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The Last Gameboard: Connecting Generations through Tabletop Games

By Mark Ogilbee posted 12-01-2022 06:57 AM

  


The Last Gameboard, an AgeTech Collaborative™ startup participant, is doing for board games what Kindle did for books. Its portable game board combines digital and physical elements to provide a limitless game experience, bringing people together no matter their ages or where in the world they are.
 

Shail Mehta, co-founder and CEO, spent some time describing the company’s product, its vision and how it helps people who are 50-plus connect with friends and family across the generations. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. 

 

Can you tell us about your company? 

Our company is called The Last Gameboard, and our product is called simply Gameboard, which is a tabletop console. It’s a beautifully designed 17-by-17-inch device. It’s lightweight, thin and portable. Think Netflix meets Kindle for tabletop games: When you turn it on, it’s like Netflix — you have access to hundreds and hundreds of tabletop games, ranging from things like cards and checkers all the way to Dungeons & Dragons.  

You can also use real pieces on the surface of Gameboard. So if you have a chess set, for example, you can use those pieces on Gameboard, as long as the game itself allows it. It’s a really fun product. 

 

Is it meant for in-person play, or can two people play with each other remotely? 

It's up to you. Our primary use case right now is people sitting around playing together, but you can use it to play with people no matter where they are. You can teach each other games and make friends by playing games on Gameboard wherever people are in the world. 

 

What’s the origin story behind The Last Gameboard? 

I grew up playing board games; I learned English by playing board games with a group of kids when I moved to Kansas from India.  

No matter where in the world you are, no matter what language you speak, no matter your culture or your religion, everyone has played a tabletop game, right? Everyone has memories of playing games with family and friends. What other category of activity can you say that about? 

I want to bring people together like that. For example, my daughter loves her Xbox. I’m no good at Xbox, but I’m good at the board game Settlers of Catan, and I want to spend time with her doing an activity. And we’ve all seen the scene in “Star Wars” with the holographic chess set; I think that envisioned what the future of board games is all about. Gameboard is all about bringing people together, and that’s how it was born: Me just wanting to play cool board games with my daughter. 

 

Clearly, Gameboard can appeal to people of any age. Is there a particular benefit for people who are 50-plus? 

Gameboard lets you connect with your family through playing a game together, no matter where you might be, without having to learn about the complexities of, say, virtual reality. It sounds simple, but there’s something powerful about taking a “vertical” device such as an iPad and turning it to be horizontal: Instead of playing through technology, you’re now playing with technology. Especially for older adults, it simplifies the technology and bridges the gap so you can actively participate and connect with the people you’re playing with. 

 

What kind of challenges have you faced building the company? 

I feel like I could write a novel about all the lessons I've learned! I’ve learned a lot about hiring and letting people go when they’re not the right fit — because ultimately you’re doing both them and your company a disservice when you keep people on too long when they’re not a good fit. 

Also, I’ve learned a lot about who to partner with and who not to partner with, and how to make a product that resonates with your core consumer and never losing sight of that. 

 

If you could write down a piece of advice and magically send it to yourself when you were starting The Last Gameboard, what would it be? 

To have more faith in my decisions. I think that early on, I knew what the right decisions were, but I hesitated a lot, thinking that someone else must be smarter than me or knows more than me. But ultimately, I know what’s best for my product and best for my business. It’s a huge learning process as a first-time founder to learn when to listen, and when to just move and execute on what you know to be foundational to yourself and core to your product. 

 

As a woman founder, have you faced challenges that other founders don’t necessarily face? 

I work in an industry that's 98% white and male. The majority of the time, whether I’m meeting with investors or partners, I'm the only woman and the only person of color in the room. And especially in the world of venture capital, there are a lot of people who say, “Oh, we tried this diversity initiative, and it didn’t work.” 

So it is hard, but I feel like I’ve done this my whole life. I have to show more traction than anyone else in the room. I have to know my market and my consumer better than anyone else knows theirs. I have to push harder. It’s a constant struggle, but all I can do is focus on my product, my end consumer, and on how I deliver. I tend to adopt the attitude that “I’m here, and you’re going to have to deal with me.” 

 

What are the next steps for the company? 

We’ve been in beta development cycles, iterating and making sure Gameboard is ready for consumers. And now we’re ready to launch in a big way next year — releasing thousands of units, not just hundreds. We’re in a really good position, but it’s going to require a little bit more capital and some more resources, and we have some great partnerships that we’re about to launch. 

 

Is there anything else like you’d like to mention? 

We're open for business! Gameboard is available for purchase right now, over at our website. 


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