Vernée Ho of Playto: Using the power of gameplay to train focused minds

Vernée Ho is co-founder and CEO of Playto, a Hong Kong-based games company that create stimuli for those impacted by common disorders, such as ADD/ADHD, dementia, insomnia, and anxiety. With a particular focus on children, it’s driving goal is to launch games that are “good for you,” with Playto’s learning tools supporting happy, healthy, and productive minds in learning the skills and positive habits they’ll need for the rest of their lives. Concentration, organisation, and mindfulness are the skills promoted, while not eliminating the fun factor, and vitally, parents can monitor their progress.

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Using the principles of neurofeedback therapy combined with advanced gameplay design, Playto brought together hardware and software designers, cognitive behavioural therapists and of course, fellow parents of children who need support, to become Playto. Vernée Ho is a brand builder with 20 years’ experience in senior positions with Pepsi and Sara Lee, and as a working mother of three daughters, she’s constantly on the hunt for learning tools that are easy-to-use, effective and affordable. Playto’s first gaming product is Glow Master and now selling internationally. To keep the plane levitating, the players will have to learn how to focus.

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LadyBoss caught up with Vernée Ho to find out more about her entrepreneurial journey, and the challenges and highlights she’s faced along the way.

When did you decide to leave your corporate job?

I left the corporate world in 1998.  I originally started a boutique strategy consulting firm with two other partners and managed that for 13 years before co-founding Playto.

How long did it take for you to decide?

It took about two years for me to decide to leave the corporate world.  As I covered a large geography, I was always on the road.  It was both exciting and exhausting.

Describe your first six months of your entrepreneurial journey.

My partners and I originally thought that we would chase the dotcom bubble only to have it burst two months after we left our corporate jobs.  Several funds expressed an interest in hiring us to help with their portfolios, so we pivoted and became consultants working with small to medium sized businesses.

What has been your most challenging task so far?

Professionally, the most challenging task as an entrepreneur is juggling so many hats.  When no one else can or knows how to do the work, I have to apply my creative problem-solving skills and just get it done.

How do you cope with the daily stress of being CEO?

I practice mindfulness and yoga.  It helps me put things into perspective and deal with the constant stress.

Could you share with us one marketing strategy that has worked for your product?

Customer testimonials help drive our sales.  Parents love that they can give their children an educational game that can create a good habit (learning how to improve focus), but it really is the children who tell their friends that the game is so much fun that ultimately drives parents to purchase the product.

Share a favourite quote from someone that inspires you. 

“A joyful life is an individual creation that cannot be copied from a recipe.”  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Professor of Psychology and noted for his work on happiness and creativity

Would you say that the work culture which you’ve fostered at your startup is different from others? In what ways?

Each person works towards making a positive impact on the world.  We work hard to keep things simple in our very complicated world and always ask if what we’re doing is meaningful and sustainable.

How do you stay motivated?

Each time a parent or child tells me how much our product has made a positive impact on their lives, I’m motivated to keep going.

How many hours do you work a day and how much time do you spend with family? 

As an entrepreneur, my work day is irregular with a lot of meetings and conference calls in the early morning and evenings.  It can be all consuming, but I try to reserve my late afternoons to early evening for my family.  I try to be present for my children as much as possible.  I am grateful that my family has been extremely supportive of me on this journey.

 

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