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Hatchlings: Celebrating a decade in 2018


Brad Dwyer is always creating something.

It started as early as middle school when Dwyer learned the basics of computer programming, From making websites in high school for clients or a mortgage interest calculator for Charles Schwab. Dwyer even created and sold a company during his first year at Iowa State University.

“So I launched Hatchlings when I was a sophomore,” Dwyer says. “And originally I wanted to make a “Where’s Waldo” game for Facebook but that was trademarked. Easter was coming up, so why not make an Easter Egg hunt. I made it in a weekend and launched it. We had 100 the first day, 1,000 the first week and like a million users the first year.”

“Now we’re at probably 15 million total installs across all of our games.”

Ten years later, Dwyer is still creating.

The Des Moines-based Hatchlings will turn ten years old in February of 2018 and Dwyer says the team is celebrating by hosting a party in Las Vegas for its players.

“When you are making stuff you go step by step, day after day,” Dwyer, 29, says. “And we are here now in December and to look back and see the things you’ve done this year. It’s like we did all that, in a year?”

Clay & Milk caught up with Dwyer to see what Hatchlings is working on for 2018.

Nose Zone
A preview of the user interface for Nose Zone, the newest app developed by Hatchlings.

Playing with facial recognition software

Earlier this year Dwyer said the Hatchlings team dedicated a week to focus on the new iPhone facial recognition software and brainstorm potential project ideas.

Dwyer said his team came up with nearly 30 ideas to incorporate the new technology on the iPhone X front facing camera. But he wanted an idea that could be developed within a weeks time.

“The one we decided to do is ‘Nose Zone'” Dwyer said. “The idea is it is a game that is controlled by your face. It’s a simple game, the 3D scan reads my face and the idea is you have a laser attached to your nose and are trying to get it into the different targets before the timer runs out.”

Dwyer says as his team developed Nose Zone, he realized more possibilities for the facial recognition software.

“We have a lot of different game ideas that we could use for the nose-pointing sensor, but it could also be an accessibility feature so if you are a quadriplegic and can’t use your hands, use your face to control your device,” Dwyer explains. “That was an idea we had but we didn’t know how to make that something useful in the allotted time.”

Dwyer said Nose Zone has been submitted to Apple and they are waiting for it to be reviewed.

Nose Zone
Hatchlings founder Brad Dwyer demonstrates how the new “Nose Zone” app works Friday morning. Dwyer explained that users can use their nose, to point a laser into the targeted areas to get points.

The future for Magic Sudoku

Magic Sudoku—the $0.99 app Hatchlings launched in September using the iPhone X augmented reality technology—was featured by Apple as one of its augmented reality apps.

Dwyer said he was even asked to speak in Silicon Valley at an augmented reality meetup in October.

“We have ideas that we want to do but it’s taking a backseat,” Dwyer said. “You can show it a puzzle you are working on and it can show you the ones you got wrong, or give you a hint without spoiling the whole puzzle.”



Hatchlings: Celebrating a decade in 2018 | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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