Andy Musliner: I make Tape. Lots of Tape.
What do you do in the industry?
I’m the Founder and CEO of InRoad Toys. What do I do? I make tape. Lots of tape.
What is your claim to fame in the industry?
I invented PlayTape, instant roads for toy vehicle play, anytime, anywhere. Fame remains elusive.
When I was a kid I had a fascination with stickers. I still have my sticker collection from when I was 8 years old. Somehow that’s turned into a business. Who would have guessed?
Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?
Playing with my 4-year old son on the floor with his Hot Wheels in 2002, I thought, “We have hundreds of toy cars but not a single road. Where are the roads??!!” That spurred the invention of PlayTape. I then spent a dozen years researching the toy industry and tape manufacturing, and a lot of sleepless nights getting up the nerve to launch the product in 2014 at New York Toy Fair. It’s been a wild ride ever since.
What are you working on now?
(Making a PlayTape TV commercial)
What trends do you see in toys or games that excite or worry you?
I come from a 30-year career in high-tech, having spent a lifetime focused on emerging technology and how to apply it to create new value for businesses and consumers. I’ve been an active participant in the increasingly frequent technology revolutions that we used as levers to upend, disrupt, disintermediate, overturn, or overhaul entire industries in grand, sweeping gestures. I now find myself inside the tornado, as technology and toys wrestle to figure out how they will emerge together in a new age. This is a time full of opportunity, and risk.
What advice can you give to inventors who are presenting new toy or game ideas to you?
Good ideas are a dime a dozen. So, first, make sure your idea is better than good. It needs to have real market potential, something you’ve thought through carefully. Then, a sound go-to-market strategy can make all the difference.
What advice would you give a young adult graduating from high school or college today?
Give your life meaning and work hard, because these clichés are true:
Nothing worth doing is ever easy.
If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
You only live once.
What does your typical day look like?
InRoad Toys is a 100% virtual company, so I spend a lot of my day on the phone, emailing, texting, and sharing my screen with others to keep the business humming. We haven’t graduated to video conferencing though. That would require me to get out of my jammies.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The best part is seeing how much someone loves what we created.
What is the worst part of your job?
Paying bills. Isn’t that always the case?
What is the best job you’ve ever had (before now)?
I was a “Revolution Strategist” when the Internet was young. I would help companies figure out how to leverage the Internet for their business. There was a little bit of stardom in that title that caused customers to pause and ask about the Internet revolution. It was a blast.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had and what did you learn from it?
Looking back, I think I enjoyed and made the best of every job I ever had. My first job was at a Carvel ice cream store. What lasting skills did I learn? Customer service and swirling soft-serve.
What and/or who inspires you?
The people who inspire me the most are the technology pioneers who created everyday necessities out of thin air. Steve Jobs was among the greatest contemporaries in that category.
How do you recharge or take a break?
I walk into the kitchen. I eat. I watch Netflix. I drive the convertible. I travel. I should exercise more.
What was your favorite toy or game as a child?
Monopoly. I was the kid who sat in the attic for hours playing Monopoly against myself. I usually won.
Where did you grow up and how did that influence who you are today?
I grew up in the Age of Aquarius. I spent a few of my formative years in schools that promoted free thinking and self-directed study. That meant I spent a lot of time doing math problems as wide as the chalk board and no time in the library. It meant that I squirreled myself away in the darkened “red light room” where there was one lone red light bulb that shone down on kids sitting on pillows on the floor and listening to rock & roll music on the fancy new stereo in the room. I swear. It’s true. Wanna-be hippies we were. I give some credit to this environment for instilling in me the willingness to think outside the box and the free spirit required to break from the norm and define my own path.
What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
I assumed that other people would like orange and purple PlayTape roads as much as I did. I’ve learned not to take myself too seriously.
How do you jumpstart your creativity when you find yourself stalled on a project?
Sometimes I will purposefully set my subconscious to work on a problem while I’m sleeping. It’s the craziest thing! The subconscious has the incredible potential to identify breakthrough solutions. Occasionally, it even works. The hard part is remembering them when you wake up.
Do you have any kiddos?
My kiddos are now adultos. Twins who turn 25 this month, and a 20 year old. All men I’m very proud of.
What’s your favorite cereal?
“Oops! All Berries!” (yes, I’m a kid at heart)
Summer of Winter?
Summer. Winter requires putting on too many clothes. And then I’m still cold.
Favorite movie of all time?
“Star Trek”, the reboot. Or, “The Matrix”.
What’s the furthest you’ve ever been from home?
China, working with toy factories.
What are your hobbies?
I autocross race my little blue Miata.
I used to race my classic bugeye WRX – the PlayTape-mobile – until I blew the engine last year.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
A philanthropist, author, and teacher. Thinner.
I’m looking forward to the day when kids around the world have PlayTape roads on which to drive their toy cars. In the meantime, I’ll keep driving towards that future, and driving my Miata in parking lots.