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15 Million Gamers Can Thank This DSM USA Company

Magic Sudoku

February 7, 2018

I’ve been putting things on the Internet for as long as I can remember. When I was a sophomore in college, one of the weekend projects I launched went viral on Facebook. Within the first week it had over 100 users, after the first month it had over 1,000, and by the end of the first year it had over 1 million users.

sudoku

That game was called The Worldwide Easter Egg Hunt and it eventually evolved into Hatchlings, which is the same name as my Greater Des Moines (DSM) based company. In the game, players from around the globe try to collect all 5000+ different eggs and compete to get the highest score each month.

We have a core team of four working out of Gravitate in Downtown DSM, along with several contractors distributed from DSM to Chicago to Sydney. We’ve now had three different games that have each had over 1 million players.

DSM Startup Community

The startup community has been awesome in DSM. We’re proud to call it home.

We’re now the longest-tenured company at Gravitate. It’s been awesome to see the Insurance Accelerator and now the AgriTech Accelerator attract fresh talent to DSM from around the world. And it’s been inspirational to see other startups like Dwolla, Rocket Referrals, and FunnelWise grow and expand here over the years.

Experience Overseas

Sudoku puzzleI spent three months last year living in London and, while they understandably have many more events going on, it was extremely hard to get involved. There was no go-to place to learn about all of the different opportunities. In fact, there was an entire week-long game developer festival while I was there that I didn’t even hear about until after it was over! And even when you did know something was happening, events were often over an hour away. In many ways it felt like there were a dozen DSM-sized startup communities in London rather than one big cohesive one.

Augmented Reality Pioneer

In 2017, we launched our first augmented reality app, Magic Sudoku. It’s a tech demo sudoku solver that uses a combination of AR, computer vision, machine learning and traditional algorithms to create a magical and seamless user experience and show a preview of how these technologies will transform our world in the future.

The response since we launched last fall has been incredible:

  • My initial tweet announcing the app got over 2,600 retweets and 4,700 likes.
  • We were one of the top 10 AR Apps by number of downloads last fall (according to SensorTower).
  • Our video was viewed over 5 million times.
  • We got featured by Apple as a top Augmented Reality App We Love.
  • Magic Sudoku received global press coverage from outlets including The Verge, The Next Web, Gizmodo, The Financial Times, and CNET.
  • Fast Company’s design blog wrote an article about Magic Sudoku entitled “Most AR Stinks -- Except this Crazy Sudoku Solver
  • We were featured as the top post (with over 10,000 upvotes) on imgur, the world’s largest photo sharing site.
  • It was voted to the front pages of Y Combinator’s Hacker News and image sharing site 9GAG
  • I was invited to speak at the San Francisco Bay Area’s largest augmented reality meetup.

Golden Kitty Award

Most recently, we were crowned AR Product of the Year by Product Hunt and will be bringing home Iowa’s first Golden Kitty Award. This is one of the most prestigious awards on the Internet. For context, other finalists this year were the iPhone X, the Tesla semi-truck and the Nintendo Switch. And past years’ winners include Elon Musk and billionaire investor Chris Sacca.

There are lots of people I’m grateful for but two in particular are Mike Colwell at the Greater Des Moines Partnership and Geoff Wood of Gravitate. Geoff first connected me with the DSM startup community when I was still a student at Iowa State University. And Mike was very helpful during some of the early days of expanding the company and hiring our first employees.

In DSM, it’s easy to stay up to date with the startup community. Just attend Startup Stories at The Partnership, join the Startup Iowa Facebook Group, connect with the Startup Iowa Slack community, come to 1 Million Cups each Wednesday morning and join a few mailing lists (like Square One, Clay & Milk, and the Pull) and you’ll never miss out on the next great event. Everyone is super welcoming, and nothing is further than a 15-minute drive away!

Startup Stories is a monthly networking event geared toward entrepreneurs, investors and those interested in entrepreneurship. For more information, click here.