In this episode of In Process Podcast: Conversations about Business in the 21st Century, Trusted Counsel’s John Monahon speaks with Marty Schultz, a successful technology entrepreneur with a background in software engineering, about Blindfold Games, an app development company he founded in 2014. “The idea was a result of the App Club, an after-school program I was teaching at my daughters’ school,” Marty told us. “The kids wanted to build a game. I agreed to do the programming and demonstrate how games are designed. The caveat, since I was programming was that it had to be different and more interesting than other games.” And it was. Today, more than 25,000 visually impaired people of all ages from around the world enjoy the wildly successful Blindfold Games series of games. Perhaps more importantly, Marty leveraged what he learned with building a new for profit enterprise.
So, how does a visually impaired kid living in a digital world actually play a game on their smart device? Through sound from the device. The first game in the Blindfold Racer series is car racing game where the players rely on their hearing versus their sight to play. The concept, Marty explained is simple in that the user uses their device like a steering wheel. If you steer too far left, the sound, typically music, increases in your left ear bud as your indicator to adjust the device to the right. And if the music gets too loud in your right ear bud, you need to steer the device more to the left. Scoring is also based on sound. A winning sound could be popping popcorn while losing sounds could be hearing annoying barking dogs.
Prior to adding the first game to the app store, the game concept was tested with about fifty volunteer blind testers from around the world. Over the course of eight weeks, the game was updated through various iterations. An aha moment was when one of the testers said that sighted people would think that the device is broken if the screen is black during the game. As a result, screen animation became a key element. The same child who was behind the aha moment, named the game Blindfold Racer.
Over time, teachers of visually impaired students learned about these games from their students, and as a result, started using the games in their classrooms to teach their students skills since students with vision impairments struggle to get a solid K-12 education. The games provided teachers a tool to focus on skills missing from a solid education. Marty received feedback from teachers with ideas for new educational games. He also received feedback to broaden his games to special needs students that have conditions such as autism, ADD, and Dyslexia. He immediately dove into market research and he and his team soon formed a new company, ObjectiveEd.
This summer, ObjectiveEd (the new company) plans to close their Series A investment round. Marty said, “Even though the blind community is relatively small, all our innovations apply across the board and we realized impairments are not a small problem.” 18.5% of American children under the age of 18 are Special Needs Children. And according to World Report on Disability, approximately one billion people in the world are living with a disability, with at least 1 in 10 being children. ObjectiveEd believes they can provide amazing technology to have a huge impact on visually impaired, special needs, and other disabled children’s education.
What kind of feedback is your business receiving from clients? Is there opportunity to broaden your business services, or how about going through a business transformation? How is the market changing and how is your business filling in the gap? And lastly, can your business have any type of social impact? Food for thought.
During the podcast CEOs, business owners, and C-level executives will learn:
How ideas become technology
Marty’s process for research and testing
How a “hobby” company can identify for profit business ideas
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