April 16, 2016 - Golf GameBook

Fear and Loathing in China

Once we had come up with the idea and developed it into a business plan it was time to give birth to the 1st generation Golf GameBook – a handheld scoring device. The first GameBook devices were manufactured in China and us, two golfers from Finland, ended up getting a technical education on the side. It wasn’t like we just made an order and half a year later the devices were delivered to our doorstep. No, not at all. We actually traveled to the other side of the world dozens of times and ended up personally surveilling the whole manufacturing process.

The first GameBook devices were manufactured in China.

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I remember one time when I was told to oversee a team of 20 factory workers who were assembling our very first devices. They were gluing the bits and pieces together and the job stretched into the small hours. It was extremely cold in the factory and heavy rain outside. None of the workers spoke English and I couldn’t get a signal on my phone. I was starting to get a headache from the adhesive fumes and was hungrier than I had ever been before. As the hours dragged on, I was starting to feel like I was fighting for my life on Survivor and getting more and more worried that my English speaking host would never appear. At that moment I remember thinking the story of GameBook would be over already before it really got started.

As we were lacking a common language, the only way for me to communicate with the factory workers was to physically show them how I wanted them to do the job. This was far from ideal because while I might be an expert at sand saves and 10-foot putts, I am certainly not a pro when it comes to assembling technical devices in a Chinese factory. Even though it seemed unlikely at times, both myself and the GameBook devices made it out of that factory alive and in 2008 the first generation of GameBook devices were piloted on 10 golf courses in South Carolina, USA. Back then we operated under the name Games and Dreams, which I still think describes very well what we are doing.

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The co-founders of GameBook (Mane on the left and myself on the right) ready to take over America.

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In the beginning we used the slogan “Games and Dreams”. Ever since the beginning it has described extremely well what GameBook is all about.

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When we piloted our first devices in 2008 our company had already started to grow as Mikko Rantanen (on the left), also an ex pro-golfer, had joined the team.

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Mikko Rantanen (on the left) observing carefully as GameBook is “in action” for the first time ever.

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When running a startup company you often end up “getting your hands dirty”. Not only did I supervise the production of our devices in China, but I also ended up posing for our first ever promo pictures. Here we are with Mikko Rantanen (on the left) at the height of our modeling careers.

It quickly turned out that we were way ahead of our time with the scoring devices. But the time started catching up and before long we were faced with one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make. More about that on Monday.


– Kalle

@kallevainola@GolfGameBook on Twitter

2 responses to “Fear and Loathing in China”

  1. Stu-81 says:

    Thoroughly enjoying this historical blog chaps! Certainly getting me excited for the new version.

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