Ahead of their official relaunch, the founder of 8-bit puzzle-making startup, Kixel, takes us back to the future.
Like so many startups in Egypt, pixel-art puzzle-maker, Kixel, started off as a simple, seemingly innocuous hobby. Since 2018, however, Hussein Kerdany’s unique startup has brought street-art and an 8-bit aesthetic to the humble puzzle, which in turn has become not only a tool of edutainment for kids (and adults, if we’re being completely honest), but a quirky new way for businesses to promote and advertise, as well as a new arts and crafts movement.
“I started making Kixels at home in my spare time,” Kerdany tells Startup Scene. “The turning point was when I held a workshop for my friends to come try out what I had been working on for the past few months. After seeing how much they enjoyed both the process and the end result, I decided I had to share this with as many people as I could. That was when Kixel was born,” says Kerdany.
After six years in banking, Kerdany had something of an epiphany while watching Banksy documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop. Using whatever creativity his day-job had left him, he began incorporating 8-bit designs into everyday objects found on the street. He gathered a wood board base, some multi-colored ceramic tiles and glue to bring pixel art into life.
Since then, the designs have been used by some of Cairo’s hottest startups, including truck-hailing platform Trella, as well as the likes of popular restaurant chain, Zooba. In addition, Kerdany was invited to showcase Kixel at the 2019 World Youth Forum, where he set up an interactive booth that allowed visitors to contribute to making a large-scale Kixel-designed logo for the forum, while the startup was also invited to create special Olympics-related designs alongside athletes at the inaugural African Para Games in Cairo in January 2019. Elsewhere, Kixel collaborated with Mashrou El Saada - an initiative that aims to uplift communities through the simple act of painting houses - to host one of their workshops at a school in Ayat, Giza, while at the other end of the scale, Kixel has contributed design work to the events of Cairo-based party organiser, ADHD.
But beyond the spectacle and novelty of the product, Kerdany has harnessed the catharsis that first got him hooked into everything from workshops for Kixel-ers of all ages, to corporate team-bonding exercises, making this a uniquely all-purpose product.
“For kids it's an activity, an educational tool, a toy and more,” Kerdany tells Starup Scene. “For adults it’s the less frustrating version of a puzzle. For corporates, it’s an activity that can be tailored based on the situation, such as boosting creativity and amplifying teamwork. We’re currently in the production phase of our Kixel Kits, which are packaged like a puzzle for anyone to be able to create the design of their choice at home. For the adult line we’re hoping to see Kixel up there with puzzles and board games, as a go-to choice for solo/family activities."
The beauty of Kixel lies in the fact that it doesn’t necessarily belong to one respective industry. Due to the wide range of application, Kixel has emerged as a novel avenue for individuals to channel their inner artists. As the startup plans their official relaunch within the upcoming weeks, as well as perfecting their product offering, Kixel is focusing on making the experience affordable and accessible for all ages. With many challenges relating to operations and product development, Kixel strives to ensure authenticity in their product while placing quality of experience above scalability as they take us back to the future.
“We’ve seen many startups obsess about growth and expansion and eventually losing touch with their core vision, we’re hoping to be wiser than that,” Kerdany explains. “We’re in the final stretch now and we’re very excited to share what we’ve been working on in the coming weeks during our official re-launch.”
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