Updated: Jul 25
Few things have captured the attention of so many people in recent memory like the word-based game Wordle. It's one part crossword, one part Sudoku — players have to guess the word of the day through equal parts strategy and luck. Based on their guesses, colored tiles tell players when letters are in the correct position or if they're included in the word at all. The goal is to guess the daily word in as few attempts as possible. Wordle is the product of Josh Wardle, a man who initially built the game simply for himself and his partner to play. It became public in October 2021 and, after exploding in popularity, was eventually purchased by The New York Times for a seven-figure sum. In an interview, Wardle himself admitted that the game — which he published online for free — had "gotten bigger than I ever imagined. It has been incredible." Indeed, there are a number of important lessons to be learned in this story — all of which are worth exploring. Why the Journey of Wordle Matters to Entrepreneurs By far, one of the most important lessons to be learned from Wordle is that entrepreneurs should focus on projects that are born out of love. Again, Josh Wardle — a software engineer by trade — initially created the game simply so that he and his partner could have something to play together. There was no quest for fame or fortune — it was a fun, daily activity that the two could share. Especially during the still-ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it seems that this was a sentiment that many people shared, and the skyrocketing popularity is more than proof of that. Another important lesson to be learned from Wordle is that the brilliance of the game is in its simplicity. It's not necessarily a word-based game like Scrabble where every game is different. Every day, players all over the world attempt to guess the same word in as few choices as possible. Then, they can post their results to social media and essentially compete against one another. For entrepreneurs, the lesson is clear: don't over-think things. It is absolutely possible for an idea to become too complicated for its own good. Instead, keep things simple, and a large body of people are likely to respond to it. This also plays into one of the most critical lessons that Wordle can teach us: get people talking. That competition element has been key to the game's success — people want to show on social media that they've gotten today's word in three guesses, as opposed to their friends who may have gotten it in four or five. This is especially true when words are particularly challenging. It creates a conversation that allows people to have fun and interact with one another, but above all else, it keeps Wordle in the public consciousness — which in and of itself is the most important goal of all. Perhaps the final lesson that Wordle can teach entrepreneurs is that it's always important to leave people wanting more. Josh Wardle said that it was important to his original conception to limit the game to a single word every day. This does a few different things, all at the same time. For one, it essentially makes it a game that anyone can play — usually, sessions are over in ten minutes or less. But beyond that, it also means that people have something to look forward to on a daily basis. They eagerly await the new word and their attempts to guess it. They anticipate being able to brag to their friends that they guessed a word in fewer tries than they did. It's not a game that they can spend an hour playing without realizing it — which might be the ultimate secret to its success. In the end, Wordle — and Josh Wardle — are another in a long line of examples of entrepreneurs who struck precisely the right note at exactly the right time. Following the path of its simple creation, all the way through its acquisition by The New York Times in just four months has valuable lessons to teach for us all.
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