Featured Startup Pitch: Ubooly is a plush, interactive educational toy that interacts with kids via mobile device

By Editor September 17, 2013

Carly Gloge, UboolyBy Carly Gloge, Ubooly co-founder and CEO

Elevator Pitch: Ubooly is an educational companion that talks and listens to kids. We deliver high-quality, personalized content that’s easily accessible for modern families.

Product Overview

Ubooly is a magical stuffed animal that talks and listens. Ubooly can be customized to know your child’s name, teach lessons and much more.

Ubooly is an educational companion for kids that parents trust. Ubooly’s content is designed by a team of educators and therapists who believe in learning through play. Ubooly engages kids in the following five variations of play to maximize learning: locomotor play, social play, parallel play, object play, and language play.

The stuffed animal is compatible with popular mobile iOS and Android devices. Ubooly works with phones that are no longer connected to a cellular network, so kids often play with mom’s or dad’s hand-me-down device.

Ubooly automatically downloads new content over Wi-Fi, which keeps kids coming back to see what their new fuzzy pal has to say. The toy/app also captures children’s responses so parents can stay in the loop on their child’s progress.

Although most parents buy Ubooly for the educational content, they tend to get the most excited about Ubooly’s ability to bring out kids’ imaginations. We get feedback like the following on a weekly basis:

“Ubooly made me realize that I was underestimating my son’s abilities. For instance, my son loves all of Ubooly’s ‘play pretend’ activities. Once I realized this, I started to incorporate more fun ‘pretend’ activities into our day. For instance, he threw me a pretend birthday party yesterday with fake cake, ice cream, and candles. All of his stuffed animals came to the party and sang to me. There were even fake presents. He has quite the imagination, and I didn’t even realize this until I saw him playing with his Ubooly.” — Daisy Bryce

Founders’ Story

Isaac [co-founder Isaac Squires] and I started working on Ubooly after contracting for startups for a few years. We often filled the gap for new companies lacking a full technical team. After five years, we were ready to build our own product. We realized that mobile devices were becoming the new Game Boy, but also felt that there was an opportunity to build something richer. By building a stuffed animal with the power of a mobile device, we’ve been able to create a toy that finally feels smart.

How Ubooly Differentiates From the Competition

The product has been on the market and has evolved significantly through rigorous user testing. Parents asked us if Ubooly could teach their kids Spanish, or help their kids get into healthy habits. We took their feedback seriously and recruited a team of teachers and play therapists to help us develop content. This level-up depth is a major differentiator between Ubooly and other toys. Our number one focus is retention. Rather than building a hit toy for the holidays, we want kids to build an emotional attachment and play with Ubooly for months.

Market Opportunity

Parents are looking for toys that deliver more than passive play. Toys like LeapPad have done very well recently due to their educational nature. However, kids are shifting towards engaging with apps on mobile devices. Ubooly fulfills kids’ curiosity in mobile devices, while bringing back traditional imaginative play that traditional toys offered. In addition, there are now more iPhones sold than babies born in the world every day, which has led to an incredible amount of used devices in households as parents continue to upgrade. This has provided our products a large, easily-accessible platform to build upon.

Business Model

Our customers’ long-term relationship with Ubooly allows us to sell additional Play Packs to parents. We’re seeing a high percentage of our users convert to in-app purchase because they see the value in Ubooly’s content. This allows us to extend the lifetime value of each customer for months after the initial toy purchase.

Marketing/Promotion Strategy

Not only do we differ from other toy companies in product, but we’ve also had to differentiate in marketing. Hasbro and Mattel both spend $600-to-$700 million per year on marketing alone. We’re focusing on grassroots campaigns to build awareness by encouraging our customers to promote Ubooly to friends and family.

We’re also working on a series of YouTube videos that will use long tail search phrases to build awareness. Because Ubooly has so much content, we can repurpose it into videos of kids playing with the product. For example, one video will be named ‘How to tie your shoes’ and will show a child going through a shoe tying play pack with Ubooly. We came up with the idea after realizing that limiting ourselves to key phrases like ‘educational toy’ and ‘learning toy’ wasn’t going to give us enough coverage.

Current Needs

We’re looking for content partners with similar missions to help us co-develop Play Packs. For example, we would like to launch a Play Pack for kids with autism later this year. Non-profits make great partners since we’re able to set up revenue share arrangements to donate to their cause.

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Ubooly logoWebsite: www.ubooly.com

Headquarters: Boulder, Colorado

Founders: Isaac Squires, Carly Gloge

Year Founded: 2012

Investors: TechStars, SoftTech, 500 Startups, David Cohen, PJM Advisors, Gavin Lee, Oakview Group, Ludlow Ventures, Scott McDaniel, Rich Schmelzer, Social Leverage

Twitter: @Ubooly

Facebook: facebook.com/ubooly

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/2545316

AngelList: angel.co/ubooly