Bryanne Leeming, "A Passion for Action"

The best measure of a founder is how much she can get done with limited resources. By this metric, Bryanne Leeming is an outstanding founder.

A couple of years ago she had a paper prototype and vague hopes for a Kickstarter program. Now she has a sleek physical product that works and is likely to get built. She has the software to make it valuable and she’s completed a successful Kickstarter campaign.

The interview with Bryanne Leeming left me inspired.

Click here to read the full episode transcript

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Here’s some of what we talked about:

  • Bryanne Leeming Bio
  • How Bryanne Leeming Decided She Wanted to Be a Founder
  • What Bryanne Leeming Got from Her Babson MBA
  • Balancing Time Between Consulting Gigs & Working on Her Startup
  • How Being an Athlete Affects the Work Bryanne Leeming Does
  • Bryanne Leeming Tells the Unruly Studio Story
  • How Bryanne Leeming Overcame Not Being a Technical Founder
  • Sal Reads a Listener Review – Asks Listeners to Review the Podcast on iTunes
  • Bryanne Leeming Tells About Her Kickstarter Experience
  • Bryanne Leeming’s Tips for Founders on Fundraising
  • How Unruly Studios Is Doing a Lot with Few Resources
  • Unruly Studio’s Go to Market Plans
  • Product Roadmap for Unruly Studios
  • Bryanne Leeming on Taking Advice as a Founder

Trancscript of "A Passion for Action" 

GUEST: BRYANNE LEEMING, Founder

SAL DAHER: Welcome to Angel Invest Boston, conversations with Boston's most interesting angel investors and founders. I am Sal Daher, and my goal for this podcast is to learn more about building successful new companies. The best way I can think of doing this is by talking to people who are doing it, people such as founder, Bryanne Leeming. Bryanne, I'm thrilled we finally got a chance to schedule this interview. Thanks for coming in.

BRYANNE LEEMING: Thank you so much for having me, Sal.

Bryanne Leeming Bio

SAL DAHER: This is exciting. I'm pleased to introduce my listeners to a superb, young founder. Bryanne Leeming graduated from McGill in 2012 with the degree in brain science. She worked in marketing for a couple of years, then went to Babson to do her MBA. In the fall of 2014, as she started at Babson, she also founded a startup named 'Unruly Studios' to create a way for kids age six and up to learn STEM concepts, while doing physical exercise and engaging in social play.

This idea came to her from her early experience with computer programming, combined with her studies in human cognition. An athlete in college and in graduate school, Bryanne really understands the social dimension of play and exercise. Bryanne had many obstacles in her way. The market she was addressing is highly competitive and difficult to access at scale. Her product involved both a hardware and a software component. However, she worked hard to put together all the pieces needed to get to a prototype of her product.

Her energetic leadership brought in technical experts, as well as seasoned business people to help her with very, very minimal resources I should mention. I mean, she was really running on fumes for the first two years. I first met Bryanne in July of 2016 when she had some software and an early, early prototype of her device. By the time it launched its Kickstarter campaign in October of 2017, Unruly Studios was able to show a much more advanced version of its device, now called 'Splat'. Perhaps more importantly, she's had thousands of kids using her device and software since I first met her. This for me is the best measure of a founder, how much they're able to do with minimal resources.

How Bryanne Leeming Decided She Wanted to Be a Founder

SAL DAHER: Bryanne, it's a tradition to this podcast to dedicate the first question to our hugely successful guests and ask them how they found their path in life. How did you discover that you wanted to be a founder?

BRYANNE LEEMING: For me, I didn't always know that I wanted to be a founder, but when looking back at past things that I've done, it definitely all adds up. As a kid growing up, my parents owned a restaurant in Hanover, New Hampshire, several actually, and so it was always part of my life to be running a business and being part of that, so for 10 years, I was working in the restaurant, learning what it was from the inside and how to run a business and seeing that, and I think that was definitely a major inspiration for me seeing my parents run this successful business.

SAL DAHER: Okay.

BRYANNE LEEMING: Another thing that I noticed is when I look back that I always liked making things, even at a young age, even through high school, through college. I was always just drawn to bringing people into a group and making things, whether it was like early lemonade stands and stuff like that, or just like the classic example, but even to things like I joined the video production team at our TV station in college, and was always building new segments and things like that. It all added up in the long term I was an artist in high school, so as I look back, I definitely see that I was using the same process building all of these different experiences. And I worked at a startup in New York City, which was-

SAL DAHER: Okay.

BRYANNE LEEMING: Yeah, which it was about 130 people, which was a really great size, because they were just starting to implement processes.

SAL DAHER: Right.

BRYANNE LEEMING: It was growing really fast, and that just gave me the spark thinking, "I can do this. I think I want to be a founder", ended up going to get my MBA at Babson, and so that was a big spark for me was being part of that as well.

What Bryanne Leeming Got from Her Babson MBA

SAL DAHER: Okay. You had this experience with the startup, the fast-growing startup in New York City, and then you went to your MBA at Babson. What did you get out of the MBA?

BRYANNE LEEMING: Yeah. I mean, incredible experience. I definitely came in wanting to do something, education, technology-related. That was something I had noticed I was really passionate about from my undergrad degree in cognitive science, so came in to Babson, hoping to get into edtech, and really do a career switch from what I was at the time in advertising technology. Being at that startup in New York City definitely gave me the spark to want to come back to school, and I chose Babson because it's experiential learning.

Everything they do is very hands-on. I had almost actually gone there for undergrad. I had been interested in it for a while, and just everything about it, being hands-on, that's definitely come out in my startup as well and in the experience that we offer to kids.

SAL DAHER: Yeah.

BRYANNE LEEMING: It's all experiential learning because it's the best way to learn, so it gave me a lot of opportunity to both grow the startup and develop myself while I was there. Joined a lot of different accelerators and things like that on campus while I was there, so I basically dedicated a lot of time there to building the startup and to using every resource possible to make it, to take it as far as I could while I was in school, which worked really well.

SAL DAHER: Yes. Very good. That's interesting. That's what you got from Babson. Any other thoughts on your Babson experience?

BRYANNE LEEMING: It was just such a supportive place to start a company, and what I found is that I had all these professors who are incredibly supportive of me starting a company. I was taking a class at the time that I was just early in fundraising for the very first prototype that we were building for Unruly, and one of my professors ... It was a fundraising class, teaching all about how to get access to funding and different options, grants, et cetera, anything to start a company. Funny enough, my investor pitch to Rough Draft Ventures was scheduled during that class, but my professor was so supportive, let me go. I ended up raising our first check by skipping that class to go actually raise the money, so it was a great support system there. People knew I was starting a company, and were really supportive of that.

SAL DAHER: Now, younger people, Bryanne, didn't skip any classes before she got that. Perhaps, the only class in her life.

BRYANNE LEEMING: That was the only class. Exactly.

Balancing Time Between Consulting Gigs & Working on Her Startup

SAL DAHER: She's somebody who dots her I's and crosses her T's. I mean, she's not a hair out of place. She's on time. She's superbly on top of things. I understand that you work as a consultant, have been working as a consultant for the last couple of years that you're trying to get the startup off the ground so that you can bootstrap it. How do you balance your time with consulting and your time with the startup?

BRYANNE LEEMING: Yeah. Definitely, because for the most part for the first two years of the company, we were bootstrapped, so I did determine during my MBA program with both my husband and family, everyone around me that this was the right time for me to start this company, and so I'm really lucky and I was determined that I knew it was the right time, but I'm really lucky to have their support. Tim, my husband, he ended up supporting me by paying rent for the whole, about a year, a little over a year and on a teacher salary, which is we both changed our lifestyle for that as well.

SAL DAHER: I can't imagine.

BRYANNE LEEMING: Yeah. Yeah, and so having his support, and then I ended up taking on some consulting, several consulting jobs at a time sometimes just to be able to put a bit more money into the business as well. With doing both at the same time, the importance for me was that in any extra consulting that I took on, that it was very flexible timing because with the startup, I've found that flexibility is really key. I need to be able to go to New York in a second, or if I had to take a certain meeting or switch times and be flexible with my time so that I can make a progress quickly, and so for that, that was what really made the consulting work for me, was that I could do it at night, I could do it early in the morning if I had to, so finding positions like that where they were flexible with the time and just gave me assignments that I could complete was nice. What was really interesting that came out of it is that ...

I mean, I'm no longer doing it. I'm now full-time Unruly. Today is officially my first payday with Unruly, which is exciting.

SAL DAHER: Awesome. Congratulations. That's a momentous time. Yes.

BRYANNE LEEMING: It is. Yeah. Throughout all this, I was also planning a wedding. I got married a month ago, which felt like an extra consulting gig for me.

SAL DAHER: Oh my. Consulting startup and wedding. Applauses to you. I applaud.

BRYANNE LEEMING: It was a lot, but yeah. Through all of that, it was really interesting doing all those things while doing the startup because with the startup, things are always a little bit unknown. The goals are less clear. Your traction is often only clear after some time to see like what worked and what didn't.

SAL DAHER: Yes. Yes.

BRYANNE LEEMING: Whereas with some of the consulting stuff that I was doing, as well as with the wedding planning, it was very structured. It was like, "Okay. We have this list of things to do", and we do it, and we're done, and so, doing that alongside with the startup was nice just in terms of balancing how I was getting about doing things.

SAL DAHER: You relished having some boxes to check.

BRYANNE LEEMING: Yeah. Yeah. It was-

SAL DAHER: In a startup, there are no box ... You have to create the boxes.

BRYANNE LEEMING: Exactly. It felt easy really. Yeah.

SAL DAHER: Yeah. Creating the boxes to check is the hardest thing in a startup.

BRYANNE LEEMING: That's a good way of putting it.

How Being an Athlete Affects the Work Bryanne Leeming Does

SAL DAHER: Yeah. Bryanne, you were an athlete in college. You were an athlete in high school. You were an athlete in grad school. How does being an athlete affect the work you do?

BRYANNE LEEMING: I think it was really crucial and is a big part of me starting the company. I as a kid was a gymnast for 10 years, and that was the best training I could have gotten in self-determination, in motivating myself, in working really hard and responding to feedback, because with gymnastics, you're just constantly getting coachable.

SAL DAHER: You have to be coachable. Yeah.

BRYANNE LEEMING: You're getting feedback from judges all the time. That was just really a good start for me and helped me in going into other sports. I was very strong in and was a fast runner already because as I hit high school, I ended up playing lacrosse. I went into ice hockey and field hockey, gave me a leadership capability as well where I was captain. It shows up in our product as well because the product that we're building is active, you'll see, and we brought in the physical activity, but we also brought in a lot of the team-building skills and soft skills that you'd get from sports into how we teach STEM education.

SAL DAHER: I think there's a trend here. Several of the women founders that I've had here are very athletic. Actually, one didn't want to do the interview sitting down. She wanted to be standing up, Diane Stokes, because I can see you barely can sit still, like you want to go zoom somewhere.

BRYANNE LEEMING: Yeah.

SAL DAHER: That's an interesting observation, I mean, your athleticism, and the leadership, and also your stamina because it's tremendously physically demanding to be a founder. I'm sure our audience is curious to hear about Unruly Studios directly from you, so please tell the founding story and how you got to the present situation.

Bryanne Leeming Tells the Unruly Studio Story

BRYANNE LEEMING: Absolutely. I'll start and tell you a little more about Unruly Studios and how we came to it. Essentially, what we're doing with Unruly Studios is that for the first time ever, we're combining active play with STEM education for kids. Parents all want their kids to be playing, and kids like to play today, and I mean play like running around, jumping around off the couch, that type of play, which we’re not seeing as much these days. I mean, there's definitely a decline in play, so what we're doing is we're incorporating that into this growing trend of parents, kids, teachers all meeting to get into STEM education at a young age because it's preparing them for the future, tech, seeping into every different type of career.

SAL DAHER: Undoubtedly, yes.

BRYANNE LEEMING: It's incredibly important, and just for them to get that early training and internalize it can help them a lot in the long run, so what we're doing is we basically saw this gap in the market where most of the most engaging experiences offered in STEM today are still pretty tied to the screen. They're often solo activities, so they have kids sitting for long periods of time staring at the screen and not engaging with other kids, not doing those things, so we saw this gap and decided to fill it with an active STEM play experience. We're the first active STEM play experience for kids. It's for kids around age six and up, and our first product is Unruly Splats, which are electronic floor tiles. They light up.

They make sound, and kids can run around and jump on them to play active games. They can play anything from Hopscotch to dance routines. They can make relay races with it, obstacle courses, stuff like that, and that style of play, and the coolest part is that it's wirelessly connected to a tablet, so through Bluetooth. They go about 25-foot range. Kids can program new rules into the Splats and make their own games with code.

SAL DAHER: Awesome.

BRYANNE LEEMING: Yeah. That's our first product. We've tested with about 3,000 kids, parents, educators, and they love it, and so we've taken it really far with that. The way that I really came to the idea, it stemmed a lot from my own experience. In college, I took computer science, and in that course, learned Lisp actually, which I never ended up becoming a programmer, but having that early experience really did help me later when I was working at the tech startup later. Anything that I was doing, I felt it helped in all sorts of ways, so I found that it's so important to learn just the basics, even if you're not going to become a programmer, to become able to problem solve in the modern world.

SAL DAHER: Yes. This is so important. Just to emphasize what you're saying, I remember I had a math professor who told me that everyone just study calculus at some level because it informs the way of thinking, gives you a way of looking at the world that is new, and I think the same applies to programming. I think everybody should have some exposure to programming and not that they're going to be coders, but that it can lead to tremendously interesting directions, such as it has in your case.

BRYANNE LEEMING: I completely agree. I just thought early exposure gives them the skills they need to problem solve and be creative problem-solvers, even if they become-

SAL DAHER: Yes.

How Bryanne Leeming Overcame Not Being a Technical Founder

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BRYANNE LEEMING: Whatever they become, so I totally agree. Yeah. I had this early idea, I sketched it out, and I did a pitch at Babson actually in the early days, and immediately met some people interested, started to take some traction from that, built the first prototype out of paper because I'm not technical in that way. Like I haven't done hardware before, but I knew that this product needed to get kids to move around and that we would have to build some hardware element.

SAL DAHER: I give you a lot of credit for bringing in people from Olin, people from all sorts of places. You really network very effectively to get the resources you needed, to get this physical product that you didn't have expertise in creating.

BRYANNE LEEMING: Yeah. Thank you. Yeah. It helped a lot that I think the first prototype I built out of paper, we brought it right away into a school. My friend was teaching in Roxbury, so I brought it in after school, and we tested that one with kids just to see if the experience when we build it out of tech would be engaging, so that went really well. I've launched straight into building the electronic prototype, and I decided, this is probably not as common, but I decided instead of hiring someone to do that at first or finding someone to do it, that I would it myself because I knew in the future, building future products, I wanted that background in the same way that as a kid, I learned coding, but I wanted the background of knowing just the basics of the hardware inside so that in the future, I could help and I could be part of that leadership team of driving the product development, so I worked out of the Artisan's Asylum in Somerville, which is a makerspace, and I learned some beginner Arduino, soldering, and built the very first prototype myself with help from people there.

SAL DAHER: Yes.

BRYANNE LEEMING: I think that helped me build the early team because I was already on my own, building this thing. I went over to Olin and met Amon, who is one of my earliest team members.

SAL DAHER: Yes.

BRYANNE LEEMING: He's our education lead, but he was part of the founding team at Scratch at the MIT Media Lab, and when he saw what I had built as a non-technical founder, he was like, "Oh, this is cool. I want to be a part of this", and he was already doing a lot of research in how to engage kids with STEM, and also in how to get STEM integrated into the real world versus just on the screen, so it was a perfect match. Met him pretty early on, and we ended up bringing on lots of ... It's allowed me to attract to a lot of really talented, experienced people along the way. We have Daniel who came on who had been doing Firmware at iRobot and working on Roomba vacuum, and then brought on David Kunitz, who's from Hasbro and Mattel, and is now helping us manufacture the products. All of them just had this initial passion for STEM education and for what we were doing, and saw the momentum that we had and the traction that we had so far, so yeah.

SAL DAHER: Yeah.

BRYANNE LEEMING: That was kind of-

SAL DAHER: Listeners do think, because I'm a few feet away from Bryanne, this is like Steve Jobs' Reality Distortion Zone, except delivering in a much more sane and pleasant way, but she is tremendously passionate and has been able to distort people's perception of this tremendously unlikely project to actually believe in her and to go on with ... I'm just, I tremendously admire Bryanne. I cannot speak well enough of her. Coming up next, I will ask dynamic young startup founder, Bryanne Leeming about her startup's successful Kickstarter campaign. Kudos to that. Really, a good job.

Sal Reads a Listener Review – Asks Listeners to Review the Podcast on iTunes

First, I wish to thank Deb B8888 - the names - for this great review on iTunes, titled 'Love: The Find Your Calling Segments'. "As someone trying to start a career, I really appreciate Sal asking his guests how they got their start." I do this in every episode, and I think some people find it helpful. Thank you, Deb.

Deb B88888, you provide a fine example of giving back by posting a review on iTunes. It's very important for us in getting found. Angel Invest Boston has great guests like Bryanne Leeming. It's professionally produced and is free of any commercials. The only thing we ask in return is that you help get the word out.

Please leave a review on iTunes. It helps us get found.

Bryanne Leeming Tells About Her Kickstarter Experience

SAL DAHER: Bryanne, what would you like to tell us about your successful Kickstarter campaign?

BRYANNE LEEMING: It was a great experience. We just ran the campaign in October of this year, and I would say it was definitely planned out. It was calculated. I think when we first met, I was already talking about a strategy-

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SAL DAHER: Absolutely. I remember it. Yeah.

BRYANNE LEEMING: Yeah. I was already thinking and talking about our strategy for this Kickstarter because we knew we wanted to do it in the STEM education space. It's a great way to meet our early adopters and really test out some things as well, like the pricing, willingness to pay, et cetera, so building the early community. It was super effective in that and let us meet these people, like some of the thought leaders, influencers in the education space, teachers, parents all found us through the campaign, so yeah. I mean, the long-term effort to where we were collecting emails since the very beginning, so we've done a lot of user testing on all of our prototypes, so throughout the process, we've built about 15 different prototype versions, and we've tested them with about 3,000 kids and parents and educators throughout this time, and always, we were collecting emails because people wanted to stay in touch and find out when it launched, so we were pretty public around that process, and I think it let us move really quickly.

SAL DAHER: Yes.

BRYANNE LEEMING: Then, right leading up to the campaign, we reached out to our community right before to build the momentum for the campaign and got a great response from that, because everyone who had met us over the last two years was just so excited to see it going on Kickstarter and launching. The other thing that we did is we planned out places to be during the campaign, so we were all over, I mean, Boston, New York, Philadelphia. We were actually moving around a lot during the campaign. The whole team at one point, we had one day where we were in three places at the same time.

SAL DAHER: A real roadshow. Wow.

BRYANNE LEEMING: Yeah. Yeah. I was teaching a workshop with the girl scouts at this event, Geek Is Glam out in Worcester, and then Payal, our Director of Growth, she was at the HUB week and demoing there, and we had Daniel was at a Scratch educator meetup, meeting some educators, so it was great. We just really tried to be everywhere at once and get the word out with, especially our targeted community of the people who were really excited about this early STEM education market, and so we ended up-

SAL DAHER: You combined your live events with your online campaign? This is a marketing black belt here. She knows a lot about this stuff. It's remarkable. It's a marketing black belt that at the same time can get a physical device built, which there are a lot of startup ships that crash against building a physical device, and your Splat looks really nice. The listeners will be able to see videos and image on the podcast page of the Splat and of kids jumping on the Splat, and so it's just a lot of fun. Please continue.

BRYANNE LEEMING: No. That was it. I mean, we ended up surpassing our goal and we were just really, really happy with the response.

SAL DAHER: Congratulations.

BRYANNE LEEMING: All positive feedback from the people who saw it, and the best part was meeting people we'd never met before, who found us online, bought the products at the prices that we've said, so it was a great test for us too because it was our first time really publicly putting it online for sales, for pre-sales of the product.

SAL DAHER: Yes. I anticipate this is going to be a product that gets delivered pretty much on time, which is a rarity on Kickstarter.

BRYANNE LEEMING: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I know. It is rare, but we've got David Kunitz from the Hasbro/Mattel. He's been running all of the manufacturing processes.

We already had ... Even the week after the campaign was over, we had a new prototype, and now we're getting two more pretty soon, so it's definitely progressing and we have estimated delivery for next October and over the summer is really going to be when we do the manufacturing runs, so we're on schedule.

SAL DAHER: Yeah. Young founder who knows how to bring greybeards to bear when they're needed.

BRYANNE LEEMING: Exactly. He always says that. He said is, "With our experience in your drive where there's no stopping us."

Bryanne Leeming’s Tips for Founders on Fundraising

SAL DAHER: I have no doubt. No doubt about that. What did you learn in raising money from investors that you think is useful to other founders?

BRYANNE LEEMING: One of the things that I've learned from raising money so far has been how important momentum is and how to keep that going, and not just stop everything to fundraise, but actually to keep everything moving, keep it going all throughout.

SAL DAHER: Yes.

BRYANNE LEEMING: That was something that I've learned, and I definitely recommend it. I think I recommend setting milestones and hitting them, and being really clear with what those milestones are, and hitting or surpassing them for the next round and for the next couple of months and just keeping on this progressive track. That's what I've really learned from it. It's definitely hard to raise money. I'm sure-

SAL DAHER: Roughly, how much have you raised so far?

BRYANNE LEEMING: In total for the company, we've raised about a little under 200,000 so far.

SAL DAHER: Wow.

BRYANNE LEEMING: This current round, we're at 95 and we're raising up to 400.

SAL DAHER: You've made a lot of splash or splat I should say with just $200,000. It's unbelievable.

BRYANNE LEEMING: Yeah.

How Unruly Studios Is Doing a Lot with Few Resources

SAL DAHER: You sound like the juggernaut from all the ... This is really impressive.

BRYANNE LEEMING: Thanks. No. I mean, a lot of it was a strategy of we bootstrapped most of the way. I think there was a realization at one point of all the things that we could get done for free, and I just started going for it, and we found lots of different grants, like we have a grant with the City of Somerville now that lets us work with local engineers for reduced rates and just finding all these different options and opportunities. Contest.

We won this contest, the Brandathon that got us free branding from a professional branding agency that's probably worth about $50,000, and as part of the contest, we got to work with them, and it was just amazing. A lot of these things have just been, and finding people passionate about their project that just want to join because they think it's something they want to be part of. That's really been ... I mean, a lot of our branding help, a lot of graphic design, video, et cetera. We've been able to really pull in this excited, engaged team.

SAL DAHER: That is really, really tremendous. Where would you like to see Unruly Studios go from here? What's the roadmap?

BRYANNE LEEMING: Yeah. Currently, we are very, very focused on our software and creating that experience, because we've done most of the work up until now on the hardware, and we had been linked to Scratch, which is that opensource software language, and so we're now focused on the software experience, building that full play experience with tutorials, challenges, really having the onboarding process and the full out-of-the box experience be amazing, and so that's what we're working on now.

SAL DAHER: Yes.

BRYANNE LEEMING: We have the manufacturing in the works. That's going to be over the summer. Next, Q4 is really our first launch into the market, so we'll be delivering 500 Splats to our Kickstarter backers, and in addition, we're going to build extra Splats, and we're starting to look for those two partners we'll work with for next year, where we'll do a launch with online retailers. Then, 2019 will be all about scaling the success of Q4 2018.

Unruly Studio’s Go to Market Plans

SAL DAHER: Did your Kickstarter ... How are you going to get out to the market beyond the Kickstarter?

BRYANNE LEEMING: We're looking for online retailers who can help us get the word out.

SAL DAHER: Okay.

BRYANNE LEEMING: Still focused on the B2C, so working with parents and individual teachers for now, but we are starting even the summer doing a pilot with summer camps so that we can be starting to think through B2B-

SAL DAHER: You're looking at sort of like B2B2C. Is that what you're saying? You're looking for outlets that will sell to consumers. You're not thinking of going directly to consumers.

BRYANNE LEEMING: We'll have our own sales on our own site of course, but we are looking for two partners that will help us spread the word and really be strong, targeted players so that we're meeting these early adopters where they are.

SAL DAHER: Sure. Okay.

BRYANNE LEEMING: Yeah, and finding the early consumers. There's a really big consumer markets, so it's a $30 billion global STEM toy a market by 2019, so there's a lot of interest, and we do have plans for B2B, but we want to start by creating this great experience in community with customers, and then launch it to B2B places like afterschool programs, museums where we've had a lot of interest, libraries-

SAL DAHER: This is a natural. You had an installation at the Children's Museum. Right?

BRYANNE LEEMING: We've done a lot of work with them. Yeah. We do their Tech Kitchen. We've done their maker fairs, and so we are working towards building something with them as well, and hopefully having that museum strategy on the side where we can have these products lend themselves to public exhibits and places where kids can come in and try it, and so to be able to have that at places like Children's Museums would be amazing in the future as a customer acquisition strategy and be able to sell out of there as well.

SAL DAHER: That is awesome. I can just imagine you have a gazillion tiles in an installation at the Children's Museum, and then the Museum shop has Splats to sell.

BRYANNE LEEMING: Yeah. Exactly. Like you've never been able to take home a museum exhibit before, so that's we'll be able to say that you had fun playing on that, and now, you can actually have it at home for $149 is the first two pack price, and we've got 50 games that are going to be on that.

SAL DAHER: Exactly. That is so amazing. Some pictures of the paper. Actually, if you can send me, I'll put that on the website, the pictures of your first prototype, like the history, and then so people can see how it came from pieces of paper to this very sophisticated, beautiful device with smooth corners and so forth.

BRYANNE LEEMING: Sure. Yeah.

SAL DAHER: I mean, this is, I can't resist it, the comparison of Steve Jobs. Bryanne, is there anything else that you want to say that we haven't touched on?

Product Roadmap for Unruly Studios

BRYANNE LEEMING: I wanted to just quickly say that for the future of Unruly, we have a lot of plans for follow-on products, accessories, et cetera, so it's going to be an entire line of active STEM play products. This is just the first one. I mean, I'm already starting to think of those, but we're staying very focused on the software right now, but that's an exciting up and coming. Ultimately, what we're trying to do is to revolutionize learning through this active play experience that has never been done before. Excited to bring that to kids, and I think doing this as a product, as a company is the best way to get it out to the most amount of kids possible, which is why that I initially started the company.

Bryanne Leeming on Taking Advice as a Founder

In terms of just advice for young founders, I would say what I always say to other young founders, is that you get, especially being a young founder, I think you get a lot of advice from a lot of different places, and so a lot of times, it's be willing to listen to that advice, and then at the same time, realize where it's coming from. What I've learned to do is to make sure that I know which mentors I'm asking which advice from, and prioritize that. Obviously, I take a lot of advice from the traditional toy industry. I have worked with a lot of people from that, but also from tech, and there's great things that I can learn from both, but it's interesting that there's definitely sometimes I'm getting conflicting advice of course, and so it's knowing, "Where do you want to take that advice from at the time and ...?"

SAL DAHER: Right. What's the trick there? It's basically putting into context ... The example that you gave, this guy from Hasbro who's put out a lot of products and he's produced a lot of product, that's somebody who really knows a lot about getting a product, and so you really need that advice. If someone like that were giving you advice about marketing and so forth, perhaps would go to a different source, but I think it's good because you process all of this, and you take it in a very mature way because it's true. Startups don't lack for advice.

BRYANNE LEEMING: Yeah.

SAL DAHER: They are bombarded with advice, and it's important to be able to sort out what is useful, what is not.

BRYANNE LEEMING: Absolutely. Sometimes, I think it's also the hardware/software thing, like I don't want to take too much advice as I'm building this hardware product. I mean, we have a software element as well, but on how to build a software company because there's very different advice that you need. There's very different strategies to take, and so it's not the case where you just put out the earliest, earliest version that doesn't quite work yet with hardware.

SAL DAHER: Completely true. Yes. Yeah.

BRYANNE LEEMING: Like we have a high bar to reach on our first manufacturing run, and so we're very aware of that, and can't quite do the way that a software company might just put something out and iterate it on the fly.

SAL DAHER: Absolutely. Yeah.

BRYANNE LEEMING: We can do that with our software, but we can't with our hardware, and so we're really putting a lot of work into making sure that first experience out of the box is very optimal and good.

SAL DAHER: I understand. I understand. Bryanne Leeming, I'm so glad you made time from your busy schedule to do this interview.

BRYANNE LEEMING: Thank you so much for having me. It was a great experience. Thanks.

SAL DAHER: It's really wonderful. Your determination and resourcefulness is really inspiring. Listeners, if you enjoyed this podcast, please review it on iTunes. Write to me at Sal@AngelinvestBoston.com with critiques or suggestions. It helps me really if you say, "Oh, Sal, you do this too much", or "You do that too much". It'll improve the show, so don't be afraid to criticize me in the emails that you send to me.

You will find transcripts of the podcast at AngelinvestBoston.com. Do sign up for future in-person events. This is Angel Invest Boston, conversations with Boston's most interesting angels and founders. I'm Sal Daher.

I'm glad you were able to join us. Our engineer is Raul Rosa. Our theme is composed by John McKusick. Our graphic design is by Katharine Woodman-Maynard. Our host is coached by Grace Daher.