Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Spy Quest: "Ingress for Kids"... It's Gonna be Big

There's a man out there... walks up Scotland's Streets, 
Been working on the "Ingress for Kids" 
Has been for 7 years. 
And he takes no lip of nobody because he's a bona fide Spy Guy 
And inspires kids to read
And he packs schools and shopping centres
And Children call him Agent Jones
But really he's David Goutcher
He never lets on 
I know because my kid thinks it's real
He let me know a secret and how big his AR game is gonna be
No idea what he's gonna  buy
Gonna deserve every penny 

The third last line of that little ditty isn't exactly true. Because I have explored the way that ideas roll out in 2013 and used Pokemon Go to draw these ideas out in practice... I saw from a mile off that when people say that "Spy Quest is an overnight success" in the not-too-distant future it's because of the hustle that's going on at the moment.

No one is more aware than I am that I've advocated for a few products and ideas that have not always panned out as I thought. With this in mind, the assessment in this post and others in this blog about SpyQuest are not made lightly.

Regarding some of these projects where they promised much (and where I invested as much as ten years of my time), it might be worth highlighting - whether an EdTech startup, educator-led movement or government led initiative like FELTAG - getting everything right is no easy feat.

In my last two posts I wonder about

  • The failure education reform initiatives like FELTAG, compare them with Udacity's success and the impact failed/"evolved" projects like FELTAG will have on young people's job prospects. 
  • How much I've learned from being involved in these projects when they have not worked out so well (and/or failed to live up to their early promise). Reading Zero to One helped assessing the lessons learnt.

I detail my experiences with Spy Quest and reference Peter Thiel's book "Zero to One" to highlight how and why:
Spy Quest... It's gonna be big!

Some EdTech Startup Lessons
So... an update from Angel List highlighted that Peter Thiel and Blake Masters book was at the top of a few must read book lists – so I got it. After reading it I found:

1)      How, why and where my ideas have value
2)      I have a better understanding of why things have been so tough
3)      How some of the projects and collaborations that “failed” were not uncommon
4)      How close I am to “Product Market Fit” with some of my ideas and
5)      Reading this awesome book has helped me figure out what I need to do next.

Thank you Peter and Blake!

“How much of what you know about business is shaped by mistaken reaction to past mistakes?”

Is one of the questions that is asked. I’m not sure that I’ve had that many mistaken reactions to past mistakes, but I sure have learnt from each and every mistake. I know that
  • I worked on an innovative project that had value, but the opportunity was wasted, because the Managing Director decided to take a slide down Jim Collins "5 Stages of Decline"
  •  I have given my time freely to a number of projects but that the culture wasn’t quite right.
  • Organizations that can clearly articulate their core values are in a far better place than most organizations... But I also know that a lot of people’s idea of core values = A cat poster
I value educators (and my!) time! I also know that my reputation is all I have. If I recommend a project that doesn’t pan out, then people may be less likely to look at any others.

However, getting this mix right is very difficult. How difficult? Well there seems to be 2 Unicorn Companies (A valuation of over $1 billion) in Scotland at the moment... But the seven companies that the "PayPal Mafia" went on to create at all worth $1 billion!

In the past I've written about tools that looked pretty useful. Today I am a lot more careful when it comes to the product AND the culture and team before recommending any product or ideas on this blog.

Some Personal Lessons and Experiences
When Tony Blair was banging on about “Things can Only Get Better” and David Cameron was championing “Aspirational Families” and the banks were giving 125% mortgages things were going quite well for us… I had taken some risks and chances that saw us going from minimum wage to "doing OK".

After working with what might be seen as the Del Boy of Scottish EdTech, I set my sights on collaborating with people who create great products – Major Tech companies and/or Silicon Valley Start ups - No easy task for a random EdTech sales guy!

Trying to achieve this has led to an alternative lifestyle – one that has led to plenty of scarcity and stress.

The choices made and the psychological price of entrepreneurship has led to asking some difficult questions as provider and parent.

What’s all this got to do with anything about Spy Quest? Well, EVERYTHING!

Product Market Fit... And Zombie Loyalists
Last June I met David Goutcher for the first time. I got The first Spy Quest book, Polybius, after we met and my youngest son soon became a fan - I soon followed - as I saw how the book and game brought reading to life and had a positive impact on his confidence.

Since last June David and I have kept in touch and I've pitched in as and when I could to assist with some of the projects he's been working on. I've written 3-4 posts in support of David's work, here are three reasons why I'm a fan:

1)     I’ve sat at my laptop trying to make ideas work with nothing more than an outdated laptop and my kids have seen no outward signs of any progress being made – Nor have I at times! 

However, I have been edging towards “Product Market Fit” (Slowly… but surely) and David has helped me to demonstrate the value of some of these ideas.

)      I have seen how David treats his fans. I’ve not read about any core values... I’ve seen him live the values that are important to him!

When a founders actions towards his fans remind you of Peter Shankman's Zombie Loyalists... you sure do sit up and take note!

3)     Last but by no means least, David has not only inspired my kids with his work... he has also helped me to demonstrate the value of what I’ve been working on to them too. Thank You David!

The mission that Agent Isaac went on in November is a day that Joy from Inside Out would call a “Core Memory”… I certainly won’t forget it in a hurry!!

The story that I told on this mission was one that’s told regularly in our house... but telling it on a mission with other children and someone my son looks up to sure did seem to make a difference!

Last month my oldest son came with me to a Scottish Community Manager Meetup where I presented on my experiences making the transition from sales to community management, which David also attended.

We traveled back with David and he re-iterated the importance of what I had been working on to him.
I’m sure we are not the only family that’s seen better times but find ourselves under a bit of stress. 

If David’s work can bring books and reading to life and inspire the children in one household, why can’t he do it for a lot more? The answer isn't only none... There is no reason he can't, it's also... That he does!

In Zero To One Peter Thiel highlights how hard it is to pick a winning investment... he also provides some fantastic insights and advice about the culture he established at PayPal.

Whether looking at the technology used, the impact on literacy, questioning is Spy Quest has achieved “product market fit,” looking at the organizational culture or just generally looking at the way he inspires kids because of the way he treats his young fans.

From what I’ve seen from David’s work over the last 6 months... Spy Quest looks like the real deal!

Spy Quest... It's Gonna be big! 

No comments:

Post a Comment