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Upon hearing everyone’s pitches on opening night at Startup Weekend Seattle, Tiffany Young decided to give an impromptu pitch for an educational gaming tool.  She knew she wanted to bridge educational gaps in a fun, accessible way – but wasn’t sure just how much her idea would evolve over the course of one weekend.  After Tiffany’s idea was selected as one of the 16 that would move on during the weekend, a cohesive team of 8 was formed – and they came up with the name ‘The Fun Studio.’ “On Friday night, eight complete strangers chose to combine talents and work non-stop on an idea through Sunday evening. Where else does that happen but Startup Weekend?”, Tiffany says.

One team member, Robert Wallis, explains how the dev team worked over the weekend, “Our dev team was awesome.  One dev was experimenting and debugging, one was writing the core game logic and control, and the other was hooking up the media and figuring out the distribution.  We didn’t let coding style or language preferences slow us down, instead we just focused on the execution.”  The dev team was moving so quickly throughout the weekend that Robert’s computer had trouble keeping up.  Robert attributes their focus to solving problems spontaneously and quickly, “As soon as we needed art assets, Brendan had them finished.  Vladi recorded sounds in the auditorium.  Yaniv resolved some major deployment bugs.  And a few minutes after we completed a tech-demo with all the words set to ‘Ocean’, Jacob had finished with the real game mechanics and real words,” he explains.  “Making a game from scratch in the weekend was a little bit ambitious, so we decided to be more ambitious and release an iOS, Android, and the Web,” says Robert, who worked until 5 AM Saturday morning to help the team achieve this goal.The team worked in overdrive throughout the weekend to produce a prototype vocabulary game called “Eat My Words.”  ‘Fun Studio’ even had enough time to have 8 kids test out the game (with positive feedback). “The best moment of the weekend for me was during our presentation when judge Greg Gottesman of Madrona Venture Group handed our ‘Eat My Words’ vocabulary game to his son, and his son called it cool,” Tiffany Young explains.

Tiffany and Robert attribute most of their success to having a self-starting, creative team.  Tiffany explains, “I was so impressed by the caliber of talent of the people who volunteered to join my team, and blown away by how dedicated they were to the idea, and to making it the best they could in just 54 hours.” Robert agrees that the team was crucial, saying, “The best part about our team was that we didn’t get hung up on problems, instead we concentrated on workarounds.”  The team also benefited from focusing on their ‘Minimum Viable Product’ above all else, even if it meant making cuts to some attractive features.  Robert explains, “without making those feature cuts we wouldn’t have been able to do what we did – make a playable game by Sunday morning and have users test it.”The Fun Studio ended up taking 2nd place out of 16 final presentations.  From one idea that was barely pitched, Fun Studio became an executed project that is continuing today. “I didn’t know it was possible to accomplish so much with so little time and resources until I went to Startup Weekend,” Tiffany says. Looking ahead, Robert and Tiffany plan to continue working full-speed on the project.  Tiffany says, “Startup Weekend ended, but the momentum for our vocabulary game and larger vision keep moving forward at break-neck speed.”


You can learn more about ‘The Fun Studio’ and contribute to their progress by visiting their kickstarter page – and play the Web version of the game that they developed in less than 54 hours.
Claire Topalian Claire Topalian
(@clairetopalian) Blog, Professional Writing, Communications and PR Specialist. I craft compelling, mission-driven content for companies and individuals that amplifies brand awareness, fosters community, and drives engagement. My experience includes work with tech startups, major corporations, and international non-profits. @clairetopalian