In the world of technology and innovation, the story of Alf Inge Wang stands out as a testament to the power of passion, perseverance, and thinking outside the box. From a small town in Norway to the global stage, Alf’s journey is marked by a deep connection to gaming, a commitment to education, and the creation of groundbreaking projects that have left an indelible mark on the tech industry.
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Early Days in Norway: The Birth of a Tech Enthusiast
Born in the quaint town of Norway, with a population of around 20,000, Alf’s early years were characterized by a seemingly normal upbringing. However, even in this small town, a spark was ignited—a fascination with computers and gaming.
Alf reminisces, “I was really interested in computers and computer games. That was kind of the strongest link to what is coming later.”
His journey into the world of electronics, software, and computers began when he was introduced to programming at the age of 13. The realization that he could make a computer do whatever he wanted by learning to code set the stage for a lifelong passion for technology.
From Gaming Enthusiast to Academic Pursuits
Alf, born in 1970, was perfectly aligned with the rise of gaming culture. Growing up with arcade games, Commodore 64, and old game consoles, his passion for gaming became a defining aspect of his life.
He candidly admits to creating “really crappy games” with friends, but it was this early involvement that laid the foundation for his future endeavors. Parallel to his gaming interests, Alf pursued academic excellence.
With a Bachelor’s degree in electronics and later a Master’s and Ph.D. in programming or software engineering, he found himself deeply engaged in academia. “For me, it’s a passion to learn more and to figure out things,” Alf explains, emphasizing the importance of exploring and testing new ideas.
The Birth of Kahoot!: From Classroom Prototype to Global Phenomenon
Alf’s foray into the entrepreneurial world began during his tenure as a professor. In 2006, he proposed a set of ideas as master projects, one of which eventually evolved into Kahoot!. The journey involved years of development, testing, and refinement.
Alf recalls the transformative moment when they tested Kahoot!, then known as Lecture Quiz, in a classroom: “It changed the atmosphere of the classroom.” Transitioning from prototypes to a commercial product posed its own challenges.
The focus shifted from technology to usability, making it accessible for teachers and students. Alf reflects on the initial stages, “We didn’t focus so much on earning money. Getting a lot of users is more important in the beginning.” This approach proved to be successful, leading to Kahoot!’s impressive user growth and widespread adoption.
Along with Lecture Quiz, Alf worked on a second project called MOOSES, which is a multiplayer one-screen entertainment system. MOOSES is basically a movie theater where you can play arcade games. And the technology was developed before the coming of smartphones.
Multiple students in a single room could play a multiplayer game with a lot of different things on the large screen together in the same room. Lecture Quiz and MOOSES merged into Kahoot! later in 2012, when they started work on the commercial.
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Kahoot!’s Unexpected Impact on Fortune 500 Companies
What started as a tool for higher education soon found unexpected success in the corporate world. Fortune 500 companies, initially not the target audience, embraced Kahoot! for training and events. Alf recounts the surprising journey, citing Ikea as their first corporate customer.
“97% of Fortune 500 companies use Kahoot! for training and events,” Alf marvels, highlighting the unforeseen impact of their creation. The pinnacle of Kahoot!’s success came with its acquisition for a staggering 1.7 billion, making waves in the tech industry.
Alf reflects on the journey, stating, “It was very strange to see that this was actually possible at one stage.”
PlayPulse and the Realities of Hardware Development
Alf’s entrepreneurial spirit continued with PlayPulse, a venture focused on merging exercise with gaming. The idea was to transform exercise bikes into arcade games, catering to the home market.
However, the venture faced challenges, particularly with hardware development. Alf acknowledges the difficulties, emphasizing, “Hardware is difficult… Lessons learned for me is at least think twice before getting into a hardware company.”
BitPet®: Merging Gaming, Exercise, and Augmented Reality
The latest venture in Alf’s entrepreneurial journey is BitPet®. Born out of his research on the health effects of Pokemon Go, BitPet aims to create a lasting impact on both physical and emotional health.
The concept involves virtual pets that require exercise, fostering social interactions, and augmented reality experiences. Alf envisions a game service that blends physical and social exercise seamlessly.
Alf ideated a concept of perfect augmented reality glasses, just like sunglasses, that will have a long battery life. Wearing the glasses, players can experience a virtual world augmented in reality and experience all these magical happenings around them.
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Navigating the Path from Idea to Market: Lessons Learned
Reflecting on his experiences, Alf emphasizes the importance of experimentation and failure. “I can afford to fail a lot of times,” he says, highlighting the advantage of his position as a professor.
The ability to conduct experiments, develop prototypes, and gauge user engagement has been crucial in determining the viability of ideas. Surviving the transition from a potential idea to a market-ready product remains a significant challenge.
Alf identifies securing funding during the critical development phase as a major hurdle. “It’s a race… It’s hard to get funding to get there,” he admits, shedding light on the precarious nature of this phase.
A Call for Boldness and Vision
As Alf looks back on his journey, he encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to think big and embrace the possibility of failure. “Just be bold, and if you believe in the idea, just do it,” he advises.
His story serves as an inspiration for those who dare to dream, showing that even from a small town, one can create a global impact through passion, innovation, and a relentless pursuit of big ideas.
Listen in to the full podcast episode to know more, including:
- The journey from a small Norwegian town to the global tech stage showcases the transformative power of passion for gaming and technology.
- An academic background in electronics and software engineering laid the foundation for creative endeavors, emphasizing the importance of merging passion with education.
- The evolution of Kahoot! from a classroom prototype to a global phenomenon demonstrates the impact of educational technology in transforming traditional learning environments.
- Fortune 500 companies embracing Kahoot! for training and events highlight the versatility and broader applications of educational tools beyond their initial target audience.
- PlayPulse’s journey underscores the challenges of hardware development, emphasizing the complexities and financial investments associated with venturing into physical products.
- The latest venture, BitPet, explores the intersection of physical health, social interaction, and augmented reality in gaming, promising a unique and lasting user experience.
- Experiences emphasize the importance of experimentation, user engagement, and boldness in entrepreneurship, encouraging aspiring innovators to embrace the possibility of failure as a stepping stone to success.