By Donald Coolidge
The day we launched the Kickstarter campaign for Elemental Path and our Cognitoys was one of the most amazing days of my life. Within hours, we had reached $10,000 and, before the end of the day, we had topped our goal of raising $50,000. Today, with just three days to go in the month-long campaign, we have raised nearly $250,000. (Hey, it’s not too late to join in!)
It all seems magical. But the magic actually started a little over one year ago, when we first learned of the Watson Mobile Developer Challenge. Entering, and, ultimately, winning the Challenge led to us launch a new company and set out to develop a new generation of fun and educational toys based on cognitive technologies. We plan on introducing our first product in November–in time for the holiday shopping season.
We have not been alone on this journey. The people of Watson have stood by our side the whole way. With their help, we expect to go from zero to product launch in less than two years. That’s fast.
As one of three winners of the Challenge, we were invited to join the Watson Ecosystem program–which gave us direct access to IBM technologists and designers, in addition to the Watson platform’s APIs and tools.
It’s amazing that a tiny company like ours could get all of this attention from one of the giants of the tech industry. Just a couple of weeks ago at an IBM marketing event, I even met IBM CEO Ginni Rometty. She invited our team to Austin for “geek week”–a series of in-depth sessions with Watson engineers and designers.
IBM is willing to listen to our constructive feedback, as well. A couple of days ago, we raised questions with Lauri Saft, the director of the Watson Ecosystem program, and she immediately introduced us to Alexa Swainson, the vice president for Watson products, who promised to get back to us with answers.
We’re probably the most pesky ecosystem partner they have. Of course, we don’t always get everything we want, but we feel free to ask.
Since we were one of the early partners, we bring IBM ideas for how they can improve the platform and the ecosystem support. When they make changes, everybody who is in the ecosystem gets to take advantage of them–so we feel like we’re giving back not just to IBM but the whole community of developers and entrepreneurs.
I want to close out by going back to the Kickstarter campaign. That was really a turning point for us. In fact, we accelerated our Kickstarter launch by two weeks so we could capitalize on the publicity during the toy industry’s big annual trade event in New York. That put a lot of stress on the development team. During Toy Fair, we set up in a space across the street from the convention center and invited journalists and bloggers to see demonstrations of our technology. Thanks to the buzz from Kickstarter, several CEOS of toy companies contacted us and asked if they could visit, as well. Of course, we said yes. It’s quite possible that those meetings will lead to alliances between us and one or more of the toy industry giants.
It’s important to celebrate your milestones. On Monday, after the Kickstarter campaign ends, I plan on taking a moment to reflect on how far we have come–and on all the people who have helped us get here.