I've got a surefire idea of how to fund our next round of development. I'm going to charge $10 to everyone who asks me one of these four questions:
- What made you decide to start an educational gaming company?
- Didn't you run into a lot of skepticism when you first started?
- Are you sure you will succeed?
- But aren't you a little old to be doing a start-up?
"But, if all venture capitalists are funding only younger entrepreneurs, they can't all be wrong, can they?"Or if they ask anything else that suggests that anyone needs permission to follow an unconventional path in life they are getting fined an extra $1,000 per question. At the current rate, I anticipate raising our next seed round by the end of the year.
Truth is, I wanted to make a computer game to teach math for 40 years - ever since I was a 15-year-old high school student writing a program to draw Mickey Mouse.
When I applied to graduate school, I wanted to do my dissertation on computer-aided instruction, using a math game. That was in 1985, games were text-based and the Internet was for university researchers. I wrote a few simple games but then went in a different direction doing research in psychometrics, teaching statistics and had three children. When I was 36, my husband died and I veered in a different direction. Perhaps leaving a position as associate professor to start a consulting company on an American Indian reservation was not the type of safe, secure career choice expected of a widow with three small children. Funny, I only thought of that in retrospect. At the time, it seemed to offer a better life, so I went with it. Now the children are not so small and technology has evolved to make the games I envisioned 30 years ago a possibility.
There is a lot of attention paid to twenty-something entrepreneurs who can work crazy hours on a start-up for months with no salary because they don't have to worry about making enough money to pay a mortgage or picking the baby up from day care. You know who else can do that? People whose children are grown and have paid off their mortgage. In fact, I suspect with the rate student loan debt has grown, people over 50 are more likely to be in the position to work on a start-up.
There is definitely a bias investors have toward younger entrepreneurs, but that hasn't slowed me at all. We're doing work at 7 Generation Games that is important, building a company that is a good place to work, learning a lot and enjoying life. I shudder to think how my life would have turned out if I hadn't been good at math. Being good in math got me a college scholarship, jobs as an engineer, programmer and statistician. More than that, because I made enough money, it gave me choices - to move across the country, to send my children to better schools.
Math matters, and, yet, statistically, by one year old, my granddaughter was already several times more likely to be proficient in math than children in south central Los Angeles or East St. Louis. Which is why we, after raising well over a half-million dollars from federal grants plus a kick starter campaign, topped it off with our own funds. We are going all in. Making a game that encourages children to learn math is one way to level the playing field.
Now that I have the opportunity to do that, I'm not going to let a little thing like age - or anything else - stop me.
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