How To Prepare Your Company for 14 Million Eyeballs and a Whole Lot of Questions

Last month our company was fortunate enough to have a big uptick in traffic—really big. We were featured on the season finale of ABC’s hit series Shark Tank and found ourselves transitioning from a company that a few thousand people knew in the translation arena to a company millions of people watched all over the world. Did we expect a sudden spike in exposure? Sure. Did we expect this level of exposure and continued attention? Not quite.
Ben Franklin said that, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” We heeded his advice and took it a step farther, we prepared to win. Here are a few things we did in preparing not just to avoid failure but also to embrace the transition from being a young startup to a name synonymous with breaking language barriers around the world.

Prepare your product: 

It seems like a given, but it should never be overlooked. Your product is everything and when mixing the pace of a startup with the exposure of primetime television, it’s easy to lose track of your core. We double, triple, checked every feature on our translation platform and within our live interpretation app and ensured that our telephony partner Twillio was standing at the ready. Warby Parker went through a similar spike in exposure recently, as they prepared for the launch of the Man of Steel movie and Clark Kent wearing their glasses.

Prepare your servers: 

This is more of a defensive move but remains incredibly important. The last thing we wanted to experience was a site crash so we leaned on our partners at Amazon Web Services (AWS) to help us prepare for a seven-fold increase in website traffic. Animoto, the image and video sharing company, had a similar experience with AWS a few years back. After allowing for auto-creation of its animations when users downloaded their app, they went from using 50 computer nodes to over 3,500 in a matter of days.

Prepare for consumer questions (and more questions): 

If you’re not careful, this can be a huge energy drain on your team. Customer support is often one of if not the most crucial elements to a service oriented business. Unfortunately, it’s often the most thankless. We signed on with Zendesk and walked through dozens of different user journeys. Since Shark Tank we’ve been able to respond to consumer inquiries in a timely and thoughtful manner without tripping over ourselves.

Prepare your brand. Branding matters: 

Much like meeting someone for the first time, your brand never gets a second chance to make a first impression. Prior to the shows airing we had 3,500 translators and interpreters worldwide. We now have more than 10,000. Every single one of those people decided to join the VerbalizeIt community—the VerbalizeIt brand. With our partners at Ideation, we worked tirelessly to make an inviting website and social campaign that would not only make the best possible first impression but lead to many more impressions when people returned.

Ryan Frankel is the co-founder and CEO of VerbalizeIt. He is a Wharton MBA graduate and a recent TechStars participant. Ryan was a financial analyst at Goldman Sachs prior to entering business school. 

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