As founder of Electronic Arts, now a nearly $9 billion corporation, he essentially created the home video game market. Now, The Wall Street Journal reports, Hawkins wants to take the lessons he's learned along the way and apply them to the education industry. In doing so, he's aiming to capitalize on one of the biggest trends in K-12 schools: one-to-one computing devices for kids.
On Wednesday, Hawkins announced the release of an education-focused app through his new startup called If You Can, as well as a $6.5 million funding round from Greylock Partners and Almaz Capital. Founded in late 2012, the San Mateo, California-based company aims to develop emotional intelligence in kids ages six to 12. The app, called "If," is a virtual world in which kids design their own character and navigate through the game while learning skills like empathy and perseverance. The game draws on academic publications about "social and emotional learning skills," an often ignored sector of education.
"I'd like to quote [abolitionist] Frederick Douglass, who said, 'It is easier to build strong children than repair broken men,'" Hawkins said in an interview with Forbes. "While adults need these skills too, we thought it made sense to start with children."
The release of the If iPad app comes at a time when schools are increasingly experimenting with giving tablets to students, a trend that could be a major opportunity for education technology startups. Of course, as a serial entrepreneur, Hawkins knows failure is always an option. This is not, after all, Hawkins' first re-entry into the business world since launching Electronic Arts. In 1991, he founded 3DO, a video game console company, which went bankrupt in 2003. This time, however, he's expecting big things to come.
"I've definitely been ahead of my time on some things, and been behind on others. This time, though, I think the timing is just right," Hawkins told Forbes. "Who wouldn't want their kids to have a game that teaches them how to be compassionate?"