Peder Burgaard and Jonas Gam – Founders of playITsound

Peder Burgaard graduated from the Masters of Information Studies program at the Institute for Media and Information Studies, Aarhus University, Denmark. During the course of earning his degree, Peder worked with Sun Microsystem as a beta-tester for Project SUNSPOT, developing experiences based on motion sensor input. He also won the Professors Critics Award for the project Interactive Swing.

Peder has gained international experience at Innovation Lab, an internationally acclaimed technology knowledge center. Peder was curator and producer of the Nordic Exceptional Trendshop, an international conference and emerging technology showroom displaying cutting edge digital experience projects from MIT’s Media Lab, Stanford Media-X lab, and London Royal College of Art, as well as prototypes from many corporate research labs. Peder was promoted to chief analyst within the trends and technology group, and has advised numerous national and international companies on digital strategies. He has been stationed at Institute for the Future as a Visiting Researcher, a think tank based in Silicon Valley.

He is a Purple List expert at New York-based media consultancy PSFK, former contributor at two-time Webby award winner, guest blogger at world-leading, online game research blog Terra Nova, and program committee member at IADIS International Conference Game and Entertainment Technologies.

Peder has lectured at Stanford Humanities Lab on pervasive gaming, at Harvard Business School on sense-making strategies and user-drive innovation in virtual worlds, at NYU Interactive Telecommunication Program on interactive technology, at Volkswagen Group’s sixth Global Future Technology Conference, at LEGO Next Kids Tech conference, and many more.

Jonas Gam graduated from the Masters of Information Studies program at the Institute for Media and Information Studies, Aarhus University, Denmark. During the course of earning his degree, Jonas won the Professors Critics Award for the project Interactive Swing, with his group. Later, parts of the project’s design was transformed into patent applications under Jonas’ direction.

Jonas has undertaken part of his B.A. at Department of Innovation Studies, University of East London. And part of his master’s degree was undertaken at the Business School and Department of Management, Aarhus University.

Jonas specializes in creative processes and product development, and is responsible for day-to-day operations at playITsound. He led playITsound’s nomination for PriceWaterHouseCoppers Growth Bubble award in 2009, and also led playITsound to the elite entrepreneurship program Accelerace, where only few companies are accepted annually. Jonas been taught by Chasm Institute, Miller Heiman Sales Performance Company, and other “top of the pop” consultancy/strategy companies and people (as part of Accelerace).

P. Torstensen, former business director in the Danish Ministry of Economic and Business Affair, and current MD of Symbion business incubator, acted as Jonas’ personal coach, during the cause of the six-month Accelerace program when playITsound established contact with leading playground manufacturer HAGS.

When not busy with playITsound Jonas dreams with his girlfriend, spend time with friends and family, and drifts away on a cloud of electronic and indie/rock music.

What are you working on right now?

Peder: Currently, I am developing new audio experiences for Son-X to keep up with the demand for additional content, as well as brainstorming future features for Son-X. Even though we have created a “world’s first” product, we have to keep maturing the value proposition. Therefore we are in close contact with our distributors to acquire as much market feedback as possible.

Jonas: I’m working on developing new ideas and figuring out what we need to do about them.

Where did the idea for playITsound come from?

Peder: We wanted to develop something for children, so we approached the kindergarten and childcare settings with an open mind. We utilized our user-driven design methods as part of the design/HCI classes at the University of Aarhus. We mapped the basic play characteristics of children playing in two different domains: a regular kindergarten and a forest kindergarten. The ethnographical observations and participatory design approach to children’s play is the foundation of the product.

Jonas: From a playground in a kindergarten. I saw kids as a “dynamic pattern” running/jumping around, and I saw the playground equipment as more “passive pattern.” Then I thought of a story on a kid album from when I was a toddler; a friendly lion escaped the zoo. It wandered around and talked with people. Then it all came together, and I thought of interactive playground equipment talking with kids to support their dynamic play. Since then, the input of many people has been part of it all.

What does your typical day look like?

Peder: Listening to market inputs, preparing presentations and currently revising our business plan.

Jonas: I wake up around 7:00 a.m., and then it is time to empty my head so thoughts and ideas can enter. I then open my calendar on my iPhone and/or my “mind map” on my iPad. If my girlfriend is around, she gets a morning kiss before my “i-friends” do. Then I have breakfast or make a quick tour in the gym. After that I move on to coordination and administration. When the emails and phone calls start to slow down, I have time for new concepts and research. Later it’s dinner and then I spend time with my girlfriend or friends. Often the evening also includes emails and research, but at a slower pace.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Peder: I have not lost the urge to explore, constantly ask questions, and be curious. Therefore, I seek information outside of my daily tasks to find inspiration. I seek to understand the metaphor or overall pattern of an unknown domain, with the intent of replicating that pattern into a new domain.

Jonas: Find the right people to make them real. Going from an idea to reality is seldom an individual effort in my view. In the case of Son-X Octavia, many people deserve credit for bringing the idea to life, including our hardware developer, interaction designers and JV partner HAGS.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Peder: The quantified self (tracking your vitals signs with consumer electronic as opposed to have the tracking done by a doctor). I think the democratization of vital sign data will trigger the next wave of personalized health care services.

Jonas: The freedom to work as you want (not always true, but work seems more and more self-planned these days.)

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

Peder: As a workaholic, I have yet to experience a bad job. I try to stay positive and make the best of everything, though I do remember waving big “protest” signs at a client workshop as quite the new experience.

Jonas: I have done everything from cleaning to bartending to working in a restaurant kitchen to being in a factory. I honestly never had a “worst job,” but getting up around 6:00 or 7:00 a.m. to go a factory with physically demanding tasks was sometimes hard. However, I learned to respect people who do that every day, and to be very grateful for my knowledge-based job.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Peder: Since this is my first startup, I didn’t know where to begin. The process has involved learning on the job. I think for a future startup concepts, the initial phase would be reduced to developing only a few product ideas to shorten the funding process.

Jonas: I would put less focus on fundraising from various organizations, and would instead seek money from my “near environment” (family and friends). If that didn’t work, I’d look for funding globally, instead of just concentrating on my region or country. If possible, I’d keep the business plan short and exiting. Why not make it into a video on YouTube? This does not mean that you should not spend time on research and potential customers, but it does mean you should keep your communication brief.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Peder: Stay positive and believe in yourself and your idea.

Jonas: Enjoy the word, “no.” It’s what gives me the energy to go on and develop a better defined product and market segment. Always innovate, but stay on top of things and remain organized. Find a system to keep track of your costs.

What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Peder: The biggest problems I faced as a first time entrepreneur was kicking down doors and getting funding. I feel blessed to have Jonas on the team, as he really excels at setting the right atmosphere for meetings and being very persistent in tracking down executives.

Jonas: Running low on resources and hearing the word “no” too many times. When this happens, prioritize. Ask yourself, “Do I really need to go on a holiday?” You have more freedom to work as you want when you’re an entrepreneur; try to find joy in that.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

Peder: As I mentioned earlier, I think quantified self services of tracking your own vital signs will become really big within the next three years. I can only encourage startups to explore this opportunity.

Jonas: Organic food grown in the city on balconies and rooftops. (Is this already out there?)

Tell us a secret.

Peder: I have not had a TV since 2006.

Jonas: I never thought that I would be an entrepreneur. My dad was one, and it did not appeal to me at first. Now I cannot imagine living any other way.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

Peder: Podio is excellent for collaborative work. Dropbox/SkyDrive is great for online storage. And finally, Skype. All three online tools really make a small startup operate like to big enterprise.

Jonas: Podio is like Facebook for business. Google Docs is so easy to use with collaborators, and Skype is excellent for long talks.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Peder: As a history aficionado, I would recommend Glut: Mastering Information Throughout the Ages by Alex Wright. It takes you on an exhilarating journey from stone age communities to monastic book art to the present day information society.

Jonas: Right now, I recommend Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch. It gives you techniques to find ideas and lead life in better harmony. Also, I have just started reading Brand Washed by Martin Lundstrom, which is very promising. It’s about how brands affect our minds.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

Peder: My friend @JonasJuhler (AKA the Panda–yes, he actually ran a marathon in a Panda suit!) because he is a brilliant writer and commentator of current affairs. @marcventresca (Marc Ventresca) who is a researcher at Oxford University Said Business School, because he has quite the vision for social innovation. And finally @slavin_fpo (Kevin Slavin) who is a former MD of New York-based Area/Code for being an inspiration for convergent technology with everyday objects. Shake Runner with real GPS signals from Great White Sharks is still one of my favorites.

Jonas: @LutzFinger. I was interviewed by Lutz Finger and Professor Soumitra Dutta (INSEAD) about being a startup company in Denmark earlier this year. Lutz writes about business, media and marketing, and often finds information I know little about. Lutz also serves the Olympics, EU, and the World Economic Forum.

@EsbenNiklasson. Esben is a super dedicated graphic designer. He spends much of his time going into the details. From perfecting each single dot that makes an alphabet character to in-depth research of the Renaissance in Italy to make his graphics great. Esben is also a very good friend of mine. Danes will know him from his album covers for major bands.

@ThomasGam is a social awareness journalist. Sometimes he writes about uncovered aspects of social politics in regions such as the Balkans and Cambodia, where he has worked. Furthermore, he is my brother.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

Jonas: Recently when I thought, “What have I gotten myself into? I could have gotten a “normal work life.” Still, I could not live without my current entrepreneurial job.

Who is your hero?

Peder: Peter Madsen (along Kristian von Bengtson) of Copenhagen Suborbitals. Peter is constructing a DIY space rocket for sending a human into low earth orbit. This will make Denmark the fourth nation to accomplish this feat. They are test firing multiple rockets this summer. It’s very exciting.

Jonas: The “nameless people” making things happen without the rest of us noticing.

Will you become another serial entrepreneur?

Peder: That is definitely an option, and with the launch of playITsound’s “world’s first” product, I like the smell of it.

Will you have a Facebook profile, and if so, is it paramount to post updates every day or every week?

Jonas: We will establish some form of a Facebook profile, and I think the best way to keep it fresh and updated is to integrate it with a community of people who are interested in play-tech-kids.

Will you ever find time to complete the Argentinian backpacking trip all the way to the most southern tip and then cross the strait for a check-in on FourSquare from Antarctica?

Peder: Yes!

How can you get more time for your girlfriend, friends and family?

Jonas: Perhaps by loosening up and outsourcing more?


Peder on LinkedIn:
Jonas on LinkedIn:
Peder on Twitter: @pburgaard
Jonas on Twitter: @Gam_playITsound