Lee Allentuck Talks about the Nerd Industry
Why and how did you get into the Nerd industry?
I’ve always been a Nerd at heart but never pursued a career in science, technology or design. For one reason or another, I was pulled in another direction. Though I work with incredibly talented people and love being a part of the creative process, I don’t necessarily consider myself a “creative.” But, as my own kids explore their own interests, I see that same love for Nerd subjects and it’s been my goal to help fuel that passion for curiosity in them. Raising Nerd was really about sharing that same ideal for other parents and future Nerds. We soft-launched Raising Nerd in February of 2016 to see if there was an audience for us and sure enough, we got a very positive reception. Our official launch was September of 2016 and it’s been a non-stop rocket ship ride ever since.
What advice can you give to inventors who are presenting new toy or game ideas to you?
Every few years, a new trend seems to pop up. It’s just natural. I always encourage inventors to focus on a fun experience versus chasing trends. If it’s a great experience, it will do well. If it’s trendy, it will fizzle quickly.
What was your favorite toy or game as a child?
I loved Matchbox Cars. I would play with them for hours at a time, building large-scale cities that spread out across my entire bedroom. It would drive my parents’ nuts because there was no way to walk into my room without stepping on a block or car. I would make up storylines and reenact my favorite wrecks from CHiPs television show.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had and what did you learn from it?
Early in my career, the agency I worked for managed public relations and publicity for the circus. Overall, it was a fun experience, but part of our job was to run the annual Clown College tryout for people who wanted to pursue a career in clowning. Think of it as American Idol for clowns. It was a critical event for our client that brought in a ton of publicity. My job was very simple: sign-in the hopefuls and prepare them for their day-long audition. Each candidate walked into the lobby to where I was sitting and did the exact same thing: a fake trip over their own feet while pretending to hit their heads on the table in front of me. Clown after clown walked into the lobby and performed the same exact prat fall. Some were better than others, but most were very bad. Now, anyone who knows me understands that I have a real fear of clowns and mimes – even untrained, amateur clowns. This was literally my Stephen King IT moment. I had that job for six years. I’m not sure what I learned, but I’ve never worked with another clown ever since.
What inspires you?
I’m continually inspired by my own kids. It sounds cliché, but a lot of my own creativity, inspiration and drive comes from watching them and learning about what gets them excited. Raising Nerd was created to help further fuel that curiosity in other Nerds.
Where did you grow up and how did that influence who you are today?
I grew up in the Washington, D.C. suburbs in Potomac, Maryland. We had a very close neighborhood with our best friends living right across the street or next door. I’m still very close to those guys. One of our favorite things to do was play in the field behind our house. It was an abandoned farm that had overgrown trees, vines and a pond. We spent hours playing Manhunt, building forts and throwing rocks into the water. By dinner time, we’d come home muddy and exhausted. This experience taught me a lot about environment and creativity and how they play off of each other. I’m pretty sure that I’d still love creativity and imagination if I had grown up in a city or in a more rural atmosphere, but I’m not sure that I’d have the same ideas. I’m not saying one is better than the other, just different.
What do you read every day, and why?
I love reading mystery novels (John Grisham and David Baldacci), historic mysteries (Brad Meltzer) and inspirational books (Tim Ferris). But overall, I love kid novels like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.
What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
Canva is my new favorite app. It’s perfect for creating quick graphics for Instagram and Facebook.
How do you jumpstart your creativity when you find yourself stalled on a project?
This is a great question because it does happen from time to time. I try to take a break from what I’m doing and focus on other things and then come back to the task at another time. I’ll also bring up an old favorite movie or crank some weird music to spark some creativity. Another great way is to break out the LEGO bricks and just build – either by following the directions or doing my own thing. This always gets me moving in the right direction.
Do you have any kiddos?
I have two Nerds at home. A boy, NerdBoy (14), loves science and hopes to walk on Mars; and GirlTastic (11) is a fan of art, singing and dancing. They are complete opposites in their hobbies but both are very curious. Raising Nerd was designed to fuel that curiosity so they can pursue their favorite subjects.
Do you have any pets?
Rudy, the vicious CavaPoo. He’s a fluffy, white ball of energy.
Do you play any musical instruments? If so, which one(s)?
What’s the first thing you usually notice about people?
Do you prefer scary movies or happy endings?
I love a good thriller. Not gore, but psychological thrillers. Stephen King’s The Shining is one of my favorites.
Summer of Winter?
Summer. Too bad I live in New England, right?