Kristy Muir: Fusing tech and play
Kristy Muir compares her experience with entrepreneurship to a pinball machine: “You’re always getting tossed around and pivoting. It’s not a controlled environment.”
Muir has certainly had a wild ride since founding her company, FuzePlay, in November 2015. With no business or tech background, Muir’s idea to create codeable toys that children can use to learn programming led her through myriad adventures in the industry.
It started when she couldn’t find any hands-on coding toys that were geared toward older kids. Her daughter was interested in programming, so Muir spent hours researching potential activities. She was dismayed to find there was a gap in the tech world.
“I was just trying to be a good mom and satisfy her love for tech,” she says. “I tried to do it with her and we looked for programs online. I was very frustrated that we couldn’t find what we were looking for.”
Muir vented to her brother, Kyle Muir, who had an MBA from the University of Utah. She explained there was nothing available to teach high-level concepts to kids. Everything was either too easy or too hard. They decided to create something themselves.
The result is FuzePlay, a company that Muir describes as “the first [company] that fuses online learning with offline tangible play, and a product that fused both of those concepts together. It also fuses a parent and child in a non-frustrating experience to create a meaningful experience for play.”
In December, FuzePlay launched its first hackable toy that teaches coding with a fun, easy concept. The Zubi Flyer allows kids to change all the variables in the Frisbee-like device. Children can hack into the system to code the toy for lights, sounds, and 12 games including hot potato and musical chairs.
Muir says her background as a concert pianist and stay-at-home mom provided her with skills she didn’t realize she had. As a pianist, she’s used to practicing at something until it’s right. And as for being a mother of three daughters, “Nothing can prepare you better for the hard things in life than being a mom.”
Now that her company is moving forward, Muir is excited to create more toys that engage kids in STEM activities. Her next product uses cutting-edge technology to create walkie talkies that can teach encryption and decryption. FuzePlay is also partnering with the Girl Scouts of America and several children’s museums in the region.
Muir is amazed by all the people in the tech industry, including Pluralsight CEO Aaron Skonnard, who rallied around her, supported her concepts, offered valuable advice and spent time talking with her.
“I’ve had so many mentors. I’ve had a network of people in Utah who’ve gone above and beyond to help me. The more successful the person, the more willing they were to give me their time.”
Although she’s often perceived as a fun-loving, social butterfly, Muir says she’s actually a deep-thinking introvert with a passion for building community champions. She takes her toys very seriously as she designs products that can be scaled to all ages and skill levels. And while everything hasn’t been error-free, Muir uses those lessons to create a foundation for success.
“People don’t talk about failure enough. Entrepreneurship is a list of failures that ultimately leads to success. That mindset is really important.”