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Today’s post is a guest post from my friend Nicholas Napp. We first met five years ago and while I’ve never invested in anything he’s done, I’ve tried to be helpful along the way. Nick is currently running a company called MoveableCode and has a great Kickstarter campaign going for his latest product Incantor (Magic Made Real). Go check out the campaign and support him if you are interested. In the mean time, enjoy his story about Never Giving Up and Never Surrendering. And yes, I recently “invested” in Nick via Kickstarter at the $250 level – I now am excitedly waiting for my Incantor Nobilis for 2.
First – an overview on what I’m working on now
I founded MoveableCode back in 2009, initially to do some mobile Augmented Reality research on a National Science Foundation SBIR grant. We quickly learned that we could make cool things but no money and pivoted. Two years later, we are all about innovative mobile entertainment. We have a grand vision to build a kickass company and Incantor is a big part of that.
Post pivot, I’ve been lucky enough to lure in two good friends, Kevin Mowrer and Trivikram Prasad. Kevin used to run all of R&D for Hasbro and founded their entertainment division. He used to be a client of mine. Triv was an engineer at a company I worked for when I first came to the US as a product manager. He went on to lead teams for Intel and Intuit and is now based in Bangalore, India. I’ve known both of them for 15+ years and we immediately clicked as a team. We’ve raised a modest amount of money, just enough to get some proof points and are now getting in to high gear.
Incantor is our vision of what happens when addictive gameplay is combined with immersive, community-driven fantasy. It is built on a simple premise: Magic Made Real. The game unites people, places and things and is played with your smartphone, a magic wand and your friends. The magic wand is a sophisticated bluetooth device and the game is played as a fantasy LARP in the real world.
We made the decision to go the Kickstarter route because we wanted to connect with fans. Community is vitally important to the game and we want to embrace that from day one. There’s nothing quite like it out there… and there are some really cool parts we’re not talking about yet. This is going to be a fun ride… “Do or do not. There is no try.”
Rewind to five years ago
Brad was my first VC man-crush. About five years and a couple of startups ago, I mercilessly tracked him down and he was good enough to meet and hear the pitch for the startup I was with at the time.
To say we were excited was an understatement. This was the guy that we wanted to meet. If he heard our pitch, the infatuation would be instant and we would walk away with a nice big check. We were going to score!
Sadly, I can say with some confidence that it was the worst pitch I have ever given. Everything that could go wrong did. We crashed and burned as badly as possible and Brad and his colleagues were as gracious as they could be. I even made the “oh no you didn’t” mistake of mis-dialing after the meeting and accidentally calling Brad as he went to the airport.
But as an entrepreneur, you move forward by getting up after you fall down. That startup died, but I stayed in contact with Brad and we’ve chatted many times since then.
MoveableCode is my latest startup and it’s been getting some great early traction. He’s now a backer of our Kickstarter project and I couldn’t be more pleased.
As the saying goes… Never give up, never surrender
After a long really fun day yesterday at TechStars and StartLabs I wandered over to 34-101 to be on a panel for Joost Bonsen and Joe Hadzima‘s IAP class 15.S21: The Nuts and Bolts of Business Plans. It’s not really a class about business plans rather a class about starting a business and has been regularly modernized by Joost and Joe. On the panel were the two founders of Super Mechanical (creators of Twine) which is an awesome project that used Kickstarter for its initial financing (and that I’m an excited supporter / customer of.) I had a fun day and wish I had found more IAP courses to help teach and participate in this trip.
After the course finished at 9:30, Joost and I wandered over to the Muddy Charles for a beer. When I crawled into bed at 12:30 my head was full of a ton of awesome ideas that came out of our rambling three hour discussion. I’ve been friends with Joost since the early 1990′s when we first met around the MIT 10K competition and have been a huge fan of his ever since.
Among other things we talked about the startup ecosystem in and around MIT and the evolution of Boston as a region. The comments in my post from yesterday titled I’m in Cambridge, Not Boston were great and stimulated additional thinking on this topic, as did Joost’s experience here over the past 20 years. Joost has incredible knowledge and history of the region and of MIT, which occasionally appears in posts like How Kendall Square Became Hip: MIT Pioneered University-Linked Business Parks but is really apparent when you spend extended time with him talking about MIT, how it evolved, what it is today, who has been involved along the way, and the entrepreneurial community that has evolved around it.
About mid-way through the conversation Joost dropped two phrases on me that blew my mind. The first was “Creative Construction.” As we were talking about startup communities and the new book I’m working on, Joost said “How about a play on words on Schumpeter’s “creative destruction” and call your theory about startup communities “creative construction” instead. After I put the exploded pieces of my brain back together and said “that is exactly fucking right” he went on. “Think of entrepreneurship as a tool of mass construction.”
The play on words is just delicious. And right on – we are talking about an awesome positive force in the world and should be using language that represents that. At the core of our conversation was the notion that an entrepreneurial region like Boston is actually a collection of 100,000 person “entrepreneurial neighborhoods” (that’s what Kendall Square is, as distinct from the Fort Point Channel area, or the Leather District, or what’s going on in Davis Square, or …). And the idea that creative construction drives this – and the neighborhoods are part of a broader entrepreneurial community (in the region) is a construct that resonates with me.
I’m off to HubSpot to give a talk, a swing through Venture Cafe at CIC, and then back to StartLabs for the rest of the day. My three weeks in Boston (well – Cambridge) with a side trip to New York is coming to an end. It’s been amazing, enlightening, educational, productive, and a lot of fun.