One of our interviews with a presenting company at the Berkery Noyes VC Investment Summit in NYC June 8-9, 2010

Andy Russell CEO at Launchpad Toys, talks with us about the catalyst for his company and what he expects to happen in the education investment space today and tomorrow. He will be presenting at the Berkery Noyes VC Investment Summit in New York City tomorrow. The folks at Berkery Noyes will be doing this with Laurie Racine and the folks at Startl.

ed: What challenging aspect of the industry is Launchpad Toys currently trying to tackle? In other words, for what purpose was the company designed?

We’re creating a suite of digital toys and tools that empower kids to create, learn, and share their ideas through play. We believe that kids learn best when they’re producing content (not consuming it) and that the web has opened the door to incredible opportunities in social learning.

ed: What do you think education entrepreneurs need at this moment in the industry to be successful? Marketing? A good idea? A network?

We’re very early on, so it’s tough to give too much advice for anyone getting kicked off, but what we found was really helpful was direct access to kids. we are partnered with a local children’s museum and we go over there every day and test ideas, talk to parents, and talk to kids. You are always going to be surprised working with kids whether any designs really resonate with them and what is appealing to them. If you want to break the mold in education…you have to be open to different ideas and different means to gather those. We look to kids as partners.

ed: If you could create an extension of your company and do something else in the education sector with it, what would it be and what consumer would you be looking to find?

We’re developing open-ended digital toys that enable kids to create their own cartoons, songs, inventions, recipes, fashion designs – you name it. We see our products as playful tools for creative education, but they’re also a gateway to a larger community of kid-creators. In the end, I hope our legacy is not just a suite of products, but a global network where kids can post, share, and collaborate with other kids around the world. We believe very strongly in peer learning and that the web has incredible potential to bridge social bubbles and promote cultural literacy through shared ideas and collaborative play.

ed: Outside of delivering a needed business offering, what sparked the idea for Launchpad Toys?

My partner and I both grew up playing with Legos. We were pretty imaginative kids and would craft out these elaborate scenarios and storylines, but could never capture those ideas or share them with others… at least not the way we saw them in our heads. He turned to programming and then journalism/photography in search of ways to tell his stories and I went off to become a toy designer so that I could build toys with record buttons. All these years later, we find ourselves in San Francisco making Digital Legos.

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