T Antonio of Rochester, NH needed a little something to up his game on the video games he loves to play, so he invented it. It worked out so well that his next invention was his own company, set up to sell his device to the rest of the gaming world. And that world is huge.
T explains that he has always played a lot of “shooter” games online, competing in tournaments that make it “very much like a sport.” And these days, that sport has turned into a billion-dollar industry with competitors winning prizes that can top $1 million.
He just needed something to speed up his shooting on the controller—a “trigger stop.” He looked online and found something he thought might work, but it was going to cost him $250, which he didn’t happen to want to spend at the moment. Plus, he had no guarantees it would work the way he wanted.
So, T got his hands on some “sugru”—a kind of moldable glue that ultimately turns to rubber. He shaped it to his two trigger fingers and the result looked like the horns on a devil’s head. Viola! His business name and his invention were born.
Trigger Devils is now set to employ 5 people by the end of 2017, and has just given two people full-time jobs after they both put in countless hours for free. T says he’s got a team that is just like him—in love with gaming and willing to follow their passion wherever it leads.
T had set out over the last few years to create his own business, but none of his ideas stuck because, he believes, he wasn’t following his interests. When the Trigger Devil came along, he realized he “could create jobs, create revenue, and help the economy,” with his invention. So, he set about creating prototypes and thinking about patenting his product.
While his first prototype stop—a peel-and-stick model—sold well and helped to finance his idea from the beginning, Trigger Devils needed to shift to a new process, find a manufacturer, and hire some employees.
That’s where the New Hampshire Small Business Development entered the picture. It was time to do what he had been meaning to do—get the patent on his product, and maybe some business financing. NH SBDC business advisor Jonathan Hill helped T work to get hold of his financials and think about ways to raise funds for his long-term vision. “Suddenly our conversations went from imagination to ‘It’s go time’,” he said.
Jonathan also worked with T on a pitch for the Seacoast Startup Challenge contest that happened last December, at which Trigger Devils won the People’s Choice Award.
Advisor Jonathan has now followed a new opportunity, but T says, “I was lucky enough to have him as long as I could and, since it was still early in our development, I got to introduce the concept to him, and we worked together just in time for our growth spurt.”
After a lot of meetings and financial projections, Trigger Devils got a small business loan through the City of Rochester to cover some of the larger ramping up expenses. The loan goes to help hire people, for some marketing expenses, and to get professional packaging for the trigger stops. The employees T will eventually hire will likely be millennials, a demographic he notes is much-coveted in the state of New Hampshire.
“We won’t have a problem attracting millennials; they’re already here and literally creating the jobs I’ll eventually pay them for,” he said. “All but my CFO (Chief Financial Officer) is a millennial, and she’s damn good.” He’s planning on a management team of six people, plus three advisors.
“People have been surprised that this is really happening, and by how strong and progressive it seems,” T says. “They haven’t seen the likes of us here—this new generation of an online business, and I think we’ve struck a chord. It’s something that needs to be nurtured in this state.”
From a financial perspective, from the company's stage of development now, and with the loan from Rochester, “it’s going to bring us to profitability,” T predicts. And, since there are 50 million PS4 consoles sold which can use his trigger stops--sold at $19.99 each--he’s pretty sure his business is going to fly. He’s already got his sights on another 26 million gaming consoles which need the stops, as well as getting celebrity endorsements from the stars of the online gaming tournament world.
“That would be a big deal,” T concludes.