Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Imagine leaving your high paying job with Microsoft, that you had for 10 years, to follow a dream of inventing products and having your own company.

Imagine not knowing what that company was going to be or what it was going to produce.

Imagine showering and dressing everyday at about 3:00 PM so that your wife wouldn’t see you in the same pajamas that she left you in when she went to work.

Imagine then deciding that your calling was to create games and compete in a space that is dominated by two giant companies that could squash you like a grape.

Imagine talking a colleague into abandoning his job to follow you on this crazy journey, cutting out parts for prototype games with an X-Acto knife.

Imagine receiving the first 12 games from your manufacturer and discovering that each and every box had either missing pieces in it or some other major defect, with 27,000 more units on their way.

Imagine missing your new industry’s most important trade show because you didn’t even know it existed and as a result not having a place to sell those units.

That’s the story of Richard Tait, the Co-founder and self-described “Grand Poo Bah” of Cranium, Inc. I had the pleasure of listening to him speak at AAAA Account Planning Conference. Even as a boy, Tait says he had an “antenna” that allowed him to detect unfulfilled needs and therefore untapped business opportunities.

After graduating from college Richard was advised by his mentors that his entrepreneurial drive would not be satisfied in his native Scotland. To achieve his dreams he’d have to go to America. And so he did.

Later, with an MBA from Dartmouth in hand, Richard Tait missed out on being hired by his dream employer, Apple Computer, because he didn’t have a green card.

Convinced by a recruiter at Microsoft to join Apple’s archrival (they helped him with his immigration status), he had a successful career there even being named the company’s employee of the year.

As you may have guessed, the first game that Richard Tait developed is called Cranium. If you’re not familiar with it this excerpt from Cranium’s web site may be a better description than any I could write

Cranium brings families and friends together -- after dinner, at parties, on rainy afternoons. When you play Cranium, you'll use your brain in ways you never imagined and find yourself doing the unexpected.

For Tait the most important part of creating games is making sure that they give everyone a chance to shine.

Along the way Richard Tait and fellow Cranium co-founder Whit Alexander redefined the way games are marketed. Without a traditional distribution channel, in the beginning they were forced to innovate and adapt. Cranium was the first game sold at Starbucks and Amazon.com. Rather than finding a space where games are sold, Tait and company took the games to where their customers were likely to be found.

Against seemingly impossible odds Cranium Inc. has had unprecedented success in the games segment of the toy industry. By my count the company offers more than 14 different games suitable for a wide variety of age groups. Since its founding in 1998, Cranium, Inc. has sold more than 15 million units and won more than 85 awards including 4 Toy Industry Association Game of the Year awards in the last 6 years.


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