How we make money when content is not ours to sell


In a recent conversation it became clear to me that I am not very good at explaining how 7 Generation Games is a profitable and growing business. That probably was made worse by the fact that we are re-releasing two of our apps using different technology to be able to continue distributing these for free. Well, it wasn’t the only reason. We expect the newer technology will work off line and be more stable.

Not everything is for sale – but some things are. Let me explain.

Before 7 Generation Games, before Growing Math, before The Julia Group, I was a co-founder of Spirit Lake Consulting. My two co-founders, April St. Pierre and Erich Longie, were both enrolled members of the Spirit Lake Nation, where they lived and our office was located. Eventually, April was offered the job as general manager of the casino (yay for her!) but that meant she had to divest all outside interests, so she sold her share to Erich and me. Then, Erich was diagnosed with cancer and decided he wanted to spend less time on work and work travel and more with things that mattered to him more, like his family. He said to me,

I can’t sell you the business as is, because the name ‘Spirit Lake’ is not mine to sell.

So, we became The Julia Group, after my daughter, Julia who was in turn named after the mathematician, Gaston Julia. Eventually, we spawned 7 Generation Games and Growing Math and here we are. We make money in four ways, through school licenses, customized software development, government contracts and individual sales. We received an award of $1,000,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide classroom-ready resources to schools in six states that are largely rural and have significant Indigenous populations. That’s the Growing Math project. We have received multiple awards to The Julia Group for development of software, and these grants allow us to include a fee, yes, actual profit.

Schools that are outside our six-state region funded by USDA can still get school licenses at a really great annual rate. That includes data reports, virtual training for their teachers, games and access to our lesson plans.

Indigenous nations, states, countries or regions can contract with us to develop specific customized games. We created Making Camp Lakota, Math: The Universal Language Lakota, Math: The Universal Language Dakota, Spirit Lake Beginnings Lakota and Yaima y Manuel Rodriguez all under contract. Doing it this way, we receive payment upfront and then we and our customers are both happy with us distributing the games for free. We really believe in what we are doing and we have our proprietary software platform that lets us develop educational games far more cheaply and quickly than the industry standard. So, it is a great deal all the way around. (If you are interested, email maria@7generationgames.com for a quote.)

We don’t believe we own anyone else’s history or language

I was in a meeting and heard a tribal elder objecting (about another company),

“How are they selling our own language to us? That’s not right!”

By getting paid up front by the community that wants the software developed, and, whenever possible hiring developers, artists and voice over actors from that community, we are able to provide local employment, develop an authentic product, pay our staff and deliver a product that schools and the general public can download for free.

Recently, when the vendor we were using for our augmented reality apps started charging for the service, we reconfigured our AR apps to use different technology to continue to distribute these products for free.

We also offer premium products that include more math content, data reporting capabilities and additional teacher training that can be purchased by schools or individuals. Yes, the products that are downloaded for free do get us more visibility for our premium products and services as well.

So, yes, we have multiple streams of income which contributes to us being a sustainable company and I am not shy about saying so. It is great to want to help communities, support diverse culture and provide schools effective resources, but to continue doing that long-term, you need to bring in enough funds to pay the Internet bill and keep the lights on.

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