ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT ALIVE AND WELL DESPITE SLUGGISH
Inventor Finds Opportunity in Latest Technology,
Turns Pursuit of High Score into a Lesson on the Evolution
of an Idea. Frankfort inventor, and digital artist,
and iPad game enthusiast John Picha has a plan to
turn vinyl into gold, and has a message for anyone
with an idea: "It's just a matter of connecting
the dots to make the thing you want to see. Most of
the pieces are out there, but it takes a little imagination.".
While playing games on the iPad, Mr. Picha became
frustrated experiencing "thumb drift", losing
orientation of the control panel on the smooth iPad
surface while concentrating on the game. Recognizing
a problem, he immediately sought to find a solution.
The result of his search for a better way to play
computer games produced "Thumbtraps", and
also a tutorial in the entrepreneurial process in
the age of the internet.
The answer to how to prevent "thumb drift"
seemed obvious; place a raised template over the touch
screen controls that players could feel without having
to look away from the action. The real problem was
finding a material that would adhere to the smooth
iPad screen, not leave any residue when removed, and
was reusable. His search first led him to Menards,
where he discovered a window cling advertisement display.
While Menards didn't sell the material, they let him
have the sample, which was cut in to the first prototype.
This initial effort proved unsatisfactory, as the
material was too thin to adequately feel, leading
Mr. Picha to a local sign shop, where he again encountered
problems when trying to explain his vision. "It
seemed like the people I talked to couldn't see past
the sample I brought them. They didn't recognize the
potential applications of the material. They wanted
to help, but it was difficult to get information beyond
how the material was currently used."
Not finding anything suitable in retail stores, Mr.
Picha continued his search online for specialty industrial
supply firms, and found a vinyl manufacturer in nearby
Wheeling, IL, Verilon Vinyl. "I asked them if
I could talk to someone about identifying the material
of my sample, and to find out if they had anything
similar, but thicker. I don't know what they thought
when I showed up with my little scrap, but I was able
to get an impromptu meeting with Glen Jeris. He seemed
intrigued by my idea and offered some of their product
samples." After testing each sample under real-world
gaming conditions, one particular sample performed
perfectly. It was the Eureka! moment for Thumbtraps.
With the material question answered, the next step
was to test design. Playing hours and hours of games
of all types, Mr. Picha experimented with many different
types of shapes and sizes of control pad covers. With
so many different types of games available, with so
many different control configurations, it was a process
of trial and error to find the best shapes to fit
the most games. "It was a classic example of
mixing business with pleasure. It's awesome to sit
down for an afternoon of gaming and be able to tell
your wife you were working." Ultimately, six
different shapes were decided on for production. A
patent application was filed online, the designs copyrighted,
retail relationships with E-bay and Amazon were established,
a domain name was registered and a website built,
a marketing presence was uploaded to YouTube, and
Thumbtraps were born, available world-wide from a
basement in Frankfort, IL.
In addition to being the inventor, manufacturer,
marketer, web-designer, and retailer for Thumbtraps,
Mr. Picha is an advocate for boot-strap entrepreneurism.
What he hopes to provide with Thumbtraps is not just
higher scores for computer game enthusiasts, but an
example of how anyone with an idea and some hard work
can be their own Thomas Edison. Mr. Picha wants to
re-invigorate the entrepreneurial spirit in the everyday
American, and sees virtually unlimited opportunity
for creativity in consumer culture. "I've always
enjoyed solving problems, whether it's figuring out
HTML code, playing games, or bringing a product to
market. I start off asking myself "How hard could
it be?", then I work the process to see how close
I can get, all the while anticipating pitfalls, just
like in computer games. It's just a matter of connecting
the dots from your idea to the global marketplace.
The internet can put everyone on an equal playing
field. I don't know if Thumbtraps will make a million
dollars or not, but I'm curious to see what happens."
Thumbtraps are available for purchase at: www.thumbtraps.com.