Interview with Bernardo Letayf: BLUErabbit CEO’s journey from player to professional

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Bernardo Letayf

We have interviewed quite a few personalities in the past that have made a name for themselves in the gamification industry. But, our guest for today is someone special, not only because he has made revolutionary changes to the education system but also because his journey was very different from everyone else.

Today, we will interview Bernardo Letayf and talk to him about the journey that led to him becoming the CEO of BLUErabbit. Working as a web designer since 1998, Bernardo founded his first company in 2011 while working for over nine years in the education field. 

Founded in 2014, BLUErabbit quickly gained garnered an indisputable reputation in the gamification industry due to its ability to provide challenge-based learning in a digital classroom. The company recently hit $81K in revenue, after which Bernardo decided to work on other projects to grow his vision.

His business, BLUErabbit, was the official sponsor of the Software Award 2019. Bernardo was one of the judges of the Gamification Software Award after winning this category in 2017. Without further ado, let’s start the interview.

1- What does the term “Gamification” mean to you?
I define gamification as the art of making anything feel like a game.

2- Tell us about BLUErabbit Gamification of Education and the idea behind its inception?

BLUErabbit’s purpose is simple – to create a gamified environment in the traditional classroom. This might sound like an oversimplification of the idea behind BLUErabbit, but it really does explain what we do and strive for.

3- To understand the real story behind the company, let’s take a step back and see how we started in this industry.

The problem arose when I wanted to gamify my classes but wasn’t able to due to the lack of proper tools. After using notebooks and excel for quite some time, I came to the conclusion that the best way to achieve my objective was to build my own platform. So, after hours and hours of work and research, BLUErabbit came to life.

4- Can you discuss some of the challenges that you had to face during the initial phases of the company?

The biggest challenge for me was to convince clients that gamification was the right tool for them. Even today, it is hard to persuade clients to invest in our idea. They usually agree with you on everything, but the second they need to make a payment, they start having doubts, which is normal since gamification is a reasonably new concept.

There are a lot of people who undermine our years of hard work by merely suggesting that we should work for free, with the satisfaction of providing education as a reward. 

We used to provide licensed training and support to schools regardless of whether they paid our team or not. Eventually, we changed our strategy and charged only for the training while providing the licenses for free.

5- What’s amazing is that schools found THIS option more feasible. 

They were willing to invest more money for training than a cheaper monthly fee for software… isn’t that insane?

Soon after, we moved to gamifying events. This niche is far easier to incentivize as the price usually doesn’t represent much in the overall investment of the client, so we’ve had much more success in gamifying events so far.

6- What plans do you hope to achieve with BLUErabbit in the next five years?

Increase our monthly based income to 25,000 customers and reach 1 million players in engagement.

7- How does your company plan on revolutionizing the education sector?

BLUErabbit’s primary propose is to change how modern education systems are managed and operated – students should progress and level up only using skills, not grades.

8- Challenge-based learning encourages the use of creativity.

I gave a short presentation a couple of months ago on how we can increase engagement in an unsupervised classroom. This will, in return, encourage students to learn eagerly, so the problem won’t be to ask them to do something but to ask them to stop.

A school’s success should only be measured by how much a student wants to go and learn, especially in the early morning. It’s quite simple – you can call the game successful only if the players are willing to spend hours playing on it.

9- What goals are you currently working on achieving with your company? (Can you talk about some current projects you’re working on?)

I can’t mention the exact projects as per NDA’s policy; however, what I can tell you is that we are currently working in full SCORM compliance for BLUErabbit on an entirely new interface that will provide faster responses and easier use for the player and the game masters. This will be completed in a couple of months. We’re looking forward to it.

We are also working with several companies at a consultancy level, which will hopefully convert them into BLUErabbit users. We’re also focusing on creating budgeting strategies for our clients that have been a problem in the past. They design a great solution, but when it comes to deployment, they fall short on budget and can’t move forward.

10- What was so different about Final Fantasy XI that made you fall in love with the game and help your career in the gamification industry?
Social interaction.

The fact that other players were part of a unique environment. Asking and providing help to each other in unison was all the inspiration I needed. I was amazed to see that there is a world that wants to feel empowered by working with each other and achieving fantastic results.

11- One of the key elements of MMORPG is that nothing significant can be accomplished alone.

I had to find more people who wanted success as much as me. I had a purpose, but I needed a party, and that party is really big now. I am fortunate to have met with almost every single leader in the gamification industry and have gone as far as to have worked in collaboration.

12- You often talk about your journey where you went from being a player to a professional. How does one compliment the other? What were/are your favorite games?

Being a player means to be a spectator and participant of something somebody created. Use it, study it, enjoy it.

Becoming a professional taught me how to build, share, grow my creation. A professional has to love their craft, regardless of the rewards.

My favorite games are categorized as Action, JRPGs, and MMORPGs. The ones on top of my list are Chrono Cross and Chrono Trigger. It might come as a surprise, but I still love playing these old gems, even if there are other popular titles in the market like Uncharted, The last of us, or Metal Gear.

However, my absolute favorite game is Chess, the game of kings. 

13-What changes do you want to see in the next five years? What changes are you expecting to see in the foreseeable future?

Due to recent unforeseen events (COVID-19), we have decided to fast-track our progress on projects that have been in development for the past eight years. Some of these projects include: cultivating new strategies to convince the education industry to invest more in the digital world and explore new avenues outside the walls of their learning institutions.

Education should have NO boundaries, and grades shouldn’t be measured by one’s capacity to learn. You should be able to feel the players’ skill being forged through practice and passion. This is one of the things that I think is changing very fast. Schools adopting this strategy now have a new way to retain their students.

14- Name a few of your mentors, influencers, or friends that you think have helped you understand or increase your knowledge about gamification.

My list is pretty long, and I’m thankful to each and everyone for their help and support. Here are some of the names I’d like to give a shoutout to:

Monica Cornetti, An Coppens, Jonathan Peters, Marigo Raftopoulus, Andrzej Marczewski, Yu Kai Chou, Gabe Zichermann, Pete Jenkins, Roman Rackwitz, Sylvester Arnab, Toby Beresford, Michiel Van Eunen, Kerstin Oberprieler, Chuck Sigmund, Scott Provence, Javier Velasquez, Guillermo Solano, Rob Alvarez, Adrian Oskam (partner in BLUErabbit), etc.

Believe me, there are countless others that I want to send my thanks to.

15- If you could give one piece of advice to the people starting in the gamification industry, what would it be?

Learn to play tabletop RPG games. This will prove to be the best teacher in all the skills you need to create a gamified solution. You may not like the game itself, but it will undoubtedly help you understand how to create a universe and the type of rules you need to define.

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