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It all started…

in the fall of 2011

Initial Concept

Dr. Ozer built a game for his Stanford students to highlight uncertainties and decisions facing a retailer and its supplier based on his award-winning paper, Trust in Forecast Information Sharing. Dr. Ozer soon realized that the game triggered intense discussions, excellent questions, and fun interactions during his classes. He then spent some time building a more robust web-enabled game, the Forecast Sharing Game (FSG), and used it in several of his lectures across universities including Columbia, UT Dallas, and MIT.

The next evolution came during Fall 2013 as Dr. Ozer was teaching Executive Education at the MIT Sloan School of Management. After reconnecting with his former Stanford student Brendan Kennedy (who was then a full-time MBA student at Sloan), the idea of a game platform began to form. It was clear that interactive games such as the one Dr. Ozer built could be a powerful teaching and learning tool in any classroom from undergraduate to executive education. The question was whether there was a need for such interactive engagements in the classroom. And if so, how should one develop a product that can be widely effective for students and instructors?

The team learned about and successfully applied for the Spring 2015 cohort of the NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Program, an accelerator for university-born technology. Having recruited industry mentor Ozan Gursel, a former Partner at McKinsey & Co., the team conducted research about the potential to develop and distribute interactive educational games focused initially on Operations Management (OM).

Our mission is to help instructors create fun and interactive learning environments fueled by real-time feedback from student engagement; and to make self-discovery of fundamental business concepts interactive, fun and fathomable for students.
— Fathomd Team

NSF Funding: I-Corps Program and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)

The research, conducted with 185 professors during NSF I-Corps program during spring 2015, showed a significant unmet need in the growing game-based learning market: 85% of OM professors reported challenges in finding and using games with validated pedagogical content. As such, the team decided to address the market need with three core competencies.

First, we create games according to our Game Research & Development (GR&D) process alongside academic authors who form our Academic Advisory Council (AAC). This process provides a scientifically supported gamification method in which new games are developed from academic concepts into products with defined learning objectives.

From left to right, Ozalp Ozer, Ozan Gursel, and Brendan Kennedy at the I-Corps awards ceremony in Washington D.C.

From left to right, Ozalp Ozer, Ozan Gursel, and Brendan Kennedy at the I-Corps awards ceremony in Washington D.C.

Second, our Game Design Language (GDL) allows Fathomd game designers to rapidly build technically robust games implementing the results of the GR&D process.

Third, our innovative Game Distribution Platform (GDP) makes games available for wide consumption and simplifies classroom integration through easy game setup, game management and incorporation of game results into lectures to tailor learning objectives.

The team was named the Top Performer of the I-Corps cohort, and subsequently founded Fathomd (pronounced fath·omed) with the mission to (1) help instructors create fun, interactive classroom environment fueled by simple, real-time feedback from student engagement and (2) make self-discovery of key concepts interactive, fun and easy for students, via interactive games. Since that time, Fathomd has received both a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I award in 2016 for prototype research, and a SBIR Phase II award in 2017 for platform commercialization research.

What’s Next: Growth And Scale

The innovations embodied in these three game development methodologies form our key differentiation from competitors in the field. Games created and distributed through the combination of GR&D, GDL and GDP enable professors to focus on rapidly integrating a game’s pedagogical aspects with classroom instruction. Within the next several years, Fathomd’s goal is to help build an action-based learning environment in every major university in the U.S. and around the world.