Last Updated on November 16, 2020
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About Neal Taparia
I started my first company in high school in 2001, where we built a product called EasyBib, which helps students automatically create citations. We ended up working on that business full time from 2008-2016, and grew it to $20M in revenue reaching 30M annual users without taking on any funding. I sold that business to a public company called Chegg, where I was an executive there for three years.
We started researching how games can help with mental acuity and productivity. It turns out, playing games have many benefits to keeping your mind sharp. We wanted to find a way to bring out these benefits in an accessible way. That’s when the light bulb went off. Could we take wildly popular games like solitaire and tie them into brain training? They have over lapping demographics, and if we could do that, we could approach brain training in an entirely different way.
How Did You Get Your First Several Customers Or Users? How Many Users Or Customers Do You Have Now?
We found an article written about popular solitaire games on an online publication. We asked if they would be open to mentioning our game, and soon we would get 2-5 users from them daily. Our friend also ran conferencing at the Money2020 conference, and we built a custom solitaire game for the conference, driving a few hundred users. When you’re starting from zero, you’ll take anything. Now we have over 100,000 monthly visits to the site.
How Does Your Company Grow And Acquire New Customers?
We run Facebook ads to encourage people to take a break and try our games. We also try to improve our Google search ranking so people can find us when they are looking for solitaire games. We’ve also been writing about the mental benefits of games hoping to educate people on the topic.
What Actionable Tips And Tricks Do You Have For New Founders Who Are Looking To Get Their First Thousand Users Or Dollars?
Focus on the one feature you think is most important and get that in the hands of your target customers as fast as possible. So many aspiring entrepreneurs overthink product development, wanting to add more and more features. Truth is, only one or two features really matter. Find out what that is.
By getting something simple out quickly, you can start directly learning from your customer. Does it really solve their problem, and how does that inform your decision making? Take out the guesswork of building a business by understanding how your customers react and behave when they actually have your product. Time is precious, so solve for getting that insight as fast as possible.
What Is Something You’ve Learned That Would Not Be Obvious To Somebody Who Hasn’t Worked In Your Space Before?
Don’t just build a game, build a game engine that can allow you to build multiple games. We originally created a solitaire game, but to create others, we realized we need an infrastructure that would allow us to easily manipulate rules and more quickly launch new games. With games, if you plan ahead, you can think about scale from the get go.
I’ve also learned that people love challenging themselves and friendly competition, even for the most simplest of games.
What’s The Craziest Thing That’s Happened To You (Good Or Bad) On Your Founder Journey?
With my first business, when I was 16, I reached out to local Chicago newspapers about our product EasyBib, explaining how we were students helping other students. Two days later, the Chicago Tribune was taking pictures of me and my business partner, and published us on the front page of the business section. This creates a snowball effect for our growth. It taught me that you have to create your own luck to get those fortunate breaks.
What Are Your Favorite Books?
I loved reading the Harry Potter books growing up, and am now having fun reading them with my 6 year old. For non-fiction, I really like Predictably Irrational. It gives you insights into the nuances of human behavior and why we act irrationally. It will give you a ton of idea on product and marketing strategy.
Anything You’d Like To Plug?
Would love your thoughts about the games we’re building on solitaired.com
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