Start-ups are all about buzzwords – innovation! disrupt! billion!
We’re going to disrupt the something something something with our innovation that will bring us a billion dollars! Hurray! VCs , give me money!
We’re part of the Boom Startup Ed Tech accelerator for twelve rapid-fire weeks. Three weeks in, much disruption has occurred. We’ve moved over to Amazon Web Services, which gives us less down time and more opportunity for scaling up quickly in response to a rapidly rising number of users. It also meant we had to move over our mailboxes. Our method of counting website visits changed to require a minimal time on the site to be counted, eliminating webcrawlers (which don’t buy stuff) and only counting humans (who do buy stuff). That’s good, but it shows a drop in our site visits.
We moved the databases over the weekend to minimize inconvenience for our users, but there was still a period of more than 12 hours when people could not play our games because they could not access the server that maintains the game state.
The advice from the mentors was to focus on school sales as opposed to selling to individuals. That’s reasonable – in one school, 200 – 1,000 students might play our games. School sales will increase revenue and users much faster than individual sales.
It’s a great idea to focus on schools but during the first week of school, teachers and administrators are too busy to hear about your new software. So, our consumer sales are down because we are spending more time meeting with school personnel and our school sales aren’t up yet.
In preparation for raising investor funds, we’ve been asked to research and prepare a lot of documents. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask what the Total Available Market is for adventure games that teach math, social studies and English. It’s reasonable to ask how many students are at the grade levels that we intend to address. There are a lot of other questions we should be able to answer, including cost of acquiring customers, whether activities like this blog, twitter or events like tweet-ups pay off. We should be collecting and analyzing data on number of new users and active users.
However, doing all of that takes time away from contacting schools and telling them how wonderful our games are. One of the mentors suggested we should be making 100 contacts a week with educators. which is very reasonable. It comes out to about 7 a day from Maria and I each. How are schools going to know about us if we don’t call, email or visit them personally? From spam in their mailboxes? I doubt that.
Everything requested sounds like a good idea, and, in fact, is a good idea. The problem is finding time for all of these good ideas plus making the games and analyzing data coming in to demonstrate the games’ effectiveness.
We’re working more hours than ever. Maria missed her daughter’s first day of school. I missed my daughter’s first two soccer tournaments of the year. I’m writing this post today while watching her team play.
No matter how many soccer games or first days of school we miss or hours earlier we get up, there are not enough hours in the day to do everything. We will work it out, persevere and power through. Disruption always sounds a lot better when it’s happening to someone else.
Speaking of schools – if you know a teacher, principal or school administrator looking for games that make you smarter and have the data to prove it, send them my way: firstname.lastname@example.org