Posts Tagged ‘funding’

It’s been about a year since I have actively worked on the educational aspects of Textfyre. I have been spending most of my time putting the Windows 8 Store version of Shadow together and doing other things.

The Windows 8 Store app is in a holding pattern until I solve a save/restore issue within FyreVM. When I do a Quetzal restore, the engine goes into an infinite loop. I’m afraid this crossed the border of my programming capabilities, so I’m at the beck and call of others to solve this problem.

On Wednesday, the IES posted two educational technology grants (http://1.usa.gov/1hFd61j) worth $150,000 and $1,050,000. I wasn’t really prepared for these grants in many ways, but I’m trying to gauge if I can ramp back up to complete all the work required to submit the proposals.

We would probably need about $12,000 to complete the proposals and associated work, but that’s a lot of money to gamble when you’re a lean start-up. On the other hand, I do believe the idea of creating educational material through Interactive Fiction is a viable solution. The $150,000 grant would go a long way to either validating or invalidating my vision. Certainly the larger grant would go further.

I need to figure everything out as quickly as possible. Proposals are due in a month and the grant-writing process would require all of that time. I’m wondering if this is the sort of thing I could push out to Kickstarter or Indiegogo. I’ve already approached one private angel investor and may talk to a few others.

I’m looking for guidance on the proposal process and the cost of getting into the game, so to speak. If I did a Kickstarter, I’d have to set a quick deadline. I couldn’t do a 30 day project. It would have to be 10 days at the most. I’m not familiar enough with Indiegogo, but I assume it’s similar. There are other funding sources, but I am not familiar with all of them.

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In the last two months we’ve narrowed our focus and have a short list of priorities. The funding pipeline is coming together well. These things take time and we still have several hoops to jump through, but there’s very little uncertainty on what we have in front of us.

First of all, we had our second conference call with The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This went well and we’re looking forward to another conversation in January to work on a specific grant proposal.

We’ve also talked to Knewton, a company that specializes in adaptive recommendation systems that specifically target how students learn. We both felt our two companies had a high potential for integrating services and research data. we’ll be following up with them soon.

We’ve also been talking to New Schools Venture Fund and once we get through the pilot phase, they may become a valuable partner.

Our next steps include usability testing in a few Chicago area schools and then the pilot in spring.

We do have one critical need as far as personnel is concerned. We’re looking for a seasoned academic research partner that studies how students learn and can guide is on the bigger picture. This person would probably work with our story development team and Knewton to determine the taxonomy of any given subject matter. That taxonomy would lead directly to the types of stories and story content we develop.

This has become a very interesting pivot to date. We’re looking forward to the results of our testing and pilot to see where Textfyre fits in the classroom.

One last thing. If you want to do a little usability testing for us, just send is an email and we’ll connect you with the current online application (as bare as it is).

I know no one gets excited about vaporware, but the new Textfyre website will address some of the issues Jim talks about here.

Based on my work on Zifmia, which is a client-server engine based on FyreVM, which is a .NET implementation of the Glulx specification, I have been able to build a new Textfyre website. This new website is intended to be a portal for client-server Interactive Fiction games.

Here is the scenario I envision for the portal:

An author uploads a gblorb file that contains their game and images. In setting up their game, they select a template, which is used to display the game in any supported browser, including mobile and tablet browsers. The template is made up of JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. The author may offer their own template and a way to test templates locally will be enabled. The ability to use the portal in an IFRAME will also be available, allowing the author to show the game on their own website or blog. Facebook integration is an important part of the future of Textfyre’s strategy as well.

Games are played in a standard fashion, but mostly based on whatever template is devised. The template I’m working on is a hybrid of things we’ve seen over time and a slightly out of date version can be seen at http://beta.textfyre.com.

One of the major differences with the portal is that every turn of every game is saved on the Textfyre servers, in the cloud. If you play the game on any connected device, you will never lose your places. Save, Restore, and Undo become irrelevant. The user interface will have a mechanism to jump to any turn the user has played. If they type a new command at a previous turn, the history branches. These branches are displayed to the user and can be panned and zoomed and reviewed.

Obviously, this is a connected service. Future implementations may include client-side storage, but it’s not on the radar today.

I have Cloak of Darkness working as an example. I’m still (slowly) working on the standard template and Shadow will be implemented as a pay-to-play game when the site is released publicly. Secret Letter will follow and we’re working on getting Empath’s Gift completed, at which time it will also become a part of the portal.

I would love for an author to step up and offer to work with me on the standard template or a new template for their own game. If anyone is interested, let me know. This is mostly going to be undoing any Glk specific code in your game file and replacing it with FyreVM stuff and then working on the client-side code.

Nearly all startups go through a period of change. Many go through several periods of change. Most don’t survive these changes. The startups that do manage to stick around tend to adapt to everything thrown at them. They don’t always do it well or immediately, but the ones that survive find some knack for finding the solution to a thousand room maze that few others manage.

Textfyre is on the verge of exiting the startup maze and moving on to being a funded company with strong partnerships and amazing employees. Some of the details remain behind closed doors. Agreements need to be signed, product needs to be prepared, and people need to be notified of the coming changes.

But we’re finally approaching the real launch of Textfyre as a national brand in the Edutainment publishing industry.

These are very exciting and challenging times for me as the founder. I’d like to say that all of the ducks are lined up, but we still need to locate and place a few more of those proverbial ducks. I’m working on a number of fronts, bringing things together, and with a little more work, big announcements will be made in December and January.

These are exciting times for Interactive Fiction.

The life of an entrepreneur is hard. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. For all of the Mark Zuckerberg’s in the world, there are thousands of guys like me. We have a vision, a passion, a singular belief that we can create something special. We will scrounge up dollars to keep our servers running, scramble to networking events that just might lead us to an important contact, and endure ridicule and debasement for our “fantasy”. Our families don’t get it at all. Our friends are supportive, to a point. Our advisors are helpful, but excruciatingly and irritatingly calm and collected. We ourselves either lose weight or gain weight, eat badly, sleep horribly (if at all), and do poorly at our regular jobs because we’re simply not inspired by the grey cube walls of doom.

And yet we persevere. We find inspiration in little things. We continue to poke and prod our network. To find new ways to develop our business plan. To bring new advisors into the mix. To improve our product plans. To find new customers. We think about our business and work on some aspect of it every single day. Some days for hours and hours. Some days for only a few minutes.

We believe with every fiber of our being that our plan is solid and it can succeed. We believe that we’re doing something worthwhile and good. Something that will create jobs that people will love. Something that will create products that people will love. Something that will make the world a better place.

I’ve been working on Textfyre for over four years. We have two published products. A third product incredibly close to being published. A new business plan. New markets (Kindle, iPad). New authors. New Advisors. We still have people investing their time in Textfyre and believing that it can succeed. We have great tools and great plans for new games.

We’re not Facebook and we’re not an overnight sensation. But we’re still working at making a great company, even if it takes years and not hours to get there. We’re still working.

Textfyre is one of five start-ups pitching their business plan at the FundingUniverse CrowdPitch this Thursday night in Wilmette, Illinois.

If you’re in the area, come and lend support.

A couple of things are happening right now as we prepare for launch.

In regards to content, we’re very busy testing and increasing the quality of Secret Letter. In conjunction, we’re also working on the design and writing for the second Miradania game, Trials of the Vedd. The first game in the second series, Klockwerk – The Shadow in the Cathedral, continues to to near its design completion and we will begin implementation in the coming months. We have other content in development and we will report their progress in the coming months.

On the user interface front, we have clear milestones to achieve and we’re working with consulting partners to complete those tasks. We should have a solid beta product within the next month or two.

We’ve begun working with marketing consultants to develop and refine our strategies for getting the word out on our company and our products.

And we are now in a major push to locate and obtain investment funds that will allow us to implement our marketing strategy at a high level. We would like to ask anyone with contacts in the angel investor world to bring our company to their attention and have them contact me directly at david/at/textfyre/dot/com or they can call me directly on my cell phone at 630 803 4302.