In the Making: A Card Game for Entrepreneurs

“Startup Race” was an idea I had to teach or coach on entrepreneurship.

A couple of weeks ago I came up with the idea of creating a board game to teach or coach on entrepreneurship, simulating real-life hurdles and eventualities entrepreneurs have to face when leading their startups.

The term ‘startup’ is under discussion. I will use my own definition: a group of people organized to solve a specific problem through innovation, dealing with a high level of uncertainty and risk but having great chances of growth and market scalability.

On this blogpost, I will document the process I am following until reaching a final product. I want to put a UX approach in this project to motivate players to enjoy the game experience but also to learn on the way.

The game’s objective is pretty simple: Get your startup acquired and don’t run out of cash! The first player to reach the ACQUIRED! box, wins. At the end of the game, the expected outcome (apart from having a good time!) is to master the art of using the Lean Canvas methodology, learn the basics of managing a startup from zero to hero, and to think outside the box.

The Design Thinking Process

As an entrepreneur myself and working at Central America’s leading venture capital firm, this step was pretty easy. Why? I felt like I was doing this game for myself!

However, I still made some research, starting from reading and browsing for similar games about startups. To my surprise, what I found was just a few board games but with a completely different focus from the one I had in mind. I then questioned myself: “can becoming an entrepreneur be taught through gaming?

Being an entrepreneur is hard. It is a very steep slope in which you also must carry a backpack full of rocks when climbing. Seriously. So I wanted to make players feel exactly that. Not to scare them! — but rather prepare them for real life. That means that the game should consider all the steps that entrepreneurs follow and include obstacles they fear with every step ahead.

After defining some insights to start working with, I drafted by hand the startup cycle I wanted to include in the game. This means the stages through which the player will move until reaching the final box. That gave me an idea of the number of boxes needed for the player to win. Also, I decided that the way to move across the board is by drawing special cards that would allow the player to move forward (or backward — in case of a negative happening).

First drafts of the gameplay.

Later, I made a list of features I wanted to include in the game to make the player feel like a real-life entrepreneur. After considering the most relevant ideas that would enhance the gaming experience, I included these features in the playing cards:

  • Value propositions: The player who has access to these will have better chances to win the game.
  • Customers and employees: One of these sets of cards will earn money and the other will represent expenses for the player. However, the game cannot be won without having some of these expenses…

Some other features included in the game are the possibility to raise capital through investment cards and to activate marketing campaigns to increase customer acquisition and awareness.

At the end of the ideation phase, I started making a low fidelity prototype that would allow me to test the game and gather relevant feedback to improve it. Up until that moment, I had no idea what to expect. Would the players enjoy it? Can it be ‘playable’ at all?

Friday’s happy hour at the office became the perfect time for testing the prototype. As I said previously, I work at a venture capital firm, so it was easy to find people who would enjoy playing a game about entrepreneurship. I gathered 5 more people, including 2 interns (with a relatively short experience working within the startup ecosystem), 2 professionals from a different field, and 1 team member of the company (with a better understanding of the ecosystem).

We set up the prototype (using Monopoly money and chips for testing purposes) and played one round.

During this round, I paid close attention to the players’ reactions and emotions during their turns and during others’ turns, equally. I found some interesting insights but mostly noticed everyone was enjoying the game despite difficulties trying to understand some of the cards’ instructions. However, I noticed that a couple of turns later, most of the players understood the rules perfectly.

I took notes on my notepad to prepare a new version of the prototype. Also, I asked several questions during the game to gather data and opinions by the players based on their experience so far. For instance, I asked them if they would prefer to start the game with A or B amount of money.

Some notes taken on my notepad.

To be continued…

Communications strategist and business designer based in San José, Costa Rica.