“There’s no history of anything happening until it does. And then there is.”
When we were writing “My Fight/Your Fight,” our editor asked if we wanted to start with an epigraph – or quote/sentence/saying to start the book. Ronda knew immediately what she wanted that quote to be – the above, attributing it to our mom/7 Generation Games president AnnMaria De Mars.
It’s a “Mom-ism” that AnnMaria would often give when talking about doing things that hadn’t been done before. In the interest of full disclosure, my mom later told me she was paraphrasing some line from 1990s-era movie about a volcano in Los Angeles, so she couldn’t take full credit for it – but the truth behind it still stands.
I bring this up because when you’re building a startup so often people have this attitude or belief that if you haven’t done it before, then how can you do it? Never mind, that Bill Gates hadn’t built any software company pre-Microsoft. Or that Jonas Salk hadn’t come up with vaccines for any other illness before he came up with the one for polio. Or J.K. Rowling hadn’t written any other bestsellers before she rolled out Harry Potter.
I’m not saying that we’re the Gates or Salk or Rowling of educational games (obviously, I’m adding the pre-requisite …yet – in part, just to drive the people who already think we’re overly confident crazy). And, sure for every Gates and Salk and Rowling, thousands of others who didn’t reach that level of success – but the people who bring that up miss the point. It’s about refusing to accept that just because someone hasn’t done something before they can’t be incredibly successful at whatever that endeavor is. No one has ever done anything until they did it. That’s just how things work.
It’s not only a catch-22, but also a justification that way too many investors use to either dismiss new startups and/or invest in the same folks over and over again.
A couple of years ago, we were at a startup event and pitching 7 Generation Games when one of the judges asked me, “How many games have your founders shipped?” (That is how many games have any of you seen from concept to commercial product and actually gotten out on the market.) My answer at the time was three – because we had done Spirit Lake, Fish Lake and Forgotten Trail at that point.
“No,” she clarified, “I meant how many games have you shipped previous to this company?”
“You mean, ‘How many games have we made and sold aside from the three games that have made and are currently generating revenue from?’” I asked, confused.
“Well, aside from the three games we’ve shipped to date that are currently being used in schools and generating revenue, we haven’t developed additional games,” I said, understanding what she was technically asking, but also thinking her logic was really stupid.
“So, no previous games,” she said definitively.
I just kind of shrugged because I knew where she was going with it, but I completely disagreed. The idea that our three products (now eight products!) didn’t count because we hadn’t developed previous products to those three made – and still makes – no sense.
Sure, we once had no history of having created games – but then we did and now we do. And they’re pretty awesome games at that.