Interview with Shail Mehta, co-founder of The Last Game Board
The Last Gameboard is building the world’s first board game console and platform, with a mission to merge the world’s of physical and digital world’s of gaming like never before. A 16″ x 16″ touchscreen device that integrates patented technology which allows for physical objects (dice, cards, miniatures) to be used on the Gameboard to pinpoint precision.
What inspired you to start The Last GameBoard?
SM: Board games helped me transition into American culture and continue to be a major passion of mine. When I immigrated to the US, I didn’t speak English. Playing games like Snakes and Ladders not only taught me English but also the nuances of language like tone and body language. Playing a game with friends is much more than just who’s winning and by how much. You gain real world human-to-human experience with strategy, economics, alliances, negotiation, compromise, victory and defeat. Games teach us about ourselves and how to interact with one another.
Today, I see these foundational lessons being replaced by technology. I wanted to find a way to embrace the advantages of technology without losing that real world, human connection that I cherished growing up. When I first envisioned Gameboard-1, I thought “This has to exist already.” When I realized it didn’t, I knew I had to create it.
What was your career path and experience prior to founding The Last Gameboard?
SM: I have always had a bent towards entrepreneurship, but fell into that common American trap of “Go to college. Get a degree. Climb the corporate ladder.”. I started my career with the US State Department, transitioned to hedge funds and private equity in Manhattan, and even worked for the US Nuclear Power Commission. While I enjoyed these roles throughout my career, I always knew I wanted to start my own company and be my own boss.
What is the most exciting part about running the operations of your company?
SM: Doing something that’s never been done before and not losing yourself while doing it. We are developing ground breaking technology for the entire digital display market under CTO Rob Wyatt. I love speaking with content creators with their skeptical looks of “I’ve seen this tried before” and seeing the gears start turning behind their eyes when they realize what we have accomplished.
It would be easy to just get hardware out the door but I am building a community right along with a company. We want people to come together around great content and great experiences. Game with a friend next door or a world away. We are building a community. We are building a family. It’s scary, exhilarating and I love it.
What is the main challenge that The Last Gameboard is facing?
SM: Navigating the world of COVID-19 has been … interesting, but it wasn’t exactly a cake walk before either. I check all the boxes for “hard to fund”: 1) women founders get less than 5% of venture funding and there isn’t even a statistic for minority women receiving venture funding. 2) hardware is difficult for investors due to the fact that many founders do not understand the complexities of the manufacturing process. Even so, we’ve been able to put together an incredible technology with limited outside investment and a clear sourcing, manufacturing and distribution path for Gameboard-1.
How is COVID-19 affecting the demand for your product?
SM: We are experiencing a positive demand impact from COVID-19. There are some pretty unique ways that family and friends are trying to interact while practicing social distancing. If anything, COVID-19 has reminded us that we all crave socialization especially when we can’t have it. I wish Gameboard-1 was in the market today, but the sobering truth is that COVID-19 will impact our social interactions for likely years to come. We take pride in the fact that we will help soften the blow of this period of isolation and believe this “new” way of gaming will persist long after COVID-19.
Tell us about your personal entrepreneurial experience as a young female founder in Colorado.
SM: I could not be happier with the way Colorado and especially the city of Denver included me in events and discussions. The startup ecosystem here is strong, open and welcoming. There have been hardships as well, I have been a three-time state grant finalist only to have the goal posts moved on me each time. I have pitched at investor events and have been told that I was “Venture Porn.” While these experiences have stung, they have only strengthened my resolve.
How do you find the VC and start-up landscapes there different from other cities, such as SF and NY?
SM: The Colorado VC and start-up landscapes are still emerging compared to larger cities. In cities like SF & NYC, I meet entrepreneurs who get to choose who they take capital from. In Colorado, capital chooses the entrepreneur, and those entrepreneurs are usually only in B2B SaaS companies. However, the start-up ecosystem here is extremely supportive and there are many great founders, former-founders and resources.
You have highly demanding roles as a young female founder, wife and mother. What advice / recommendation would you give other women who have families and want to start their own company?
SM: As I answer this question, I have a three year older daughter bouncing off the walls, am quarantined with her and my husband, and hopefully am still making some sense with my answers. If I had to give advice it would be to use the resources that you have available to you and understand that perfect is the enemy of the good. You’ll never be the perfect founder, wife, mother, nor human. Do your best, be present in all your business and homelife, and never give up.
What business goals do you wish to achieve within the next year?
SM: I have two business goals for 2020: 1) Closing my next financing round and 2) achieving 35,000 Gameboard-1 pre-orders by the end of December. This pre-order strategy involves continually securing and announcing great game partners and incredible, unique gaming experiences. We will be launching a new preorder vehicle with Indiegogo in May and we will likely be releasing Gameboard-1 widely in March of 2021. It’s going to be an incredible year.