Entrepreneurship isn’t a game….but it can be

Wikipedia defines a simulation as the imitation of the operation of a real-world process or system over time. The act of simulating something first requires that a model is developed; this model represents the key characteristics or behaviors/functions of the selected system. The model represents the system itself, whereas the simulation represents the operation of the system over time.

Over three generations of digital startups (dot.com boom, Web 2.0 & the current Age of Unicorns) academics and scientists have borne witness to the birth, evolution and (in many cases) the death of thousands of startups. This has, over the last two decades, allowed for far greater insight into Entrepreneurship than has ever been available before. This insight, in turn, has allowed academics and scientists to model the Startup Process and its key elements (e.g. pitching for investment). This model has been turned into a simulation, a game that you can learn from without fearing traditional negative consequences including bankruptcy, martial breakdown, and failure to find product/market fit

The game is called The Founder.  And you can play it here: http://thefounder.biz

It is Francis Tseng’s dystopian startup business simulation. It’s a lot of fun and results in more learning than you would think. Players choose their products, marketing and growth strategies, co-founders, location and more and discover that each choice has its own consequences. Hire too quickly, and burn through your cash. Hire too slowly, and miss the market. While playing The Founder once is fun, it is only by playing it dozens of times that one can see the true genius of simulation. The ability “do over” bad decisions and learn from your mistakes is invaluable. The ability to make different choices every time you play allows you to see the consequences of your choices; short and long term, good and bad. And because it is simulation you can experience the entire life cycle of startup in hours not years.

Playing The Founder gives the user several key advantages, including:

  • Improves confidence;
  • Offers immediate and applicable feedback (there is a virtual mentor);
  • Improves business knowledge retention;
  • Mistakes become safe training opportunities and reduce negative real world consequences.
  • Playing simulations, especially accurate ones, allows for practice to make perfect. Plus it is a lot of fun.

Another recent sim I’ve fallen in love with is pitchbot.vc (www.pitchbot.vc). If you have every considered, or sought, capital from an angel, an incubator, an accelerator or a venture capitalist you know the stress of the investor pitch. An investor pitch is a short meeting in which founders try to convince investors that their venture is worth investing in. Having heard more than 20,000 of these investor pitches over the last two decades, I know first-hand that many of the questions investors ask, questions which stump entrepreneurs, are common and can be prepared for. These key meetings require preparation. QuickBooks Canada’s newest study shows that most 61% of entrepreneurs spent less time preparing for their pitch than planning a vacation. No wonder 99% of pitches fail.

That’s the glory of pitchbot.vc, it lets you pitch your deal to an artificially intelligent text bot that asks questions and responds just like a real investor. Answer the bot’s questions well and you get an offer of investment, including a valuation. The better you pitch the more likely you are to get a deal. Pitch well and the quality of the offer gets better. If practice makes perfect, then this simulation is the perfect tool to tune your pitch.

So while entrepreneurship definitely isn’t a game; parts of the journey can now be simulated. So why not take advantage?

Onward & Upward,


Sean Wise headshot

About the Author

Dr. Sean Wise

Dr. Sean Wise is a best-selling author, venture capitalist, award-winning entrepreneurship professor and serial entrepreneur. He spent two decades in the venture capital industry, specializing in supporting high-growth ventures at the seed stage. Dr. Wise was named Mentor of the Year by Startup Canada in 2014. He has written six books and hundreds of articles on entrepreneurship, with work appearing on or in Forbes, CNBC, CNN Financial, The New York Times, Fox News. Inc.com and the Globe and Mail.

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