Sunday, July 5, 2009

Start-up Success - a Great Source of American English Expressions!

At least some part of the American economy is improving! Once again, we are hearing of small technology companies - or "start-ups" becoming successful. It is not quite the "dot-com boom" of the late 90's, but perhaps we'll get there. At the very least, this should inspire a few of the thousands if young Americans sitting around this summer complaining that they can't get a job (or working at something beneath them).

By the way, if you're spending part of your summer trying to do something productive - such as improving your business English sign up as a follower of this blog so that you get notice whenever there's a new posting. Feel free to post a comment too if you see an interesting business idiom or expression you'd like to discuss.

The following is from an article in the New York Times entitled "We Rent Movies, So Why Not Textbooks?" by Miguel Helft. The phrases we'll be studying are in blue.


Success in Silicon Valley often emerges through trial and error. Willingness to buck popular trends can help, too. Just ask Osman Rashid and Aayush Phumbhra, the co-founders of, a company that rents textbooks to college students.

When the two entrepreneurs started Chegg, then called CheggPost, in 2003, they envisioned a sort of Craigslist for college campuses, a network of university-based Web sites where students would buy and sell everything from used mattresses to textbooks. Like most Internet start-ups of that time, the plan was to make money from advertising.

It didn’t turn out that way. CheggPost gained some traction on a handful of campuses but didn’t take off. Still, the experience offered a few valuable lessons...

...So, in 2007, Mr. Rashid and Mr. Phumbhra went back to the drawing board and came up with the idea of renting books.


trial and error - the process of trying something again and again until you succeed. You don't know exactly what you're doing when you get started, but you figure it out in the process.

(to) buck popular trends - to go against the trend (what everybody else is doing); to do things differently than what everybody else is doing

(to) gain traction - to become popular

(to) take off - to start selling well; to gain in popularity

(to) go back to the drawing board - to start again because the last attempt(s) failed

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