Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Summer Visit to a Silicon Valley Dream Factory

Over the summer, I was fortunate enough to travel to Palo Alto, California for a three-week residential program (EPGY) in Stanford. Recently, our class visited a company called Tapulous. Tapulous is an American software and game developer headquartered in Palo Alto, California. As soon as I entered the relaxed atmosphere of Tapulous, I was welcomed by the vibrant colors and playful ambiance. The employees seemed like they thoroughly enjoyed their jobs- and with Nerf Guns, bean bag chairs, and a ping pong table, nobody could blame them. We met four very influential people at Tapulous- Bart Decrem, Andrew Lacy, Jessica Kahn, and Tim O’Brien. Visiting the company taught my several things:

First, I learned that passion and believing in one’s product is an important part of any start-up business. If one has passion, they have a willingness to work hard, go deeper in order to advance a company, and invest time in their product. Passion attaches a person emotionally to their product, which ultimately helps to grow the company. The welcoming employees at Tapulous seemed to thoroughly love what they did, which really left a positive, lasting, impression on me. The rare but ingenious combination of fun but professional environment was a great combination.

Secondly, I learned that if a given technique doesn’t work, one must be ready to change direction. The end product will rarely reflect the starting idea exactly. Although one may start a company based on one notion, this focus can change within a moment’s notice. Adaptation is essential for not only a person, but for a company’s ability to evolve. The customer’s needs or wants will never be consistent, and the downfall of a company can often be blamed on the company’s inability to move on with their target market’s needs. Specifically, the goal of Tapulous was originally to create a wide market for apps- but the more they researched, the more they realized they would want to narrow their focus to a specific ‘tap-tap” type of game.

This brings me to my third point which sit that a target focus is essential. The people working for Tapulous had two things in common. First, none of the employees pretended to have full knowledge of the gaming field – they were open to massive learning, and second, they all had a longing to provide their customers with a great service. The only way Tapulous had to follow their passion was by coming up with an idea and finding any way possible to see it through. A company does not necessarily have to have a strong background, but rather a narrow and common focus point to follow through on. Silicon Valley doesn’t only value who has many degrees from various universities, but also value an individual that is dedicated and has good energy.

The fourth very crucial thing I learned was to allow your focus to give you resolve - if an outside influence gives you advice, take it in account, but don’t let it rule your final decision. The only advice an entrepreneur should take into account is the customer, because they are the people who will support the product and keep the business alive. The founders of Tapulous, Bart Decrem and Andrew Lacy, informed us that many people advised they that this would be a bad idea to start the basis of a company off. Apps… come on, right? Nothing unique, right? Wrong. The visionaries of this company followed their goal though, and ultimately helped to create the most popular game for the Iphone- Tap Tap Revenge. If Bart or Andrew yielded to the nay-sayers, what would have happened? Being passionate and smart, they probably would have been successful elsewhere, but odds are they might not be where they were today.

The last thing I learned is that in order to gain a spot at the top, so a company should never slow down. As a flourishing company, Tapulous understands that growth is necessary for a company to stay alive. It’s human nature to get bored and want something new. There are so many innovative products coming out every day, and unless a company can be always on search of something new and willing to accept every challenge being thrown at them, they will eventually die out. When we visited Tapulous and spoke to Jessica Kahn, an engineer, she informed us that she never stops creating, innovating, and searching for the next big thing.

Tapulous was a refreshing and educational experience, and it’s so stimulating to see people who started only with a dream but succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Congratulations, Tapulous – and thank you so much for the education ! Your contributions go far beyond just the time you spent with us !

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