A tablet for playing board games
A Denver-based company patented the technology
The Last Gameboard
Founded: January, 2019
Initial Lightbulb: Co-founder and CEO Shail Mehta says her lifetime love of gaming stems from her family immigrating to the U.S. from India in the 1990s.
In her new home of Manhattan, Kansas, “No one looked like me, no one spoke like me.”
Through board games, she found a community. “We just want to connect,” she says. “Gaming is this great equalizer where you’re just sitting down and you’re playing together. Its something thats collaborative and constructive and something that breaks down preconceived notions. I learned English that way; I made friends that way.”
While later working in finance in New York, Mehta says she posed a question to her husband and co-founder, Tim Schukar: “Why cant I play any game that I want to?”
The couple started brainstorming and came up with an idea for a startup to make touchscreen-based hardware that could replicate just about any gameboard, from chess to Monopoly to role-playing games.
After Mehta and Schukar relocated to Colorado in 2015, a 2018 Kickstarter campaign proved there was a market for the idea. The campaign target was $100,000. “We hit this in 20 hours,” Mehta says. “We currently have an 8,000-person waiting list.”
The company now has 15 employees; Schukar serves as COO.
In a Nutshell: The company aims to change the game for board games with an internet-ready, touchscreen tablet that can be used for just about any game. Game pieces can be used, multiple Gameboards can be connected into a single unit, and people all over the world can play together online.
“It took a year and a half for R&D and prototyping to develop something that people wanted to buy and we could realistically make and deliver in a consumer product,” Mehta says.
Dubbed Gameboard, the companys patented flagship product is slated to start shipping to customers by late 2021. Compared to an iPads “10 or 20 touch points,” the 16” by 16” tablet has unlimited touch points, Mehta says, and a lightning-fast refresh rate. “It’s truly how you are using your hands in real life how you are using them on the surface of Gameboard,” she adds. “It’s truly a physical/digital experience.”
The ability “to play with anyone anywhere” is a key feature. In Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), “A game is only as good as your Dungeon Master,” Mehta notes – and thats a problem if your Dungeon Master lives hundreds of miles away.
Patented in 2020 and slated to be manufactured this summer in China, Gameboard is priced at $699, with a $15 monthly subscription fee for access to its library of games.
“Anyone technically can build a game for Gameboard,” Mehta says. “We have onboarded about 75 game creators and developers. They range from triple-A studios and really large games to indie developers.”
It’s all created a lot of anticipation. As Kickstarter supporter Ibero70 commented in early 2021: “I am salivating, and getting visions of playing it. The reflective surface is a bit of a nuisance, but the vibrant colors look great.”
Mehta credits her parents, noting that her father owns an Indian grocery store in Boulder. “Nothing teaches you about entrepreneurship like being the child of immigrant parents,” she says. “Sink or swim – thats what it is!”
The Market: Sales of digital and analog tabletop games totaled about $20 billion in 2020. “I think COVID has shed light on the power of this market, because usually people play analog and they’ve been driven online for these experiences,” Mehta says, noting that D&D alone has 59 million players worldwide, and nearly half of them are women.
Financing: Beyond the successful 2018 Kickstarter campaign, The Last Gameboard closed on $4 million in venture financing in spring 2021 after two pre-seed rounds