Vital Stats: Michael Wood, 49, of Emeryville, California-based Leap Frog
Company: Manufacturer of electronic learning toys and products started in 1995
2001 Projections: $290 million
Kid-Tested, Father-Approved: "My son inspired the first game. When he was 3 years old, he would play with a little wooden alphabet puzzle. But I wanted to teach him that letters make sounds, so I took a chip from a talking greeting card and put it in a big, squeezable 'B,' then an 'A,' then a 'T.' A lot of our products were developed in [response] to things my own kids were having trouble learning."
Risky Business: "Our first two products went to market in 1995 when I made an offer to a buyer at Toys 'R' Us, and he said, 'If you can make them at that low a price, we'll buy 60,000.' It took Toys 'R' Us some courage to place that order with a brand-new company."
Even Better Than the Real Thing: "We're able to take something basic and familiar like a book and make it come alive. It's also better than having kids stuck staring at a computer screen."
Growing Up: "Now we also have products that address specific needs for older kids, such as our Twist and Shout multiplication [toy]. Kids can twist and bang the dials and buttons-it has a little beat, and they can quiz themselves on their multiplication tables. We take stuff kids need to learn and present it in a fun, engaging way."
Better Patent Those Genes: "My dad came up with an idea for an automatic soda can smasher. He actually had one built, but he never got around to selling it. Something must run in our blood."
(510) 420-5000, www.leapfrog.com
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