Startup Wars Announcement Photo

As many of you know, last Fall (2020) we embarked on our first alpha with over 300 entrepreneurship students. It was an amazing experience and we learned early on that the students loved the concept of Startup Wars. Many said that this was the most engaging class experience in ENT they’ve had to date, and this feedback gave us the motivation to continue forward with our Spring Beta program.

Over this past Spring, we grew tremendously and had an amazing turnout from both students and faculty alike. By the numbers, as of this Spring term we have had:

In addition, we’ve been able to welcome many additional professors to our community who are stoked to join in the fall, and we’ll be coordinating with our entire community over the next 3 months as we prepare for our first production release.

But before we do that, it’s important to recap the results of our alpha and beta programs so far! In this article, we’ll be presenting the feedback we received from students and faculty. If you’re following along in the Startup Wars journey (SUW) or looking to partner with SUW for your class, this article is most definitely for you.

Without further ado, let’s dive in!

Requests from Professor’s

First off, it has been an absolute pleasure working with so many professors in the community and learning about their classes, their students, and their needs. To date we have heard back from 107 ENT professors from all across the country with feedback, feature requests, and advice for moving forward.

Since the conversations with professors have been 1-on-1 we don’t have fancy graphs (like below for the students), but we have done our best to aggregate the feedback into a consolidated list. This isn’t the full list, but these are some of the items most frequently requested by multiple faculty across a variety of universities.

  • Top Requests From Faculty
    • Advanced Reporting System for student grading –> currently in progress!
    • Advanced Feedback Loop so students can automatically see why certain decisions were positive/negative
    • A Student & Teacher portal to allow for cross-department adoption –> nearly complete!
    • Social Impact & Benefit Corporation focused simulations
    • Customer Discovery learning modules
    • Team Based collaborative gameplay module
Faculty Video Review by John Wilson of Drexel University

Not only did the participating professors help guide the direction with feedback, they also (nearly unanimously) agreed to become references. One of the professors, John Wilson from Drexel University, even took the time to provide an amazing video review of Startup Wars. Thank you for the extra time this took John!

We’re already under way implementing this feedback for the Fall and Spring terms, so again – a big THANK YOU to many of our community.

Student Feedback!

First off, we have to say that the students absolutely loved the gameplay. It was a rewarding (and honestly, relieving!) experience to get countless emails and feedback from students such as:

“Startup Wars is the future of entrepreneurial education. The gameplay is a fun and interactive way in which I learned valuable lessons and skills required to run a start up!”

Kirsten Voelker, Seton Hill

However; it was important to our team to make sure that we gathered more than just positive feedback. We also asked students a series of survey questions about Game Mechanics, Terminology, Branding, Pricing, Educational Value, and more. From their feedback we implemented 5 major iterations in 6 months and focused primarily on the simulation experience. After all, it’s important that the students feel the urgency and experience of having a startup, but still enjoy the gameplay enough for a positive overall classroom experience. Let’s take a look at some of the survey results…

Feature Requests from Students

Pie chart describing student feature requests
Student Feedback Survey: What is the #1 improvement you’d like to see in the next Startup Wars Release?

One of the things that we found (to our surprise) was how much of a terminology disconnect there is between those of us in various industries (software, hospitality, etc) compared to what the students have been exposed to. For example:

Result: Out of the 381 survey respondents, 67.5% (257 students) never heard of “CHURN RATE”, 59.1% (225 students) never heard of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and 45.9% never heard of “SPRINT PLANNING” (or agile methodologies). For terms such as Churn Rate and Sprint Planning, those can arguably be more focused on SaaS based companies; however, SEO was a very surprising revelation

Takeaway: Our takeaway from speaking with the students was to really put more emphasis and learning materials surrounding each type of businesses. As we build our early release in the fall (and subsequent releases afterwards) we’ll be sure to really put a lot of attention and detail into teaching students about these terms.

Student Feedback – Competitive Landscape

Our next set of questions revolved around the competitive advantages of Startup Wars, and the student’s experiences with the simulation game.

Student Feedback on Alpha Enjoyability

From the above chart, we can see that 71.9% of students rated Startup Wars a better experience than existing simulation games on the market. Hurrah!

16.8% of students rated a “5”, which meant they had never played another simulation game before, and 11.3% of students rated Startup Wars as a lesser experience compared to other simulation games they’ve played before.

Takeaway: This told us that by combining modern day gaming with business simulation software, we’re really on the cutting edge of the curve and resonating well with our students. We do have to work on that 11.3% however; and after further deep dive most of the negative feedback from students were due to bug reports. Although we don’t like the fact that there were bugs, we *were* in a beta mode so bugs were to be expected (and advertised).

Lessons Learned

Now, not everything was sunshine and roses! The past year has been a roller coaster of iteration, feedback, iteration, trial and error, and did I mention more iteration?

It’s important to not only mention the pros, but also to mention the points that we recognized we needed to improve on. I’ve included and elaborated below on some of the major points:

Student Registration Flow

As I said in the beginning, we went from 300 students to 844 students almost ‘overnight’, and we were most definitely not prepared for the scale from a staffing perspective. Myself and some others on our team spent many late night hours responding to questions from students, ones that in retrospect could have been easily avoided.

For instance, originally in our registration flow we had:

  • Teacher invites the student, via their email (i.e., [email protected] )
  • Student gets an email w/ a registration link.
  • Student is supposed to register with [email protected]; however, many universities have multiple email addresses for the same student (i.e. [email protected]). Since this wasn’t the email that was invited, it caused confusion in about 10% of the student body which meant 80 emails we had to send 🙂

Now, we’ve automated that process by auto-filling the correct email address. Problem solved, but phew was it difficult at the time!

Customer Support Channel

What is a customer support channel? Imagine you are using a product, and something doesn’t work the way you expect. So what do you do? You call or email support, and ask them to help solve the issue.

We frankly, did not have a support system in place. That’s what caused us to send so many emails in cases like the Student Registration flow above.

Since then we’ve adopted Teamwork Desks as a support ticket management software suite, which allows for us to handle student and faculty requests case-by-case, and have worked on better training internal staff to support our customers.

Web Portal & Bugs

Throughout the alpha program, our biggest focus was on the students. We had a series of questions we needed to answer internally as metrics for success:

  • Are students engaged and enjoying our software?
  • Are students actively learning from our software?
  • Does the core gameplay loop make sense? <– Note: this took the most time!

With that said, we did have a number of bugs in the application that we deemed ‘acceptable’ for alpha; but that ultimately hurt us when it came to our statistics and will be our primary focus for the Fall release. When we cross-compared the feedback from any student who rated Startup Wars as less than a 4, we found that nearly 100% of them (59 students altogether) rated a less than ideal experience due to bugs or difficulty using the platform. We truly tried our best to get the bugs fixed; however, it just wasn’t possible to do everything that we wanted for beta. Such is business, and such is technology.

With that said, our main focus since the alpha and beta program has been product stability and implementation of feedback from our customers.

We’re proud to be able to say that nearly all of our professors are coming back for another round in the fall, plus a number of new faculty and universities have signed up – so all things considered we must be doing something right!

As entrepreneurs know, this field is all about iteration and customer discovery. Not only are we super excited to launch this fall, but we’re also excited to share the ins and outs of our journey. Over the next couple months we’ll be releasing more updates and content – so please subscribe below if you want to follow along.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

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