Your Startup’s Survival Depends on a Little Bit of Magic

Do you know how to optimize the magic for your customers?

Aaron Dinin, PhD
5 min readJul 6


Photo by Almos Bechtold on Unsplash

According to some quick Googling, the United States, alone, has over 1 million restaurants. I’m sure the world, as a whole, has millions more. Why? Why does the world need so many restaurants?

I realize that might seem like a strange question, but think about it from an entrepreneurial perspective. Restaurants, at a fundamental level, don’t accomplish anything most of us can’t do ourselves. We can all cook and eat. Heck, with a little bit of training (and a lot more salt, sugar, and butter), most of us could even learn to cook food that tastes as good as an average restaurant’s food. Regardless, every day, millions of people around the world eat at restaurants when they could have eaten food at home that was cheaper, healthier, faster, and possibly even better tasting. Why?

The reason has something to do with the way people make their purchasing decisions, and it’s one of the most important concepts in entrepreneurship. It’s called: the magic moment.

The “magic moment” is the precise second buyers of any product start receiving the primary value of the thing they’re buying. The closer you can make your “magic moment” to the moment someone starts using a product, the more likely you are to get a sale. Conversely, the farther a magic moment is from the moment someone starts using a product, the harder it’ll be to get a sale.

Restaurants are an easy way to understand this concept because consumers experience their magic moment as soon as they get their food and start eating. Instant gratification… yum! As a result, despite the fact that making food is often easier/cheaper/faster/better, lots of people still go to restaurants, in part, because how easily they can exchange money for value.

But compare restaurants to, for example, care insurance, and you’ll start to understand the difference and why it matters. Insurance products are things consumers hope they never need, which means the moment they buy it and the moment they get value from it are (hopefully) far apart.

I know what you’re thinking: “But Aaron… don’t most people buy car insurance?” The answer, of course, is: “Yes! But…



Aaron Dinin, PhD

I teach entrepreneurship at Duke. Software Engineer. PhD in English. I write about the mistakes entrepreneurs make since I’ve made plenty. More @