Two Minnesota startups become one

by Son Huynh


playtendThe startups formerly known as The Guys in the Booth and twistcone have joined forces to form a new company called Playtend.

The Guys in the Booth, founded in 2009, were a team of two iOS developers while twistcone, founded in 2010, was a small creative studio. The merger brings together founders Christopher Taylor and Victor Johnson from The Guys in the Booth and Zara Gonzalez Hoang from twistcone as three new partners under Playtend.

Taylor, Johnson, and Hoang first started collaborating in 2011 on an app called Monster Coloring Book. After seeing the success of their first project, they decided to again collaborate and create Let’s Learn How to Draw! It was in early 2012 that Taylor, Johnson, and Hoang decided it made more sense to work as one fluid team than as two separate entities.

Playtend, thoughtfully named to capture the concept of “creative play and pretend”, is a major player in the edutainment mobile app space-apps that strive to entertain and educate. With a combined total of twenty-three apps and over 1.17 million total users, Playtend and its apps have won several awards and have been featured on the App Store homepage several times. In fact, one app was so particularly successful that it was pirated and distributed over the Internet. This led to them building a free, lite version with in-app purchases and a full, paid version for all of their apps.

Part of their success stems from the fact that the founders have children who, according to Johnson, are pretty effective beta and quality assurance testers. “If my own kids don’t approve the apps, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board.”

While Playtend aims to build apps for kids of all ages, most of their apps currently target the one to six year old age group-the group that their own children fall under. When asked what will happen as their children age, Johnson hints that they might start creating more puzzle apps to accommodate for the older age group. In fact, Build a Train Puzzles, their third train app and the first created under Playtend, is a puzzle-based app that was just recently released in early April.

Playtend currently has no plans to expand away from iOS as that would require overhead in learning and having to maintain more than one platform. However they have been exploring and prototyping with the idea of combining their apps with physical devices (think actual toy trains). Johnson believes that this sort of technology could be very big in the future and he would like nothing more than for Playtend to be on the cutting edge that “blurs the line between the physical and the digital.”