Wednesday, January 26, 2011

EnglEasy is now QwikMind

Thank you everyone for following our adventure as EnglEasy.  Going forward, the company name will be QwikMind and will have a new blog located on  As of right now, we don't have much content up there, but most of the content will be at Mongo's home at  You can also follow our most recent adventures by pressing the "Like" button on our new Facebook fan page:

We are gearing up for our big launch within the next month or so on the iOS and Android platforms.  Hope you can join us on our new websites!

Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye 2010 hello 2011!

The EnglEasy team has been heads down for the past few weeks getting ready for 2011.  It has been an amazing year, and we have been so fortunate to have such great mentors and supporters.  Here are some key milestones:

January - Started the year working on an MMO style game on the PC and Mac.  We found out that building such a world would take a lot of time and resources.  We continued to build contacts in Silicon Valley, and then eventually relocated in San Francisco from Minneapolis, MN.

April - Won Startup Weekend Silicon Valley We switched from making an MMO to go into Mobile with some exciting voice recognition technology on the Android platform.  We also were fortunate enough to be the wildcard in the Web 2.0 Launchpad event a week after Startup Weekend.

August - Mongo is born.  After much iteration, we were able to create a main character for our company.  Mongo was designed through multiple iterations.  We had tons of input from my little cousins on the design.  We also spent quite a bit of time researching iPhone and iPad games with my little cousins trying to understand what things they liked and what they disliked.  It turns out that there aren't many high quality educational games on the Apple App store that can keep their interest.  This is exactly what we are trying to solve!

October - The initial Android prototype is built.  After some play testing, we find that the Google Voice recognition software is too slow for most younger kids.  We then went on to search for better technologies.  Furthermore, we found that Android still doesn't have as slick of an interface as the iPhone.  My little cousins HATED the Android, and they were VERY VERY vocal about it.  Come on Google, step it up!

November - Kauffman Foundation Bootcamp.  We were fortunate to be finalists in the Kauffman Labs Bootcamp.  Although I can't speak much about it, it was an amazing experience and we got to meet a lot of great people.  We did not get selected for the incubator program, but that isn't stopping us from pushing forward!

December - We are hard at work, working on re-branding the company.  EnglEasy was a great name for the Middle Eastern market, but for everyone else, we need an easier name.  Watch for our new name early next year!  We are also working on a few new prototypes that will be built on both Android and iOS platforms.  Thanks to Adam and his crew at RhoMobile for helping us out with this!

Whats Next - 2011
2011 will be a pivotal year for EnglEasy.  We are looking forward to releasing our first app by the end of first quarter, and a subsequent release by September.  We are also prepping to get on Kickstarter early next year with some cool merchandise, and hopefully raise a little bit of cash.

Again, thanks for all the support everyone has provided, we won't be here without all your help!  Keep watching for some exciting announcements early in 2011!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Back from Kauffman Labs

The EnglEasy team has been pretty busy over the past few months doing research on kids games and also building out our first prototypes.  We just got back from the Kauffman Labs Bootcamp, so we are eagerly awaiting the decision on if we will make it into the Kauffman Labs Incubator program in early 2011.

The bootcamp experience was great and we met a lot of fellow Education Entrepreneurs.  Although I cannot speak much about the program (NDA), I will say that it was an excellent opportunity to meet the people at the Kauffman Foundation and really understand what they are trying to do.  Considering that I have a formal MBA in Entrepreneurship from Babson college, I felt like the Kauffman approach was quite different.  I think it is more around great mentoring and actually doing versus "business planning".  The Kauffman foundation subscribe to a similar philosophy as Startup Weekend, which is why I really liked the experience.

Younger Kids and the Ipad

We have been in research mode for the past few months really trying to understand how kids play games on a touch interface.  The last time we were doing some play testing involved some very basic games on the iPad.  Now, I downloaded a few more games from the iTunes App store and let my younger cousins play them. 

The players are Yumna, 2 years old, and Lybah, 4 years old.  Although initially, both of these girls were pressing too hard on the screen, they later learned to use a lighter touch.  Both of these girls preferred the touch interface to the mouse interface of a PC.  Here are a few general things they liked:

  • Easy drag and drop
  • Matching games
  • Colorful characters
  • Fun sound track
  • Characters that made noises
  • Stickers or rewards
  • Fast transitions
Things they generally disliked:
  • Long-winded explanations
  • No sound track
  • Touch that does not have audible feedback
Here are a few games they played:
  • Monkey Pre-School Lunchbox (iPhone and iPad)
  • FirstWords (Sampler) (iPhone and iPad)
  • FirstWords (Deluxe) (iPhone and iPad)
  • Mega Jump (iPhone)
  • Alphabet Fun (iPad)
  • Super Why! (iPad)
  • Cookie Doodle (iPhone and iPad)
The favorites were Monkey Pre-School Lunchbox and FirstWords (Sampler and Deluxe).  Cookie Doodle was more interesting to the older kids, but had no learning content in it.  Here are a few key learning points for each game:

Monkey Pre-School Lunchbox
This is an extremely well done game and I highly recommend it to anyone with kids.  It is very easy to play and it uses a lot of cute sound effects and sound track to keep kids engaged.  The little monkey makes funny sounds that the kids love.  The pace of the game is very fast and rewards the kids through stickers.  Here is a video of Lybah playing the game and watch how she loves the monkey's reactions:

FirstWords (Sampler and Deluxe)
Yumna enjoys this game the most because it helps build her motor skills.  In this game, Yumna drags each letter to the appropriate spot.  Each time she presses on a letter, it pronounces the letter.  Once the word is complete, the word is spelled out, pronounced, and then there is a funny animation.  I don't know how much she is retaining though because she could repeat the same word several times (in the sampler) and still not remember the word.  Perhaps this is because she is so young, but I caught her many times spelling out the word C-A-T, and then giving the Urdu word for Cat as "Billi".  The Deluxe version gets fairly complex, with words up to 8 letters such as "Octagon".  Clearly a two year old doesn't know what an octagon is nor should she care.  I wish there was a way for the parent to filter the word choices down by age range.  In the settings there is a way to control maximum number of letters, but this method is highly unintuitive.  Yumna gets excited every time she completes a word, and surprisingly finds the animations funny even though it is simply a rotation of the object.  It is good that the game authors inserted sound effects for each object.  One strange thing I found is that they are making a differentiation between a plane and a biplane.  I don't know how this matters today in the modern world...

Mega Jump
Mega Jump is very much like the popular Doodle Jump, except it is free for the first level.  You basically tilt the iPhone to make the character jump around.  Yumna liked the sound and the animation of this game but she does not have the motor skills to use the accelerometer properly.  This game is not suitable for little kids.

Alphabet Fun
This game is basically designed to teach handwriting, so the name is a bit misleading.  The interface is just awful.  As an adult I was having issues navigating around.  I didn't know what to press on.  I first gave it to some older kids and they were frustrated and they were also not able to trace the letters properly.  Both Yumna and Lybah saw the game, and immediately pressed the iPad's home button to get back to Monkey Preschool Lunchbox.  A few key things to learn from this poorly made game:
  • No sound
  • No central character
  • Unintuitive interface
  • Limited replay value
  • Feels like homework
  • Dull look and feel
Super Why!
This game is based off of a popular PBS Kids TV show.  The graphics look very good and it is very polished, however there is a lot of narration that caused the kids to lose interest very fast.  The gameplay is not fast like Monkey Preschool Lunchbox so moving through screens was very tedious.  Here are a few key learnings from this game:
  • Great characters, good sound
  • Slow transitions
  • Too much narration
  • Gameplay was a bit complex
  • There are 4 mini-games inside, but they are very dissimilar to each other - I would almost split this game into 4 independent games and sell them for $0.99 each
Cookie Doodle
This game has no learning content in it outside of allowing the kids to be very creative, which is great.  The interface is a bit dull to start with but it gets better as you progress.  Basically it allows kids to make their own virtual cookies.  The older kids liked this a little better, although Lybah was curiously watching.  I would suggest some improvements to the User Interface to make it simpler, especially for younger kids.  I needed to provide a bit of coaching and demonstrating on this game for them to get going.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Mobile Application Screen Shot

Our artists and developers have been working hard the past few weeks, and we here at EnglEasy are proud to show off our initial screen shot of our first Mobile application. Check it out and let us know your thoughts!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

iPad Games Summit

On Monday, I went to the iPad games summit in San Francisco and learned quite a few things about this very interesting device.  In summary, I don't think it is an ideal form factor for EnglEasy's target market of Children 6-10, but it is interesting none-the-less.

Interesting Stats
  • 60% of the applications built for iPad are games.
  • 50% of the users of the iPad also have a Windows PC, so this means that these buyers are not Apple crazy
  • 15-20 new games for the iPad show up on the Apple app store daily, so competition is quite stiff already.
  • People play games longer on the iPad as it is more comfortable to look at than the iPhone
  • There still isn't a killer App for iPad.
  • The market size for iPad is still much smaller than iPhone, so it is best to develop products for both in mind.  It is less likely for a parent to just give an iPad to their child, whereas with an iPhone, it is a nice distraction for the child while in a waiting room or riding in the car.
  • Children's hands are better suited for a smaller format like the iPhone.  The border on the iPad is too wide for most children, and the device is quite heavy.
Licensing Famous Characters for your Games
The developer of the Dr. Seuss books on iPad also presented.  Oceanhouse Media acquired the rights to publish all Dr. Seuss books, and everything it touches seems to be turning to gold.  This is because they create many small applications and cross promote within the app.  They build very high quality products with a known brand name.  This may be interesting for EnglEasy because we could leverage existing franchises to help teach children English.

Different kind of emotion with the iPad
Also, since the form factor of the iPad is different from the iPhone, there are lots of opportunities to add additional features to iPad such as 2 player mode.  2 player mode is interesting because the players sit across from each other.  This creates the same kind of emotion that people would have while playing board games.  This is important to note because not only does this create a deeper relationship between the players, but it also brings back the concept of playing head-to-head, which has largely gone away with most networked games.

All in all, it was a great conference and I got to meet some very interesting people.  Now it is time to really see what this format means for EnglEasy!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Facebook Developers Meetup

Last night I went to the very first Facebook Developers meetup at I/O ventures offices in San Francisco. Met a very cool person from Facebook, who worked on the platform team. There was also a few presentations that were given. The two I thought were the most interesting was rootmusic, and Apigee. There was not too much related to us as far what we want to accomplish in the next few months. Although I think it would be good for us to try and build a relationship with I/O ventures, which is a newly formed venture capital firm.