What do you do in the industry?
We are product placement specialists. In movie business parlance, we act as a cross between a producer and a casting agent. We work to align the elements of an idea with whatever is required such as engineering, industrial design, theming and then figure out who could be the right partner for it.
What are you working on now?
Games, activity toys and some candy items. and working to gain more worldwide awareness for our KenKen math and logic puzzle. We try to be innovative yet practical in whatever category we pursue.
Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?
As a child my dad worked for Topper Toys, Matchbox, Corgi, Estes Rockets so it got in my blood early. It also infected my brother, David and now two of my children who are 3rd generation toy industry.
(David, Len and Bob at the TAGIEs 2010)
What trends do you see in toys or games that excite or worry you?
It’s troublesome when innovation is dismissed and replaced by a label slap. For example, when a license is popular, many companies feel it’s enough to take a generic concept and just apply a license to it. Recognizable products will stand out and sell, but combined with attention to quality and innovation is best for sustained success. there is always pressure to lower costs, and it’s disappointing when fun is compromised due to cost.
What advice can you give to inventors who are presenting new toy or game ideas to you?
Do research to make sure you have something truly unique. Make sure it’s not just a neat marketing concept, but innovative. We want the customer to say “WOW!"
What does your typical day look like?
Lots of communication, especially emails and a fair amount of video chat. It’s important to keep projects on track and maintain momentum.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Communicating with the fascinating and smart creative people in the industry, and maintaining these friendships all over the world.
What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
Trying to avoid over-selling. Many times we have an idea which we totally believe in. when pitching that idea, it’s important to allow the potential partner to see the virtues for themselves. If you start too high, there’s only one direction to go from there, down, and we only want to go up. Let the customer get to “Wow” with a gentle nudge rather than a heavy handed push.
What do you read every day, and why?
I subscribe to news feeds which have the latest in news and trends for technology, health, science and current events.
What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
I’m still mesmerized by the world of science fiction we live in. My iPhone and the apps is like carrying around an entire library, encyclopedia set, and newspapers with instant access. I’m an impatient information junkie and admit my reliance on communication devices drives my family crazy a lot of the time.
How do you jumpstart your creativity when you find yourself stalled on a project?
Pretty much all our projects have creative partners so i love the brainstorming and exchange of ideas. We may not always come up with a solution, but the process is fun
When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Everyday I find something amusing, usually laughing at myself and the silliness of human nature.
Do you have any kiddos?
Three adult children. Sam, my oldest lives in la and does content creation and social media promotions for consumer product companies including several in the toy industry. Alex started working at Nextoy a year ago and it’s been a great experience, and he has a natural aptitude to succeed in this industry. Our daughter, Lara is studying to be a nutritionist. Judy, my wife of 30 years is a Yoga instructor and teacher.
(Sam, Alex and Bob in Hong Kong for Hong Kong Toy Fair)
Do you have any pets?
We lost our beloved Wheaton Terrier last summer. he was aptly named “Player”.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
I love baseball, and have had some good moments with my Mets despite all the heartache, too
Do you prefer scary movies or happy endings?