It's hard having fun

Roger Trapp talks to the inventor of 'In The Know', the new hit quiz game
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The Independent Online
Try telling Elaine Finkletaub that working in the games industry is great fun. Sales of her new-style celebrity quiz, In The Know, are now going so well that she be-lieves she will have a turnover of pounds 1m this time next year. But she has only got there after four and a half years of struggle - and even then she only had her product ready for the pre- Christmas rush in the nick of time.

In The Know is a combination of a straightforward quiz, a competitive puzzle and gambling. It is designed to take advantage of our fascination with the lives of music, television and film personalities.

Ms Finkletaub believes a key attraction of the pounds 19.99 game is its portability. By using photographs on one side of the question cards and puzzle tiles instead of the usual board, and then packing the whole lot in a striking tube, the game can be taken out to a dinner party as easily as a bottle of wine.

It all started when she and a friend, Sara Sanders, came up with the idea for a quiz linked to celebrities. With the concept committed to the back of a fag packet, they attracted some interest through contacts in the entertainment world. But already they were moving on and developing the game. In particular Ms Finkletaub's partner, Tony Ageh, came up with the idea of enclosing all the components in the distinctive tube that has become an integral part of the product. This was partly inspired by the way in which office workers roll up magazines before slipping off to read them during breaks.

But throughout this time, for all the encouraging noises from people who saw the game, no financial help was forthcoming. Instead they did everything themselves - from registering the patent to making the prototypes and testing the market. In the process they spent about pounds 25,000 and turned the one-bedroom flat shared by Ms Finkletaub and Mr Ageh in Crouch End, north London, into a mess of game components.

Finally, they attracted the interest of a distributor and this was enough to get them a stand at this year's annual toy exhibition at London's Olympia. But even then Ms Finkletaub was on the verge of abandoning her dream. "I said that if I don't get 15,000 orders I'm giving up," she says.

She now admits she was being naive: "I expected people to come with order books. That isn't what happens. They just show interest."

Receiving lots of interest but no firm orders, the inventors realised that if they were to have any chance of getting a product on the shelves for this Christmas they would need outside finance. So they began courting "business angels", the wealthy individuals who invest their money and often their time and experience in start-up firms.

Again there was no shortage of interest, and from five would-be investors Ms Finkletaub selected the partnership with which she felt most comfortable. Richard Milne and Doug Lingafelter put up pounds 110,000 and said they would guarantee the cost of production, enabling tooling for the game to begin on 1 July.

Even then, the team faced a mighty challenge. Only a summer and autumn of relentlessly hard work enabled them to have the game ready to go on sale by the deadline of 16 November - Ms Finkletaub's 35th birthday. However, not only was the product ready but the sales and marketing experience of the two "angels" got the game into Hamleys, which has re-ordered three times in the past two weeks, Harrods and Beatties.

Now she has got her company, Pucka Creative, out of the flat and into an office in Primrose Hill, Ms Finkletaub is intent on building a brand. There are already plans for adaptations devoted to sports and music personalities, as well as one aimed at children and a CD-Rom version.

"It's a feelgood thing," she says. "There's enough doom and gloom around."