Square Off – Concept to Kickstarter

Wonder, how this magic chessboard came into being? What compelled the two engineering students to even think about this incredible idea? Let’s tell you the story

2013 is where it all began. When the National Association of Blind approached us to understand the possibility of designing a chessboard for the visually impaired. Unfortunately, computers and smartphones lack the ability. So we, the two young engineers accepted this challenge. Being the board game lovers ourselves, we simply dived-in to explore the possibilities with the support of our university (KJ Somaiya College of Engineering) and the Incubation center (RiiDL) where the idea was incepted.

After tireless research, months of hardwork and infinite trial and errors, finally we arrived at a design. But, is designing enough? Not really? What’s a design without funds to bring it alive. There begins another struggle.

The big question – how do you generate funds for the prototype? That’s when an idea struck. We started participating in various technical paper presentations and national level tech competitions to win the prize money. Slowly and steadily we earned sufficient money to design the first prototype in 2014. And guess what? It worked. From this day onwards there was no looking back.

Here comes the big milestone, invitation from Maker Faire Rome, marking the beginning of an exciting journey. Next followed the invitation from Alesandro and Gael to this event who had initially lend a helping hand to shape-up this project. This trip to Rome was the most amazing experience ever. It was the first time we set our foot outside India. We still can’t stop smiling looking at the boarding pass, yes it’s still with us!

We met some amazing people and industry leaders during this trip. One of which that we still personally remember was the interaction with Mr Banzi, Founder of Arduino.

He was completely taken aback by our innovation.

His positive feedback and the excitement on his face instilled that confidence within us to even think that this could be a connected board gaming platform. We also met a few creators who had already done a successful crowdfunding campaign.

As soon as we landed back in India, we started to work on further development of the product. We had that zeal and undying enthusiasm to present to the world the never-thought-before idea of a tangible board gaming platform. That a board could come alive, literally.  

A year later, we had already showcased our prototypes at a lot exhibitions across the globe. We gathered feedback from numerous people and their appreciation gave us enough confidence to start a crowdfunding campaign, inspiring us to turn our prototype into a product that’s was called Square Off.

Preparations started in full swing, in 5 months we were ready to step out in the world and show them something they have only seen in movies.

Nov 5, 2016, on the day one, within 6 hours, we were fully funded. Not just fully funded, overfunded (425%) in next 28 days.

We can’t express how mind-blown we were with the response. Unimaginable support was pouring down from the Kickstarter community. The news spread like a wildfire. Mashable, Daily Planet, Engadget, Huffington Post, Fox47 News, Arduino, Digital Trendz and a lot of other media publications featured us. Not just that, Chess communities like chess.com and chessbase also put in a word for us on their sites. We were over the moon.

Square Off became one of the very few hardware startups from India to launch a successful Kickstarter Campaign. It wouldn’t have been possible without an amazing team of individuals who worked day in and out, our lovely backers who believed in us, and to the very kind media who supported us more than we ever expected.

We can’t thank you all enough!

Loads of love

Aatur & Bhavya