Mature

Who the customer is, that’s a much harder question than how something works.

A proverbial stumper for startups is this very basic question: Who’s your customer? After all, the world has managed to turn well enough without your newfangled technology. What if the thing you make isn’t all that useful and worthwhile? Since it didn’t exist yesterday and nobody’s clamoring for it, are you sure of even one customer?

Humaginarium is pretty sure we have hundreds of thousands of customers. Not somewhere on the other side of a blue ocean, but here and now. Whose needs are undermet and whose goals are underachieved.

Our customer is an adult over 17 years old, healthy or not, any gender and ethnicity, any income bracket, any nationality and community. Among  billions of people worldwide who fit that description, our customer is one who plays video games online or downloaded to a device. Our customer has to have at least one modern device, electricity, reasonably fast Internet, and access to Amazon or Google cloud services. He or she can have any level of education but can’t be dumbass stupid. Simple, yes. Dumbass, no.

If you step back and consider these parameters, it’s clear that our customer is “mature.” The Entertainment Software Rating Board uses that word for consumers who are not easily bored by intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language. This is odd because those kinds of people are immature by Humaginarium standards.

Mature for Merriam-Webster and for us means having mental and emotional qualities of an adult, of being fully formed as a human being, and still developing to a desired level. That last clause is crucial, because our mature customer is not done with life no matter how old or impaired. He or she is still learning and yearning.

Maybe the reason why many technology entrepreneurs are stumped by the customer question is they’re makers and doers, while those who know customers are are observers, people who ask questions of others, empathize with them, care about them, make connections and reach fond conclusions about “them” rather than “us.”

Who the customer is, that’s a much harder question than how something works. We’re on it.

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Scientific entertainment. Variation on The Reading Girl, by Theodore Roussel

Catchwords

Science isn’t “hard” because of what it is, but rather because of how it’s learned.

Rhetorical chips are flying as we carve a new website and pitch. Some neatly express our world view. They crop up again and again, mushrooming like a mantra. Of course the chips are catchwords: a way to talk that’s a little different from the ordinary.

Our first catchword was the name of the company. Humaginarium is a mashup of three ordinary words: human, imagination, and vivarium. It’s where the human body is infused with fantasy (wishful thinking) and explored for pleasure, meaning, and utility.

Another catchword is nudge. The verb has always meant to push gently. Then economists coined a new meaning: to offer qualified choices. Lately Humaginarium has been saying “nudge to wellness.” In this usage it means to stir conation. Notice a progression here: first push, then choose, then desire. Our catchword takes the meaning of nudge to a more authentic and personal level, hopefully one that’s still easy to grasp.

Yet another catchword is scientific entertainment. Let’s parse that. Scientific means systematic observation and experiment leading to hypotheses. Science usually involves deductive reasoning: producing insight by means of evidence. So far so good.

Science may be cerebral and erudite, but more often it’s merely curious, logical, and persistent. This is a very important point that non scientists usually overlook. Science is not “hard” because of what it is, but rather because of how it’s learned.

In contrast to scientific, entertainment tends to be downplayed as frivolous. It amuses and gives pleasure, helps pass the time agreeably. People like it, but they typically don’t get much out of it. They may even expect entertainment to be lazy and stupid, like some sitcoms, video games, and popular songs, but that’s not always the case.

Throughout our culture and over the course of history, entertainment is often intelligent and moving. There’s a reason for this. Entertainment is inherently artistic and art is among the noblest human endeavors. Take a stroll around the Art Institute of Chicago and see for yourself. True art is highly entertaining but rarely, if ever, lazy and stupid.

Scientific entertainment denies the polarity between serious science and frivolous art. It claims these are two sides of the same creative coin. They are complementary ways of posing questions and proposing answers. When we use this catchword, we mean that people can think more clearly and deliberately about the miracle known as human life. While they’re having fun.

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Scientific entertainment. Variation on Prometheus Creating Man in Clay, by Constantin Hansen

Fellowship

Our mission is not to sell trinkets and gadgets, but to help people enjoy more of their birthright.

Who runs Humaginarium? Are they founders? Leaders? Executives? Directors? An operating committee? These words say something about the actual team, but not enough. A much better word is Fellowship.

Fellowship is more than working together. It connotes camaraderie and shared values, trust, style, mutual respect, and synergy wherein the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Humaginarium is a Fellowship.

Like the Fellowship of the Ring, our cohort is on a risky quest. Like the Taliesin Fellowship, we’re devoted to learning. Here’s a roll call.

  • Dave Walker is our chief technical officer. He’s a software engineer and program manager, with decades in the video game industry. Dave makes stuff.
  • Ramiro Atristain is our chief financial officer. He’s an analyst and planner, with decades in investment and commercial banking. Ramiro counts stuff.
  • Alan Klevens is our chief commercial officer. He’s a brand builder, with decades in biotech innovation including three successful exits. Alan pitches stuff.
  • Bob Becker is our chief executive officer. He’s a scholar and ideologist, with decades in teaching and instructional systems design. Bob invents stuff.

In the realms we inhabit – entertainment, science, health, education – many see things and ask “Why?” We dream things that never were and ask “Why not?”

We also say (figuratively) that our Fellowship is on a road to Mordor. Not the garrison of trolls and orcs, but a real world armory of unhealthy lifestyles, diseased bodies, puzzled minds, and broken hearts. Our mission is not to join hordes of vendors selling trinkets and gadgets outside the walls of that armory, but to tear down the walls, overcome what’s inside, and help people enjoy more of their birthright. Wellness, well-being, longevity, and happiness.

Genesis

Humaginarium helps people feel good about themselves in a world that doesn’t.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and a lot more besides. Nobody asked why and God didn’t say. The universe was not a tech startup.

Humaginarium is a tech startup. Everyday we’re asked why and other questions. What is it? When did it begin? Where’s it heading? How will it get there? This is what we say.

Why Humaginarium? Because nothing like it exists and because people need it. Lots of people. It will help them feel good about themselves in a world that doesn’t.

What is it? Scientific video games that reveal the human body in its majesty, beauty, complexity, and meaning. Not the cadavers of medical school, but the homo ludens of high culture. Played to enjoy, learn, improve health and well-being.

When did it begin? In Chicago in the spring of 2016. Grew from one founder with a dream into four earnest professionals. Still slogging through formative research and development. No short cuts. No mantras. No brass rings.

Where’s it heading? Near term to a working, testable prototype, a pre-money valuation, and a commercialization plan. Long term to an Atlas moment when the world pauses and considers what we did, and smiles gratefully.

How will it get there? Tireless unpaid contributions of executives and advisors. Leading to funding by the National Science Foundation, private foundations, angels, sponsors, and sooner than later consumers and patients who pay to play and learn for free. Amen