The Trick to Preparing for the Uptick

Embrace the transition from young startup to overnight sensation, as you prepare for 14 million eyeballs and a lot of questions. 

Last month, our company was fortunate enough to see a big uptick in traffic—really big. We were featured on the season finale of ABC’s hit series Shark Tank, and we found ourselves transitioning from a company familiar to a few thousand people, to a company watched by millions of people all over the world.


Be prepared to win when a sudden spike in exposure hits your startup.

Did we expect a sudden spike in exposure? Sure. Did we expect this level of exposure and continued attention? Not quite.

Ben Franklin once said, “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 things we did, not just to avoid failure but to embrace the transition from being a young startup in the translation arena to a name synonymous with overcoming 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 rapid pace of a startup with the exposure of prime-time television, it’s easy to lose track of your core.

We double- and triple-checked every feature on our translation platform and within our live interpretation app. We ensured that our telephone partner was standing at the ready.

Eyewear company Warby Parker went through a similar spike in exposure recently, as it prepared for the launch of the Man of Steel movie, which featured Clark Kent wearing the company’s glasses.

Prepare your servers. 

This is more of a defensive move but remains important. The last thing we wanted was a site crash, so we leaned on our Web services partner to help us prepare for a seven-fold increase in website traffic.

Ben Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Animoto, the image and video sharing company, had a similar experience a few years back. After allowing for autocreation of its animations when users downloaded their app, Animoto went from using 50 computer nodes to more than 3,500 in a matter of days.

Prepare for questions. 

If you’re not careful, this can be a huge energy drain. Customer support is often one of, if not the most, crucial element to a service business. Unfortunately, it’s often the most thankless.

We signed on with a customer service software provider 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. 

We partnered with a brand agency to make an inviting website and social campaign to make the best possible first impression—and many more impressions—when people returned.

Prior to the show’s 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.

See more here. This article originally appeared in Wharton Magazine on June 27th, 2013.

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