Alex Fleetwood is a game guru motivated by a simple purpose: using technology to connect people in real life.
His first company was Hide&Seek, a design studio that created games for companies like Nike and PlayStation. He became fascinated with games that integrate physical and digital elements. That inspired him to co-found Sensible Objects with several other developers interested in creating games for the connected home.
Sensible Object’s‘ flagship game is called Beasts of Balance. It’s similar to Jenga; players place “beasts” of different shapes and sizes on a podium and try not to knock the tower over.
The London-based startup is currently in Seattle to work through the inaugural Alexa Accelerator, a new program that Amazon is running in partnership with Techstars. The accelerator supports early-stage companies developing technologies related to Amazon’s popular artificial intelligence and machine learning-powered voice platform.
We caught up with Fleetwood for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “We combine the best of tabletop and digital play.”
Inspiration hit us when: “Our first game, Beasts of Balance started when Alex was making a fire in a campsite in California. While stacking bits of firewood and watching pelicans fly by, he had an idea for a game that linked the balance of nature with the balance of objects.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “All of the above! We’ve done two successful Kickstarter campaigns, sold over 15,000 units of Beasts of Balance to date, and we’ve raised seed investment from angels and VCs. Shipping hardware is a lengthy and expensive process and you need help. Having success in sales helps unlock investment, and investment is essential to have success in sales.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Deep integration between product design, engineering, and software in our game teams, along with fast prototyping using makerspace technologies.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “It’s not a move exactly, but shipping Beasts of Balance on time was a huge achievement and unlocked all our success since then.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “We did a big partnership with a retailer who went bankrupt just after our first Christmas. Small bricks and mortar retail partners expose product startups to a lot of risk.”
Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Bezos. Companies who have huge strength in both tech and retail are creating new customer channels for games like ours. And of the list you gave me, Amazon stands out.”
Our favorite team-building activity is: “Arguing. Also playing games. While arguing.”
The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “People who get games from a design and technology perspective, but who are passionate about a future where games are inclusive and social.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: Ship.
Editor’s note: GeekWire is featuring each of the nine companies in the Alexa Accelerator leading up to their Demo Day Oct. 17.