Going through our archives, we came across this great post by Dr. AnnMaria De Mars from April 9, 2016 “Your Baby Is Ugly and Other Start-up Lessons“ that we wanted to share in case you missed it the first time around.
It’s almost 6 am here on the east coast, and after flying all day during which I worked on a final report for a grant to develop our latest educational game and make bug fixes on same, I landed and wrote a report for a client, because that pays the bills.
In the meantime, in one of our blogs, Maria wrote a post where she called bullshit on venture capitalists who claim not to be interested in educational games because they aren’t a billion dollar business but then fund other enterprises that no way in hell are a billion dollar business.
She seems to have touched a nerve because now we are getting comments from people saying no one wants to fund you because your games are bad and you are mean.
That is part of the start-up life, really. You have this idea for a business that you think is wonderful, it is your baby. Like a baby, you get too little sleep, because you are working all of the time, but you think it’s worth it.
And every day, you run into people who are essentially telling you that your baby is ugly.
People like to believe they are reasonable and give reasons for their belief in your baby’s ugliness. I think you should consider those explanations because they could be right. Maybe your baby IS ugly.
For example, someone said, “Maybe venture capitalists don’t want to invest in your games because they aren’t as good as the PS4 , Wii and Xbox games and kids don’t want to play them.”
I answered that he was correct, our games, that cost schools an average of $2- $3 per student, and cost individuals $9.99 are NOT as good as games that cost $40 – $60. If you have 200 kids in your school playing our games, you probably can’t afford to pay us $10,000. I know this is true. Could I be wrong about the price of the games to which he was comparing ours? I went and checked on Amazon which is probably one of the cheapest places to buy games and, I was correct.
I have a Prius. My daughter has a BMW that costs four times as much. Her car looks much cooler than mine and goes much faster. Does that mean Prius sucks and no one should invest in them? Obviously, no.
Actually, we have thousands of kids playing our games and they sincerely seem to like them, and upper elementary and middle school kids are usually pretty honest about what they think sucks.
People sometimes point out that our graphics could be cooler or our game world could be larger or other really, really great ideas that I completely agree with. The fact is, though, that we want our games to be an option for schools, parents across the income spectrum, after-school programs and even nursing homes, in some cases. (There is a whole group of “silver gamers”.) These markets often do NOT have the type of hardware that hard-core gamers do. In fact, the minimal hardware requirement we aim to support is Chromebooks and we are building web-based versions that will run in areas that don’t have high-speed Internet access.
Did you ever have that experience where you call tech support for a problem and the person on the other end says,
Well, it works on my computer.
What good does that do me?
So, we are trying to make games that work on a lot of people’s computers. Believe me, I do get it. I play games on my computer and I have a really nice desktop in an area with high-speed Internet and I would LOVE to do some way cooler things. We made the decision to try to provide games people could play even if the only computer they can access is some piece of junk computer that most of us would throw out. Don’t get me started on the need to upgrade our schools and libraries, that is a rant for another day.
A teacher commented the other day that while she really liked the educational quality of our games what she really wanted for her classroom were Xbox quality games for free . I would like a free computer, too, but those bastards at Apple keep charging me when I want a new one. I guess that is a rant for another day, too.
My whole point is that running a start-up is a lot of hard work and a lot of rejection. Almost like being an aspiring actor or author or raising a teenager. You have to consider the criticisms without being discouraged. Maybe they are correct that Shakespeare wouldn’t have said,
Like, you know, to be or not.
On the other hand, I remember that publishers rejected Harry Potter, and just about every successful company over the last few decades has had more detractors than supporters when it got started. And let it be noted I was right about that jerk I told you not to date, too.