What Every Startup Fears Most

There is one thing every startup needs to fear the most, and it is not that Google or Microsoft will come out with a competing product, that you’ll run out of money before you polish your prototype, that your technical co-founder will chuck it all to go hiking in the mountains leaving you to debug the beta version by yourself.


The big fear most startups have is that people will try their product and won’t like it.

You should be so lucky.

The biggest fear any startup should have is not that people will think you suck, it’s that no one will ever know you exist.

Rising above the noise is greater than any technical challenge I can imagine.

A post in a linkedin STEM education group asked for advice on reaching the education community.

Several people offered very helpful suggestions. What interested me the most is that there were a couple of groups recommended that I had never heard of – and I’m really interested in teaching mathematics.

For example, there was the Shodor Foundation, where I learned about the Computational Science Educational Resource Desk – and these guys have been around for 10 years and I TEACH courses in statistics where students learn programming.

The fact is that unless your target market is people who lay around all day (in which case, good luck, because they probably don’t make any money), the customers you are trying to attract are busy. They have a million things on their mind.

The average middle school teacher I know teaches over 150 kids each week. That’s a lot of lesson plans, grading, talking with students, meeting with parents. He or she doesn’t have much time left over to be searching the web for new resources, reading newsletters we email or going to conferences.

The same is true of pretty much anyone you’re trying to attract – parents of toddlers? attorneys? bartenders? janitors?  All busy.

So, what do you do?

I’d say, “Everything you possibly can.”

Someone told me that when it comes to marketing, entrepreneurs throw everything at the wall and see what sticks and that is the absolute worst thing to do. I disagree.

Okay, it’s late so two pieces of advice and a favor and  then I’m calling it a night.

  1. Measure everything! Try something and see if it works. If it doesn’t, try something else.

Ads on Facebook and certain newspaper websites resulted in zero sales for us, so we quit doing those. This blog brings traffic to the site, so I keep it up, oh, no, I meant because of my great love and esteem for you dear reader (that, too!) Certain conferences result in sales for us, while others cost more than they’re worth.

2. Promote your company early and often

We did not wait until we had a perfect product to ask people to try our games. As a wise man told me once, “Games are never finished, they’re just abandoned.”  The fact is, we have better games now than we did two years ago. Every week, we add new features, new bug fixes to one game or another. If you wait until you think your product is perfect to advertise it, to sell it, you are missing the opportunity to get feedback from those early, early adopters, the people who are really your partners in development.

The vast majority of people who read your blog, tweets, ad, flyer or newsletter are not going to leap into action and buy your product, so start promoting it NOW. By the time you are nearly finished, they’ll have heard about you five or six times and might give you a shot.

Help a sister out – here is the favor. As I said, it’s hard to rise above the noise. I’m sure you know people – friends, family, teachers, the barista at the coffee shop – send them a link to our site. You can tweet it out, post it on Facebook, Pinterest, reddit – whatever your social media of choice. Well, not Tinder. We’re not that kind of company.

If you’d like, we’d be happy to add you to our newsletter list, just email


Then, you can forward it to your friends and relatives that hate social media and aren’t on any of it. They’re probably lonesome anyway.



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