Valerie Vacante - Connected Cool Kids


What do you do in the industry?


I am the Founder and Managing Partner of Collabsco a strategy and innovation collective based in Austin Texas. We work with global brands and startups to create product innovation solutions for growth. We are Executive Collaborators, Emerging Technology Strategists and Connected Product and Communication leaders. Ultimately, we are problem solvers, we are happiest collaborating with cool people doing cool things to pioneer new products and experiences through emerging tech across toys, games, music, fashion, entertainment and beyond.


What was your favorite toy or game as a child?


There were so many brilliant toys and games - I can’t name a single toy or game; however, there is a common theme in my favorite toys and games - they all game me a sense of wonderment, imagination and a wink to what could be possible.


A few of my favorite toys and games included: the original NES, handheld games like Qbert, Robbie Jr., Lite Bright, Transformers, LEGO, Jem and the Holograms, She-Ra Princess of Power and He-Man, Pocket Rockers, Spin Art, Simon, Speak and Spell, Casio PT-1, Pogo Bal, Care Bears, My Little Pony and Hot Wheels and let’s not forget the board games: Monopoly, The Goonies, Mouse Trap, Wheel of Fortune, Trouble and The Game of Life.


I have fond memories creating, playing and learning through these toys and games; from strategy, entrepreneurship, creativity, friendship, caring and tenacity and technology I’m thankful for all that these toys and games taught me and that’s why I am passionate about creating exciting products and experiences to create positive memories for a new generation.

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


It was not part of my original plan, I started my career in the digital marketing world always with consumer, insights and innovation at the core. I made the move to a product innovation firm where our main focus was creating a connected world across smart home, connected fitness, connected transportation and more.


We were continuiously learning, experimenting and launching new connected products and experiences - in addition to creating the future of the connected home, one of the products that we were developing was a connected bed for kids packed with a monster detector, headtilt, sensors and more. Not only was I excited about improving the way kids sleep through technology - it was something that my son could participate in throughout the process. My son and I participated in testing and it inspired me to explore creating connected play experiences with brands that we are passionate about.


We are gaming, tech and connected play fans in my house, we attend gaming conferences and build robots for fun so it only made since that I apply my learnings in creating connected products and experiences across IoT, wearables and connected communities to create new ways for kids to learn, play and discover the world too.


At Collabsco, our work covers a vast spectrum including; scouting what’s new and next in tech, shaping partnerships across global brands and startups, participating at industry leading events (ChiTag, CES, Toy Fairs, SXSW, AWE, etc), leading kid-focused product creation workshops, conducting lean “non-traditional” test and learn sessions with kids and families, prototyping new experiences with new tech, driving “total product” strategies and collaborating with some of the most innovative leaders in connected play. It has been an exciting journey - I’m thankful that my son and I have been able to embark on it together -  I learn from him, he learns from me and we have fun along the way.


What is Connected Play?


There are several definitions bouncing around about connected play, we see it in a more expansive way indicative to how people live and experience technology. We define a “Connected Play” experience as one that allows people to interact, play or learn in the physical and digital world.



Connected Play goes beyond toys or a single technology; it encompasses gaming, education and emerging technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), robots, Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Wearables, Social, Voice Assistants  and more.


Juniper Research defines it as “one that must have embedded communications onboard that enables it to interface with a mobile device or games console, while Internet connectivity may be used for the purposes of communications to the cloud.”


As new technologies have evolved so have the ways kids, play, learn and explore their physical and digital world. The Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robots, Augmented Reality (AR), Vir