Startup Weekend Seattle alumnus and recent graduate from the Microsoft Kinect Accelerator Freak’n Genius has just closed their seed round of financing, enabling the team to press on with a fresh, validated energy. “It allowed us to hire our first two geniuses, bringing our scrappy company to five, and we’re on the hunt for that last fitting technical genius that is inspired by creative expression and animation,” Kesterson says.
The local startup aims to provide people with a new way of expressing creativity through animation, tapping into a human desire to live vicariously through a different figure or simply release an inner playful side. With Freak’n Genius, anyone can create custom animations that are controlled by their own voice and movements. Freak’n Genius came out of a Seattle Startup Weekend event in 2011. Since the event, Kesterson, along with co-founders Clayton Weller (sketch artist) and Dwayne Mercredi (technologist) has continued to work on the project with tremendous support and positive feedback along the way. Just shortly after the Seattle event, Freak’n Genius was accepted into the Microsoft Kinect Accelerator (powered by Techstars), allowing the team to expedite their startup and gain momentum for the next steps. “
Between Startup Weekend and NEXT, we have been provided an abundance of resources, new opportunities, rapid learnings and failures, but most importantly, it helped me find the right people to take the big risks with. I knew by the end of the first weekend that I found a couple of co-founders that proved they could buckle down to execute, learn, and navigate while being met with uncertainty, stress, and confusion,” Kesterson says.
Before Startup Weekend, Kyle’s artistic talent led him to work on a variety of creative projects including the likes of Marvel, Warner Bros, Star Wars, Burger King, The Simpsons, South Park, Hasbro, Star Trek, and MGM.
Kesterson reflects on Startup Weekend as a pivotal educational experience that has stayed with him throughout his journey as an entrepreneur – and although the origins of Freak’n Genius are deeply imbedded in Kyle’s love for creativity, art, and fun, he points to Startup Weekend as the place where he gained invaluable knowledge about creating a company; “Lean Startup, Customer Development, Agile and Scrum methodologies were all new concepts that were introduced to me at Startup Weekend, whether it came from a workshop, a really knowledgeable coach, a team member, or even a participant from another team. People get really excited to share resources and tools that make their lives easier, and in turn takes our conversations to new depths.”
As is the case for many, Kesterson asserts that Startup Weekend is about relationships: “That willingness to share ideas and resources has helped create relationships that have lasted far beyond the weekend, and has helped Freak’n Genius create a well-oiled machine of communication, organization, learning, and prototyping.”
In true early-stage startup form, Freak’n Genius has even more packed into their rapid development; “We’re also currently in a phase of in-depth customer learning and have just been accepted into an amazing six month accelerator focused around gaming and interactive entertainment. We’re going to be surrounded by really, really smart and passionate people that are bending over to help us go big. Exciting times!”