LEADER: The gambler

Cracking the toy industry takes hard work, dedication and Lady Luck on your side. Robert Hutchins looks at when's best to take that all important gamble
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Every gambler knows that the secret to surviving is knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep.

We all have Kenny Rogers to thank for that pearl of wisdom.

But do we know just how closely the underlying mantra of The Gambler runs with the plight of the undiscovered toy inventor? And in those hours when the wizened old country and western crooner isn’t on hand to lend advice, would you know when to take the gamble?

Spin Master’s director of acquisitions Ben Dermer, fondly remembers a pair of amateur toy developers who understood it only too well, and took the gamble to have a fair crack at breaking the industry with an impromptu demonstration of an invention of their own.

“I remember early in my career, two young professors dropped by our showroom in the middle of New York Toy Fair,” he recounts. “They wanted to show me their invention, but they didn’t have an appointment.

“I was swamped with meetings, but we managed to grab ten minutes and went to a vacant showroom. They showed me a mesmerising, brilliant light toy that really knocked my socks off.”

For this fortuitous pair, and for Dermer himself, the gamble certainly paid off.

“It was a great lesson that you never know where a great idea might come from, and to always make time for people, even though you might be busy,” he added.

Meanwhile, Coiledspring’s head of game development,Andrea Dalton admits that publishing another new game couldn’t have been further from her mind when she first sat down with inventor Andy Hopwood and his game, Dodekka.

One round later however, and the team were hooked and by the end of the evening, they knew they had to publish it.

“We played the game all evening, and hadn’t seen any of the people we’d intended to,” explained Dalton.

“We then found ourselves talking about the game for weeks afterwards, and that’s when we realised we had to publish it.”

While Dalton recounts that she had no initial intention of seeking out a new title, we’re willing to place our own bet that Hopwood knew exactly what he was doing when he took the chance to present his card game.

Now, far be it from us to lay the foundations of an inventor uprising, mobbing the nearest unsuspecting Hasbro office (no one wants to read that headline over a morning bowl of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes).

But perhaps sometimes, when the right time comes, you have to make sure you’re already in the right place and take that chance.

Who knows, you may just have a winning hand.

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