Startup Trail is the Oregon Trail for Tech Policy Clouds

My startup went public and it only took me about 25 minutes to pull it off. I don’t remember what the company does, although I don’t think it really matters? I own 16 percent of the company, but after making some hasty decisions about a legal battle and deciding to set up a local office in India, the company is basically out of cash. Users love us, but! So the future is bright for… whatever our name is. It does not matter. I’ll start over in a minute and try something different.

I spent too much of my day playing games today Startup Traila new browser game from the Tech Policy website tech dirt and Engine, a DC-based startup trading group. The two organizations created the game as tech dirt Mike Masnick puts it to give people a little insight into the kind of policy decisions startups have to make and why they’re rarely as simple as they look. Especially for small businesses that don’t have the seemingly endless resources of a Google or Amazon.

At the beginning of Startup Trail – which definitely has echoes of oregon trail, and Masnick told me that the debate over whether Ruhr should be involved lasted all night before the launch — you choose the type of founder you want to be and where you want to be. I chose Mike, who has affluent connections, a degree from “an elite institution with a reputation for producing startup founders,” and sounded about the same as most of the Stanford startup founders who live in Palo walking around high. I chose a business in “University Park” where there was a lot of cheaper talent but not as many investors as I would have found in “Big Tech Valley”. Actually, I never got to choose what my company does because it doesn’t seem to really matter. Most startups deal with the same things.


Life as a startup founder is a series of non-obvious decisions.
Image: Startup Trail

From there, my life as a founder became an endless series of issues, each vying for my money, my time, and the talent of my team. Every time I made a decision – fundraise instead of hiring, or focus on content moderation issues instead of spending my limited funds on it – the ads on the left side of the screen would move. One tracked my financial health, another my user growth, a third my technology and talent. And underneath, three slowly disappearing clocks reminded me that both time and energy are finite and I can’t do everything at once.

The bigger point of the game becomes clear pretty quickly: doing the right thing is hard, even when it’s obvious what the right thing is. (And it’s usually not obvious.) While I’ve encountered seemingly simple choices — like letting users know when I’ll release their information to law enforcement — I’ve had to contend with the time, money, and potential downside of making that decision. (Starting a fight with the FBI is a bit time-consuming.) When I decided not to worry about the competition because every startup CEO tells me they’re not worried about the competition, my competition finally got me dejected. I had to decide who to raise money from and how much to raise without anticipating what geopolitical or regulatory issues might arise later. I retired from Brazil instead of complying with a terrible new regulation, but I’m still not sure I did the right thing.


In the startup world, sometimes you win, but most of the time you lose.
Image: Startup Trail

tech dirt worked on games like Startup Trail Mini simulators used to be there to help people understand the complexities behind new topics. “We discovered that games as a concept are a really interesting way to explore difficult ideas, difficult political ideas, and also to play with the future in general,” Masnick told me. In too many cases, he said, “everyone has their position, and they’re really buried.” But when it comes to games, “you’re just like, ‘Okay, put yourself in this other role. What would you do?'” tech dirt performed a simulationto learn, for example, how disinformation could impact the 2020 election, and got some… disheartening results. And be Magic the Gathering-Card game in style based on a CIA training program is still a fun way to spend an evening. Going forward, Masnick said the team is working hard on an even more intense game that will deal with trust and security issues.

When you reach the end of the game, you can share how you did it. You get points for each category, plus a total of five unicorns. (I have four unicorns, not to brag.) And eventually, if you’re lucky, you get to decide what to do: go public, get acquired, stay private or hire another CEO, and hang out on a yacht somewhere.

Masnick said if there’s a perfect way to play the game, even he doesn’t know what it is. “I know exactly how it’s scored, I have access to it and I have no idea what the best way is,” he said. As I’ve played through a few times, most of the roads end up in ruins. You’re running out of money, you’re being squeezed by a competitor, a legal problem is catching up and crushing you. In a way, I think “the patent trolls got you” is the 2022 version of dying of dysentery.

I haven’t met Elon Musk yet. And if there’s one thing we’ve learned about startup life, it’s that eventually, when you get big enough, you meet Elon Musk. He is the real final boss of the game. Startup Trail is the Oregon Trail for Tech Policy Clouds

Fry Electronics Team

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