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This blog represents my own views, not those of my employer, Brooklyn Bridge Ventures.

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« Thinking About the Next Chief Digital Officer of New York City | Main | Tough Questions »

The Return of Play

If I was going to start a venture capital fund around a theme, I'd pick something a little different.  Forget Enterprise, or Mobile...  It wouldn't be "networks" or any other standard classification of startup.  No geographic focus.

I'd start a fund around "Play". 

Play, it seems, is making a huge run and should be positioned for success for a long time.  

Sure, people have been playing with things for years, but the businesses created have been in the gaming space--experiences with winners and losers, leaderboards and points.  

What I'm most bullish about is wide open, free-form play--the act of exploring, creating, and being curious.  I don't think there's anything more important that you can teach a kid than to be curious about the world, but we've run into a problem where resolution had gotten so high, we don't have to imagine anything anymore.  Instead of the Legos I grew up on, where I took random bricks and made them into things I'd never seen before, you've now got disassembled toys.  You buy the Lego Star Wars spaceship in pieces in order to put together the Star Wars spaceship--not to mention that because it's Star Wars, the spaceship you build already comes with characters and a story. 

No imaginaton needed.  You don't have to play, you just replay.  We're fed so much content that our ability to generate unique and original ideas feels like it's in jeopardy.  

Coupled with education systems lacking for inspiration, anything that can create a spark in a child is in high demand.

Scarcity + high demand = Happy VC all too willing to fund playful things and entrepreneurs ready to play.

I'm talking about companies like littleBits, which makes tiny circuit-boards with specific functions engineered to snap together with magnets--"juiced Lego".  There's Makerbot, which let you print out 3D objects you design yourself at home.  Minecraft let's you create whole worlds online from the most basic elements.  

Tinybop, a company my fund invested in, calls its products the "toys of tomorrow", and it's first app, the Human Body, doesn't have a way to win, but it does have a handbook for parents.  Instead of cheat codes, it provides a lot of questions to inspire your kids to think and explore.  Goldieblox, sort of like an erector set for girls, and Kano, a DIY computer kit, are focused on getting kids interested in engineering and science.  

These companies are not only getting millions in VC investments, but huge revenues as well.  Parents are making the "how much do you love your kid" market a very lucrative one to play in.  

And it's not just parents in the US.  When Tinybop launched, they weren't just the #1 education app in the US, they went to the top in over 100 countries.  Being #1 in education in China meant being the country's #8 app overall, lest you need a reminder of how important the rest of the world thinks of education.  

So if you're toying around with something you think can inspire kids, you might want to grab some time with a VC (especially if you're in NYC).  

 

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