Gamifying education: An interview with Wummelkiste’s CEO
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CEO of Berlin based Wummelkiste Gordon C. Thompson, recently spoke to WebMagazin about the company and elaborated on their future plans.

Wummelkiste, specialises in kids education and places this at the forefront of its business model. The company makes educational craft projects for children between the ages of 3 and 8 and can be purchased in the themes; Birds, Water Worlds and Gardens. Each box contains various activities for children ranging from quizes to projects and games.

WM: For those of us that don’t know what Wummelkiste is, how about a quick summary?

GT: Wummelkiste is a Berlin-based company, which develops and manufactures educational crafting projects for kids between the ages of 3 to 8. Our core business has been based on a B2C subscription based e-commerce model. We at Wummelkiste are first and foremost developing and creating educational products for kids and we are secondly, an e-commerce driven business.

So in a nutshell, we produce awesome crafting projects for kids, which are delivered to our customers homes on a monthly basis and we use technology to facilitate our relationship with our customers.

When we last met, you mentioned that Wummelkiste is trying to ‚gamify‘ education. How does that work?

We believe that kids learn the most when they are having fun. So, how can we create projects that are fun and at the same time teach basic skills at a young age? This is what I see as being the core idea of our Wummelkiste; making learning fun and entertaining.

Teaching children to accept failure seems to part of your concept, is that right?

As our product is a crafting set, kids will sometimes make mistakes when putting the projects together, but they realise quickly what was wrong and readjust to make it right. Teaching children this at a young age is very important. Our educational system is set up in a way that there is always a right answer and a wrong answer.

Kids are taught that being right is good and being wrong is bad. This in tern, breeds a culture where people are afraid of being wrong, people are not born with this fear; they are taught it. We believe that it is very important for kids to learn not to be afraid of making a mistake or being wrong, but to have the courage and freedom to tinker, iterate and work out how things work and fit together, maybe even find a better way than the factory standard instruction.

We believe that these types of skills and mindsets are needed in the world and we are creating products that foster that thinking.

Wummelkiste

Should the same lesson be taught to young startup entrepreneurs?

I think it should be taught to everyone, but yes, especially striving entrepreneurs. There are still too many people who think, that all one needs to launch a successful startup, is to have a great idea, find a great team, write a business plan, raise some money and execute 100% on the business plan. They assume that after 3 years an awesome business will develop according to this plan. However, I have never heard of this working. Every business plan that I have seen was out of date the day after the plan was written.

The main thing needed to build a business, is to find a product market that fits and figure out how to get the product into customers hands to get paid. This all requires a lot of tinkering, iterations, figuring out how things work and sticking at it until it works.

An entrepreneur needs the stamina to stick at a project for a long time, through the good times and the bad. I think before anyone can muster the stamina to get to the end game, they need to find the joy in solving the complex puzzle first. Edison did not create viable light bulb on his first try, he needed to try fast, fail fast, learn from the mistakes and try again until he found a viable solution.

You recently took over as CEO of Wummelkiste – can we expect to see any big strategic changes?

We have a small team and it is very important to keep the business model simple and not allow too much complexity to creep in. Our main aim is to continue to develop, design and make fun educational projects and toys for kids. We have been and will continue to look at ways to get that value into as many little hands as possible.

Our core business is our e-commerce subscription business and we plan to continue growing the business. We have found strategic partnerships with established companies is an effective way of getting our products into customers’ hands. We are working together with several large companies and developing products with them, which will serve their customers and spread the joy. We are still tinkering on the overall business model which is a never-ending task.

You’ve had to look beyond Berlin when recruiting a CTO for the company. In spite of all the hype around the startup scene, would you say there’s a shortage of talent?

What I was able to learn from Philippa, our founder, was that the team you build is very important and the team has to believe in the mission and vision of the business. It was difficult finding a hardcore experienced programmer that would be excited to build a business, which makes tangible kids toys. So we had to search a little wider to find our guy.

Ben is a great CTO and a great team player. As for the talent in Berlin, I see it as a double edge sword. There are many great ideas and business flying around Berlin, which makes it a magical place for start-ups, but all these ideas and businesses need to compete for top talent. There are more than enough inexperienced people who would be willing to give the startup game a try, but it is hard to find and attract the people who have been hardened by the struggle and have the street smarts, attitude and experience to add significant value to a business.

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