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Kiwi Startup Spotlight: AR gaming app Magical Park eyeing expansion to US and Canada

14 Aug 2017

“Back when I was a kid, I used to play outside and enjoy nature.”

Most of us have had that thought at some point, as we watch children today with their heads bent over multiple digital screens.

Pokemon GO changed that for a while, as it got both children and adults alike off their couches and on the street chasing augmented reality pocket monsters.

However, it also made headlines when wannabe Pokemon trainers found themselves in unlikely places in their quest to catch ‘em all, prompting concerns for children’s safety.

Melanie Langlotz and Amie Walken founded their startup, Geo AR Games, to create happy, healthy children who enjoy technology equally with nature and the outdoors.

The Auckland-based startup was founded in September 2015, wanting to create an app that could get kids off the couch and physically active outside through a mobile outdoor game.

“Councils struggle to get tech-minded families to urban parks,” says Melanie Langlotz, Geo AR Games CEO.

“Magical Park turns an urban park into a digital playground using augmented reality technology.”

Growing pains

In its early stages, Langlotz bootstrapped most of the funds required to produce the app and went through two business incubators – Lightning Lab XX and Startup Chile.

“Startup Chile was really the beginning of everything. We didn't have money and needed funding to develop the prototype and see if our idea would work,” Langlotz says.

“We had 3 months of working hard on the prototype and getting a much better idea how a startup works.

“It was a great opportunity and we connected with some amazing international teams.”

After that came Lightning Lab XX, which took 6% of equity.  

Going into the accelerator, Langlotz says Geo AR Games needed advice on how to go to market and identify the best revenue model for them.

“It was hard work and very stressful, but absolutely worth it! We met a lot of high profile business people who were keen to mentor and part with their incredible knowledge to help us out,” she recounts.

The team came out of the accelerator with two prototypes which would go on to become their revenue model.

Market validation

Last year, it managed to raise $7000 via Kickstarter to develop the game for a premium version launch.

The game is free to play and download for the New Zealand community.

In March, during Parks Week, Geo AR Games partnered with the New Zealand Recreation Association and Parks and Leisure Australia, promotion the Magical Park App to councils across Australasia.

The reaction was overwhelmingly positive, with Geo AR Games programming 176 parks in three weeks.

“In one week, we had over 24,000 visitors playing Magical Park,” Langlotz recalls.

By September, Magical Park will be active in 28 parks and 44 primary schools in New Zealand, 12 in Australia, and two in the UK after partnering with UK Active

Next steps

Geo AR Games is currently working on the second iteration of the app, Magical Park 2.

“The new release will bring exciting new features and game content,” Langlotz says.

Magical Park 2 will be released on September 14, followed by a special Christmas game that councils can subscribe to for their local community to play.

Langlotz is also approaching parks in the United States, Canada, and China, seeing Hallowe’en as a big opportunity for the US.

Ethical gaming

Geo AR Games aims to be a socially responsible business and is selective about forming partnerships with organisations with similar values.

“We have strong ethical considerations and will only work with partners or investors who are aligned with them,” Langlotz says.

These standards exclude partnerships with fast food outlets, sugary foods, companies profiting off war, supporting poor labour conditions or discrimination.

“Now, more than ever before, ethics and sustainability are becoming desirable business standards,” she adds.

“With conscious consumers demanding ethical accountability, businesses like us can focus on doing good while doing good business.”

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