Letter for Lego

An open letter from 1995 to 2021.

By Filippo Yacob

IN 1995 THE WORLD WAS A FAR SIMPLER PLACE. Summers were never ending Nintendo marathons with neighbours. Autumns were walks to school on red leaf-carpeted streets. Winters were Lego super forts inside living room super forts.

In 1995, encouraged by his mother, and with permission from his father, an 8 year old Filippo Yacob wrote a letter to Lego that would change the course of his life forever, only it would take 26 years to realise it.

FOR THE LAST 4 MONTHS I’ve been running my own kid-tech studio - FINH. A certified mad-house. One day we’re teaching pet Jellyfish how to write poetry with Machine Learning, the next we’re designing a global space program for kids, the one after we’re building furniture that can think and learn.

Mad as it all sounds however, the goal is straightforward - to ideate and incubate magical products and services for learning and play. The same, and not the same, as what I’d been doing for the 8 years prior.

LIFE AS THE FOUNDER and CEO of both Pigzbe - a digital Piggy Bank for kids age 6 to 11, and Cubetto - a coding robot used by millions of children across the globe, had been a wild roller coaster ride.

As the first man in and the last man out, I experienced the magic of taking an idea from concept to launch, the challenges of growing a team of 20+ product builders and marketers, the intricacies of setting up global supply chains, the thrill of a record breaking $1.6m Kickstarter campaign, and the sacrifices required to grow sales to $12m globally.

Pigzbe and Cubetto have taken me places I could never imagine. They gave me the opportunity to see the world, to make new friends, and to learn a lot. “But it’s been no bed of roses. No pleasure cruise”. As well as the good things, I also had to learn the hard ones.

I learned about the disappointment in having to let good people go, the irreparable consequences of unchecked egos in a team, the bittersweet melancholy of having to pack my companies up for sale, and the loneliness of failing as a leader when there’s no one else to point a finger at.

BY AGE 8 my career as a Lego brick layer was accomplished. I had a lot of Lego. Some gifted, some earned, some old, some new. I built, destroyed, remixed and re-destroyed thousands of creations, again and again. Life was great.

But I did have one problem. I never held onto the instruction manuals, and since the internet wasn’t a thing yet, I could never rebuild my sets exactly as intended.

So one day, I wrote a letter to Billund...

“Hello Lego,

My name is Filippo Yacob, I would really like it if you made Lego Ancient Egypt please. I’m also a huge fan, and would love to receive any spare instruction manuals you have.


Filippo Yacob
Age 8

I suppose this was my first ever cover letter...

IN OCTOBER 2020, after a difficult year, I closed my businesses. Cubetto was acquired by a European distributor, and Pigzbe by a large bank in the UAE. It looks amazing on Linkedin, but the experience was far from a success. I was devastated, burned out, and in bad need of rest.

Failing sucked, but although I didn’t realise it then, failing was the best thing that could have happened to me. Failing gave me time to reflect on all the things I’d learned. Failing gave me time to find what I was good at again, and after the dust of it all had settled, failing gave me time to decide to never again compromise on what I believed was right, and finally, failing, gave me the opportunity to start FINH.

When a door closes, another one opens...

IT TAKES NOTHING to come up with an Idea. IT TAKES EVERYTHING to make one real. You need courage, support, tenacity, skill, vision. More importantly however, you need people.

If a designer is only as good as her/his research, a venture builder is only as good as the people they lead, and somewhere along the way, I had forgotten that.

It’s been said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. It’s a beautiful analogy, but I also like to think of technology as something else.

I like to think of Technology as an endless fabric, one we can stretch and cut to fit any shape problem we have, and then stitch it together through infinite interactions.

Ask 100 people what an Innovator is, and you’ll get 100 different answers, but perhaps an innovator is nothing more than a humble tailor, someone capable of weaving platforms, products, processes, and people into something that didn’t exist before.

And when it all comes together, I suppose it really is magic....

A FEW WEEKS WENT BY, and one day, on my return from school, a parcel was waiting for me... Billund had replied.

Inside the package were instruction manuals, lots of them! and a note on letter headed paper, thanking me for my devotion, my suggestions, and an open invitation to join Lego when I came of age.

Lego, the bricks, had replied, and suddenly, the half dictated letter I wrote, made sense! Lego, the plaything, wasn’t just a toy, it was people! It was people I could write to! It was people that made things! It was people that some day I could be!

LIFE has a strange way of teaching us lessons, and anything can be a teacher if you’re willing to learn. I didn’t realise it then, but that letter taught me some very important lessons that would stick with me for life.

That letter taught me that if you don’t ask you don’t get. That letter is the reason why so many years later I would dare to dream a dream as big as wanting to build the Mattel of the 21st century, and even though I had failed, that letter is the reason why 26 years on, I’m writing THIS letter.

I don’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what to expect 26 years ago either, but if you don’t ask you don’t get, so here we go...

“Hello Lego,

My name is Filippo Yacob, I would really like to build lots of Cubettos and Pigzbes for you. I’m also a huge fan, and would love it if you could send me a spare instructions manual for the original 6285 Black Seas Barracuda. I still have all the pieces, and I’m trying to rebuild it with my soon to be 8 year old son Alex..


Filippo Yacob
Age 34