Education

Play Impossible - The Gameball

Written by witf.org, | Apr 4, 2018 9:21 AM
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Kevin shares business ideas with friends from Bucknell University (credit: Bucknell University)

Kevin Langdon calls himself a serial entrepreneur because he has made a career out of starting companies. But he found his best inspiration at home.

Concerned that his three boys were spending more time on the couch and on their mobile devices than being active, he began looking for solutions more creative than simply limiting screen time.

He was determined to find creative ways to get his kids off the couch and socializing, while still allowing them to use their mobile devices. He and his business partners began drawing up concepts, building prototypes, and testing ideas with their families and friends. They watched how everyone reacted, waiting and hoping to see something magical happen.

One day while at the store with his family, Kevin bought some ordinary toy balls, took them home and cut them open. His team put electronics inside the balls to measure speed, spin and altitude and give real-time digital feedback when throwing the balls. Their families' reactions revealed they had discovered something special.

It was an innovative breakthrough, but the real work was just beginning. To launch the toy commercially they would have to determine the cost of mass manufacturing and packaging. They had to find a way to get the ball onto store shelves. They had to consider licensing and associated efforts of building a national brand.

They formed a new company, Play Impossible, and reached out to Bucknell's University's Small Business Development Center for help. The SBDC connected Play Impossible with local investors who provided contacts with venture capitalists across the country.

Play Impossible also established a relationship with Bucknell's mechanical and computer engineering departments, who helped to solve technical problems. The professors and student engineers preferred solving real world problems over those found in a text book, so it was a win-win situation.

Play Impossible made the Gameball available to consumers in October 2017, just in time for the holidays. They sold their whole inventory.

Today, Play Impossible continues to make and improve the Gameball.  Kevin believes firmly that it is an exciting time to be an entrepreneur because of the vast number of resources that can be found locally, even in a small town like Lewisburg, PA.  He credits much of his company's current success to the technical and business help it received from Bucknell and the relationships the university provided.

The biggest lesson he taught his sons?  If you have a great idea and want to know how to turn it into a success story, look for resources to help.  The first step is the easiest.  Get off the couch.


Transcript:

As a parent, Kevin Langdon saw his kids spending more time on their electronic devices and less time being active.  That's why he and his friends created Play Impossible. 

Kevin Langdon: We looked for ways that we could embrace technology but also solve that problem and get kids up get kids moving.

They took 21st-century technology and put it inside the world's oldest toy... the ball!  

Early tests went great. Everyone loved the way the ball tracked things like speed, spin, and how high it was thrown, all on a smart device.

Kevin Langdon: And when you had that real time digital experience with that ball it was magical right out of the gate. 

But bringing the product to market was difficult, so Kevin's team reached out to Bucknell University's Small Business Development Center. 

The Center offered business plan advice and connected Play Impossible with the College of Engineering, where design challenges were addressed in class projects.  

Kevin Langdon: We have problems that need solved and these students want experience and need experience in solving problems so it's kind of a great you know kind of win-win solution.

Today, kids are trading screen time for physical, interactive fun, and Play Impossible continues to work on new games and products. 


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Find more information about Play Impossible at https://www.playimpossible.com/

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The Bucknell University Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has been helping businesses start, grow, and prosper for over 35 years in Union, Northumberland, Juniata, Montour, Perry and Snyder counties. The center provides education, information and consulting to entrepreneurs just investigating a market opportunity and developing a business plan, as well as to existing businesses seeking to innovate, grow, and sustain. The Bucknell University SBDC is part of the Pennsylvania SBDC network, the only statewide, nationally accredited program providing high quality one-on-one consulting, training and information resources to empower new and existing businesses. The SBDC program is a public/private partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and 18 universities and colleges across the Commonwealth.

Learn more about Bucknell University's Small Business Development Center at https://www.bucknell.edu/SBDC 

Support for Innovation U comes from PNC.

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Innovation U is a project from WITF, where we share stories of entrepreneurs and Pennsylvania universities who are working together to make new ideas come to life.  Learn more at witf.org/innovation

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