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Leif Askeland - Best of CES 2018 Award

What do you do in the industry?

Currently I work with a team in RI (Hello Tomorrow Inc.) developing products and IP that expand the definition of play into areas of health and wellness.

What are you working on now?

I am focusing more on products with purpose and meaning ….. like “My Special Aflac Duck that is designed to help children with cancer. This caring smart companion won the 2018 CES 'Tech for a Better World' Award.

Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?

I initially joined the industry to make a quick buck. I looked at it as a short-term endeavor. I wanted to go on and do “real Engineering” like my friends who worked for Raytheon and Boeing Aircraft. However, I soon realized that the toy industry is uniquely challenging and requires the best talent. The need to optimize designs and focus on “Value Engineering” requires highly skilled and experienced talent. Only the best talent will succeed in this business. It has been a wonderful career and I would not have done anything different.

What trends do you see in toys or games that excite or worry you?

Clearly the tie in with entertainment has become an overarching trend over the last few years. This requires accelerated time to market and shorter lifecycles. Often resulting in operational and engineering nightmares. In addition, the rapid dissemination of news and trends through social media often result in immediate product opportunities. This requires a very nimble development organization that can jump on an opportunity and bring ideas to market on short notice.

In addition, the increased focus on globalization is causing major challenges. Customers in different regions have unique preferences relative to scale, price and value proposition varies greatly. In Asia they prefer smaller scale products and greatly value miniaturization. In the US there is definitely a link between scale and price and miniaturization is generally not greatly valued.

Additionally, the international regulatory environment is getting increasingly difficult. For small companies the cost of international adaptations of products can be insurmountable.

What advice can you give to inventors who are presenting new toy or game ideas to you?

Take steps to minimize your investment and do not get too attached to an idea. Be ready to move on quickly. Too often we see inventors who take the development too far…. sometime into pre-production. Only to learn that everything needs to change because the concept needs to be adapted to a certain brand or entertainment property. Resulting in much wasted time and resources

What is the worst job you’ve ever had and what did you learn from it?

Had a summer job back in Oslo cleaning tanks in big ships. Truly a filthy job. Probably the thing that made me decide to attend university.

What was your favorite toy or game as a child?

I was an early LEGO adaptor

Where were you born?

I was born in Oslo, Norway. A peaceful and beautiful place to grow up.

What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?

Oh…. God… way too many to list here. However, I have learned to not dwell over them. Don’t look back – move forward and do better.

What’s the first thing you usually notice about people?

Ability to self-deprecate is a quality I value. It suggests that you are self-confident without being too self-impressed.

Do you prefer scary movies or happy endings?

The world is scary enough as it is…. No need to make it worse. I like documentaries, otherwise I prefer simple easy, mindless viewing that make you laugh.

Favorite movie of all time?

I recently viewed a Swedish movie named: “A man called Ove” which I enjoyed.

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