

We've got "street cred" and a deep understanding of our customers.

Being the "sales guy" here at Medalist and an elite athlete racing internationally means that for most of my adult life I've had the chance to train, travel, live and party with athletes big and small.

Being inside the game gives you a different perspective on things but most importantly it gives you access. There is mutual respect between athletes. Despite being largely spread across the globe between multiple sports and realities, it remains a tightly knit community. 

We are genuinely part of the community. It is something that would not be true and mostly impossible to achieve if we were serving local businesses, lawyers or artists.

We're building feature light.

The product is designed and constructed to fit a specific type of user: the athlete who seeks and demands flexibility and simplicity. This allows us to allocate all resources into solving no more than three or four major pains that athletes are facing when dealing with general website builders. 

Incidentally, we were able to accelerate the development process by excluding features and flows that are useless to our customers. So much so that we were able to build our product from scratch in one month. 

Optimizing for our market

We outperform the industry leaders by solving problems that are irrelevant to the masses but crucial pains for our users. For example, a critical feature that is totally pointless for anybody else than an athlete is to easily display sponsors logos at the right place, in the right order with the right importance.

The best part about optimizing for athletes is that most of our features are "exclusive" to Medalist. They are unlikely to be implemented by general site builders, because such options would just create confusion among their customer base.

Being international by definition

Athletes are always on the go, training and competing around the world. For the most part of the year, they travel with their teammates, training partners and competitors. In most sports, there is a great camaraderie between different countries.

We've had US and German athletes coming to us after discussing with Canadian athletes and vice-versa. 

Here's a snapshot of a small segment of our customer base (from Intercom.io map view):

Provide a better customer experience

Of course, any startup dealing with less than a hundred customers will claim that they offer great customer service. We are no different in that matter except for the fact that we actually know our customers. 

No, seriously. We know them pretty damn well. We know their needs, dreams, fear, goals, problems, highs and lows. Because at the end of the day, we are all the same.

Simplified marketing and sales flow

Selling to one specific type of customers makes marketing and sales much more efficient.

Without much effort, we can segment athletes and develop our platform around the nature and needs of each type of sports. 

For example, endurance sports athletes are usually looking for an easy way to share their race reports, career highlights and sponsors while action sports athletes generally prefer to showcase their social accounts and visuals.

Last but not the least, it's rewarding and it's more fun.

Athletes are the best crowd to work with mainly because they know what they need to succeed and they want the best. Helping an athlete in his journey is rewarding far beyond the financial gains.

Antoine, athlete & co-founder

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