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Meet Kobble: The Building Block Game That Won $5,000

Emma White '22

News Editor

For the past 3 years, The Edge Career Center has hosted the Entrepreneur Pitch Competition for students interested in building a business from the ground up. This year, Liam Hogan ‘22 won the pitch competition with his idea: a building block game that he calls Kobble. The Entrepreneur Pitch Competition was presented in partnership with the Dominion Energy Innovation Center, a business incubator in Ashland, and Hogan won the substantial prize of $5,000 and a year’s access to his own office space at the DEIC.

The Entrepreneur Pitch Competition began 3 years ago with the goal of creating a program that would provide students with both a platform to share their ideas as well as a competition to reward the best one. J. Dontrese Brown, the Executive Director of The Edge, wanted to design an event that would keep students excited about entrepreneurship and give them incentive to follow through with their idea. This year, it so happened that the DEIC was looking for a place to host their professional pitch competition as well. From there, it was decided that The Edge and the DEIC would partner to host an event in which both student and professional entrepreneurs could present their ideas to a panel of professionals in hopes of winning a check prize. The Edge worked hard to recruit and review a number of student applicants, and eventually narrowed that list down to the top 3. The 3 chosen applicants were then taken through the process of pitching to a panel and tasked with formulating their pitches.

Out of this year’s 3 applicants, Liam Hogan’s building block game was ultimately crowned the winner. Kobble is a block balancing build-off game consisting of 40 colorful wooden blocks of varying shapes and sizes. The game is played in groups of 2 to 6, and each player begins with a set of 6 specific blocks. In clockwise order, players are tasked with building a tower of blocks on top of the rectangular base piece. Each player’s final piece must be placed on the highest point of the tower, and if the tower falls completely, the game is over. The rules and concept of Kobble naturally emerged when Liam Hogan and his family members would play the made-up game at family gatherings over the years using a set of his grandparents’ toy blocks from the 1970’s. It was refined over several years through trial and error, and Hogan says that “most first time players are surprised to learn that Kobble is homemade.” The aim of Kobble is to offer consumers a “refreshingly fun family game where dynamic and imaginative rules breathe new life into retro-themed toy blocks.” Hogan states that when he heard about this year’s pitch competition, signing up was a huge priority. In order to really solidify his concept, Hogan researched the specifics of manufacturing and distributing a game of this type, even meeting with the owner of a local toy store to get some professional opinion and insight.

Before his big win this year, Hogan had actually participated in the pitch competition once before. Though Hogan did not win for his first pitch 3 years ago, he believes that “presenting an idea in front of respected business leaders and innovators is an invaluable experience,” and was inspired to try again. Hogan says that “the networking and personal growth aspects of the pitch contest make it an amazing event.” Hogan’s persistence paid off, and while it says a lot about who he is, it also speaks to the nature of being an entrepreneur. “You’re going to fail,” J. Dontrese Brown asserts. “You're going to run into roadblocks, and it is that persistence and consistent effort that really makes a great entrepreneur.”

Hogan’s office space at the DEIC will be a valuable resource for him throughout the next year, and Brown states that “you can’t even put a price point on what [he will] get there.” Beyond his $5,000 winnings and his yearlong use of an office space, Hogan will have access to all the materials and resources at the DEIC and will be surrounded by other entrepreneurs in the space. The $5,000 prize will aid Hogan in his journey to manufacturing and fully bringing Kobble to life. Hogan says that he is “excited that the likelihood of being able to buy new Kobble sets is now increasing every day,” and that “visiting the DEIC for the first time was awesome.” Hogan also emphasizes that Kobble would not have made it this far without the support of his family and friends, and says that “everyone who has played the game with an open mind and shared thoughtful feedback deserves a special thank you for helping create Kobble.”

The Edge staff is excited about the continuation of their entrepreneurship program and its growth. Enrollment in the program involves a two semester commitment, as well as a J-term focus. Students in the program go through this learning period and top off their experience by pitching their idea. Throughout those terms, students will learn everything there is to know about being an entrepreneur and interact with professionals. Brown states that “it is a great situation for students to share their ideas and get to know what the entrepreneurial spirit is.” Interested students are encouraged to reach out to J. Dontrese Brown or Josh Quinn for more information.

Photo caption: An example of what a game of Kobble might look like. This game is being played with the original 1970’s era blocks from Liam Hogan’s grandparents.

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