In Good Company at LAUNCH EDUCATION!

We had the opportunity to participate in the Launch Education Conference this week. This was  a great event for Ed-Tech entrepreneurs, which started with event lead Jason Calcanis opening with a quote from Pixar’s Ratatouille “Take Care of the New Ones” …. As in the new Start-ups!

Launch.co reviewed 300 different EdTech start-ups to identify 25 to present at this event. I was thrilled that Fingerprint was selected and had the opportunity to share our work with over 400 Teachers, Investors, and Entrepreneurs.   I’m biased towards products that inspire a love of learning AND can be shared between parents and kids.

Here’s some things I’m excited about:

Timbuktu is an Italian based start-up working on an App based magazine for kids. Featuring amazingly beautiful design and content created by renowned authors, this is something wonderful to check out.  I think about it like a modern day Weekly Reader.

Ciufcia (pronounced something like Choo-Choo)  is a start-up from Poland.  They’ve created a web based experience called Duckie Deck. It’s designed for parents or grandparents and kids to play together. They have some very cute games that are designed to create conversations between parents and kids, which I like quite a lot.  Ciufcia stated that ½ of  families in Poland have tried this product. Soon they will be in the App Store here in the US.

Playtell has created a unique app based reading experience that lets Parents and Kids read together. It’s kind of a mash-up of Skype and Interactive books that let’s families read together even when they’re apart. It’s a cool feature!

Start-up Tipitap presented something very fun called HappiTap.  Happitap turns your iPhone into a cuddly stuffed animal.  The phone slips easily into an animal “costume” and becomes the brains of the plush toy.  Happitap is as if Teddy Ruxpin used an iPhone instead of an electronic chip.  Tipitap has created a platform that seems perfect for licensed characters!

Fingerprint wasn’t launching anything new at LAUNCH EDUCATION, but we still had fun and got great feedback from the judges. “You’re Rocking”,  “Love it”, “Very Smart” to name a few!   Here’s a picture of me pitching my heart out.

Great to see so many wonderful companies creating apps that unite families around learning!  It will be fun to watch what happens next.

Attention Grabbing Headline

Yesterday I had the thrill of reading an article about my company, Fingerprint in my local paper, The Marin Independent Journal, affectionately known as the “IJ”. Great article. The reporter told our story well and made me a minor celebrity for a day here in Mill Valley.  I also got to take the physical paper and hang it up on the bulletin board at Fingerprint World Headquarters ….. our first print press coverage. Very exciting!

The crazy thing is that I’ve been stewing over the headline, “Mill Valley woman launches new educational game company”.  Seriously?  If a man had started Fingerprint would the headline have read “Man launches new educational game company”?   My first gaming job was at Broderbund Software. Started right here in Marin, by Doug and Gary Carlson. Somehow I doubt the “IJ”  wrote “Two men launch educational gaming company”.  You get my point.

This comes on the heels of last week’s congressional hearing on whether or  not religious related employers should be required to cover the birth control pill and other forms of contraception in their health insurance plans.  All the people testifying were men. Seriously?  It’s probably not surprising since less than 20% of Congress is women and there are very few  senior level women on Obama’s team.

Aileen Lee from Kleiner Perkins wrote a post on Tech Crunch this week titled “Why your next board member should be a woman”.     She goes on to discuss that while women are 51% of the population, they make up only 15% of Fortune 500 boards of directors and even less of California tech company boards.  Over 50 people posted comments to this article,  most questioning her point of view. Mostly men commenting.

I love that the “IJ” showcased me and Fingerprint, but let’s re-write the headline …  and maybe the future. How about something clever like “Hot Gaming Start-up began in Mill Valley” !

Click still needs Brick. Kind of.

People who know me know that I like to shop. Maybe it’s my early days working in sales and calling on virtually every major retailer from Wal*Mart to ToysRUs,  Office Depot to Best Buy, Target to CompUSA that’s given me an appreciation for smart merchandising, great customer service, and the benefits of being in stock. Or maybe I just like to see the constant innovation that is retail. There’s always something new.

This month I’m outfitting the new world headquarters of Fingerprint Digital. All 1625 glorious square feet of it.  I started my journey where all self-respecting start-ups do …. Online at Ikea.  Choose a couple tables, pick some chairs,  maybe a bookcase, 30 minutes and done, right?  Not so fast.  The pictures looked great. Very stylish and cheap, too. I started ordering.   Until I got to the Galant Birch Veneer conference table.   “This item can’t be ordered online”.  Why not?  No explanation given.  So I was left with a dilemma – order everything else and pay the $100 shipping or go to the store, buy it all in person and have my husband cart it home in his new Ford F-150 pick-up. I opted for the store, navigated the directions “find this item in Aisle 9, Bin 27” and purchased my entire office set-up in less than 30 minutes. Pretty cool, except  I had wanted to buy it online and avoid the whole store thing.  The store visit also saved me from buying a bright orange vinyl sofa that looked amazing online, but was dreadfully tacky in person.

The next task was White Boards.  I figured Staples was the logical place. They have the big red “Easy” button, right? And the free shipping on orders over $100. A quick online search showed me over 200 different White Board related SKUs on Staples.com ranging in price from $229 to $500 for a 4X6 size, which was way out of my price zone. I then checked Amazon where prices were as low as $100 for virtually the same item.  Since it seemed to good to be true, I went over to Staples to check it out. They had a nice White Board display with a sign that said “ask us about 4×6”  and a price of  $109.  After searching for someone to ask, I went to the self service computer, typed in the SKU number only to have it say “Not Available in Store”.   Interesting. Item not available online. Item not available in store. Just where might this Staples item be available? Office Depot?  Frustrated I found a sales guy with a big red “Easy” button on his shirt. We discussed the White Board.  He didn’t bother looking at the computer. He walked me back into the warehouse and found the item and told me that sometimes the computer system just gets it wrong.  I bought the 2 White Boards and then realized that I’d have my personal delivery guy (aforementioned husband with pick-up truck) come get them. The warehouse guy took down my name on a post-it note and literally stuck it to the register. He said “tell your husband to ask for Bob”.   Bob made the big red “Easy” button a reality – even though multiple processes at Staples had failed.

In the same week I also experienced Home Depot (A+ for customer service, C for stock), Costco (A+ and the coffee maker I bought was 30% less than at Bed Bath and Beyond), Best Buy (ordered online, picked up in store A+ and the whole transaction took less than 10 minutes), and the AT&T Store (don’t get me started).  I had the best experience of all  with Wal*Mart.com. Next time I might start with there!

Undoubtedly I could have bought everything from Amazon, saved a lot of time and maybe money.  But like I said, I like to shop ….. and the reminder I got about creating an amazing customer experience – no matter what the business made the challenges at retail worth the trouble.