After years of working for some of the biggest names in games and education, Fingerprint's Nancy MacIntyre tells TechRepublic about setting out on her own.
In the late part of the 2000s, then-LeapFrog senior executive Nancy MacIntyre was trying to figure out what she wanted to be for the rest of her career.
"I was not at the peak of my career. I don't think I'd achieved what I wanted to achieve there," said the now CEO and founder of "edutainment" platform Fingerprint.
The product was okay, the economy was — terrible. She'd had enough epiphanies at that point to know that educational software was the area that got her excited, but there was one last piece missing.
By the time she left LeapFrog in 2010, she'd figured it out. She wanted to be an entrepreneur.
Back in college at Drexel University, MacIntyre majored in finance and accounting. Her first job was at Paine Webber — she figured she was embarking on a long career in finance. However, she said she got the technology bug.
Departing from finance, MacIntyre went to work at Lotus Development, in a sales and marketing role. That led her to Broderbund Software, makers of the popular games series Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? She realized that educational software was really where she wanted to be.
From Broderbund, MacIntyre took a job at Hasbro as they were getting into the video game business. And after that, she moved to California to work for LucasFilm, where she ran all the Star Wars online gaming experiences, and then wound up in global sales and marketing.
"I tell people I was traveling the world selling Star Wars interactive experiences — whether they were online games or video games — all over the world and realized that my passion was actually building products for kids," she said.
In early 2007, MacIntyre left LucasFilm for LeapFrog.
"LeapFrog was in a reboot phase where they were trying to make the shift from being a standalone toy company to really being a company that had a connected product strategy," she said. So, she went there to help develop strategy around reading programs, gaming programs, and other types of educational programs that were tied to kids' devices.
They came out with the Tag Learning System, which uses a pen and special books to teach kids to read, and the Leapster Gaming System for educational video games. Tag moved roughly 10 million units.
That all was great, but the thing about 2007 is that it was the year the iPhone came out.
The conventional wisdom was that no one would hand a $600 device to a toddler, but the first time MacIntyre was in a restaurant and saw that exact thing happen, she changed her mind.
"The fact that every mom in America with an iPhone in her purse could be the competition for LeapFrog products — I knew I had to move to mobile," she said.
So, she left LeapFrog at the beginning of 2010 with idea of creating a learn and play network for kids.
Fingerprint is a platform for tablets and smartphones for educational games for kids. They've worked with more than 100 game developers to launch mobile games like Bungee Pigs or Backyard Sports Baseball 2015.
The platform addresses a few problems in the space.
For one, MacIntyre said app discovery can be a problematic challenge for developers.
"You can make great products, but if you can't get it discovered in the app store, that's a problem," she said.
The other side of the coin is that parents and educators may struggle to find content that's not only fun and engaging, but has educational value. And sometimes that's a byproduct of finding developers who not only understand how to make appealing and entertaining games for kids, but also how to infuse them with an effective learning curriculum.
"Getting those two things blended together perfectly is as much art as science," she said.
At the moment, Fingerprint has about 28 employees. Forging partnerships with developers and companies, even as large as Samsung and Dreamworks is at the heart of much of what they do.
About two years ago, Samsung approached them about creating a subscription-based service for Southeast Asia.
MacIntyre it was a big bet on Samsung's part — at the time Fingerprint had fewer than 10 employees. They had been doing work in Southeast Asia, so they created this service in partnership with Samsung, and saw it reach about seven different countries in a variety of local languages.
It's a strong case study for the files. Though, starting out had it's challenges.
"When you work at a big company, people answer your phone calls," MacIntyre said.
After years of working for some of the biggest names (if not all of the biggest names) in the field, she believed she had an investable idea and would be an investable CEO.
She wasn't wrong, it just wasn't as breezy as she might have imagined.
"I think I was somewhat naive about all the complexities of that, even though I had run big businesses. I've had to be more flexible and be really creative in my approach to finding those investors as well as commercial partners," she said.
Whatever obstacles MacIntyre has run into, even those rocky last few years at LeapFrog, she sees as playing a part in where she is now.
"I got complete and total clarity about how I wanted to define the rest of my career, but more importantly, a business I was sure I could make work," she said.
In her own words...
How do you unplug?
"[Laughs] Well, the obvious is I don't. I live in Northern California. There's always something to do here. I like to be outside, I like to go to the beach, play tennis, go hiking, all those kinds of things since I live in such an amazing place. I'm a voracious reader. I'm reading 3 or 4 books at any one point in time. Between those two thing, I can free up my mind."
What's something you're reading right now?
"I just literally finished yesterday... It's called Astonish Me [by Maggie Shipstead]. It's a pretty interesting book because it's about a young ballerina who helps this Russian guy defect back in the 70s and how their lives are intertwined after that. It's pretty fascinating. It's worth reading, for sure."
If you could try out another career, what would it be?
"I would want to be a co-host on The View. No question about that. I'd love to do that because I have lots of opinions. I love hanging out with a bunch of diverse, smart women and talking about all kinds of topics. I think that seems like it would be a pretty interesting job to have."
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