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By Pam Reinig

Register Editor


Tony Hauber embodies that old adage “If at first you don’t succeed try, try again.”

The 2004 Central High School graduate who later earned a computer science degree at Iowa State University, failed in his first attempt at a business ownership. But rather than throw in the towel, Hauber learned from his failure. He has recently launched another business venture, which is showing great promise.

In order to fully appreciate where Hauber is now, it helps to know where he’s been. 

Following college graduation in 2008, Hauber accepted an internship in San Francisco with a company started by one of the PayPal founders. The internship quickly became a full-time position. Within a year, the company Hauber was working for was acquired by Google but operated like a small start-up company within the technology giant.

“We were working on a new photo-sharing app—this was in 2012, when Instagram was just getting started and before SnapChat,” Hauber said. “It was considered one of the best designed apps that Google had released. But then, only eight days after it was launched, Google shut it down for an app they thought would go head-to-head with Facebook.”

Ultimately, Google ceased work on that effort and shipped Hauber and others in his division to YouTube. That’s when Hauber decided to strike out on his own with an e-sports app that would allow people to watch other people play video games.

When his start-up didn’t pan out, Hauber took a job to pay down some debts. He also did a lot of soul-searching.

“I knew I wanted to do another start-up,” he said. “What I needed was a product I could get into the market as fast as possible.” Hauber also came to the realization that he couldn’t do another California-based business. 

“Silicon Valley has priced itself out of the start-up market,” he added.

Hauber and his graphic designer wife, Ketaki Poyekar got engaged in December 2016. A month later, Hauber quit his job and soon after the couple returned to Iowa where Hauber had lots of support. His parents, Bob and Theresa Hauber, live in Elkader, and nearly four dozen cousins are within driving distance, as well.

For his next business venture, Hauber decided on a 2-dimensional, tournament-style soccer game, which he ultimately christened Deathball. He tested it on people accustomed to tournament-style games, and it was an immediate hit. He decided to take it from a computer-based game to an arcade game that could be played in bars. Deathball has been installed in three locations in San Francisco. Hauber has funding for two more cabinets that will go to Columbus and Cincinnati. His goal is to sell 10 cabinets.

There’s another interesting twist to this promising start-up: Each unit is being completed in Elkader. Local craftsman Willie Lough is making the cabinets. Hauber’s wife, Ketaki, has designed the graphics, which are printed at Signs-n -Frames, owned by Mark Collins. Assembly has been done at Collins’ shop.

Last month, Hauber’s entrepreneurialism was honored at the Elkader community banquet. In accepting the award, he urged others to follow in his footsteps and launch businesses here.

“Don’t tell me that Elkader can’t do more or be more—because it can,” he told those in attendance. All you need is the right idea at the right time, the right people to help you and the willingness to learn from failure.

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