Startup Spotlight: Woogie

Parenting is quite challenging when it comes to the increasingly fast evolution of technology that fascinates kids of all ages. How can you create a balance between tech and education without letting the latter overcome any other need? Woogie does just that. Wondering what is Woogie? Let’s see how everything started.

Woogie came to life when Bogdan came up with the idea that human and technological interaction should be more natural starting from an early age, especially since parents are so busy today (himself included) that it’s difficult to help their kids with homework. A creative solution came to mind!

the bucharest's-1277I came up with the idea of a device that is helpful and fun at the same time: a personal assistant that could help kids learn in a fun, easy and interactive way. I thought that there should be a better method for kids to learn all sort of things.”, Bogdan explains.

Here is where Woogie comes in the picture. Woogie is a voice-enabled AI device that provides interactions and relevant content tailored to the kid’s age, gender, school grade and preferences. Using algorithms, Woogie can answer questions, initiate conversations, play music and help kids practice school-related things. Through its unique build, Woogie is a natural way in which educational needs combine with that of communication, through technology that makes it all possible. Now parents no longer have to worry that technology could take over all of their child’s time and leave no space for learning.

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Meet the makers

Bogdan COMAN (CEO) is an ‘entrepreneur by default’ with many years of experience in managing life-changing ideas and smart people. His previous entrepreneurial experience includes not only tech companies but also retail, distribution and e-commerce. He was a Co-Founder at WBT Solutions, Founder at Switch Sports and Partner at Snow Patrol Distribution.

Oana KORDA (Crowdfunding Star & Product Manager) is a ‘full-time entrepreneur’ who studies and practices design thinking methodology and is passionate about applying business modelling in her projects. She is a Co-Founder and design facilitator at Kort. Previously she has been the Communication and Marketing Manager at Startcelerate.

Who are the future Woogie users

Woogie targets the US market, and any children with ages between 6 and 12 that can speak English can be a user. However, they are working on a new version for Romanian speakers for the next release.

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How is the product development coming along? Where are you now?

“We have a functional prototype, tested with English speaking kids in Romania. Many 3D printers in Bucharest are right now engaged in producing a mini-series of Woogie in 3 different product designs. Around 60 kids are waiting for the first version of Woogie in order to test it and have fun with it until the real Woogie will arrive (after the crowdfunding campaign that we plan for this autumn),” says one of the Woogie founders.

The target of the beta test is to better understand the product before its production at scale. The tests will show the average interaction time, how fast will Woogie be able to learn the user’s preferences and even how can more Woogies interact at the same time. The founders want to explore all the possibilities that they have to improve the product, try to establish a baseline of the types of questions asked, while in the same time seeing children’s reaction to this new and innovative companion.

How does the market look? Does Woogie need to worry about competitors?

Woogie’s main competitors are Amazon Echo, CogniToys and Hello Barbie. The difference with this product is that it is tailored as a homework buddy aligned with the children’s specific needs. Its learning algorithm allows it to start interacting intuitively in time:

Woogie learns and becomes smarter as you use it, creating a custom experience for each user. Plus, Woogie will be able to continue and initiate conversations, not just answer questions.”

What is the business model?

“Woogie has a Hardware Enabled Services business model where the hardware device is not the purpose, but the enabler.”

So, in this equation, the true revenue bringer is the enabler. With a fixed price of $139 the hardware is completed with the necessary models to fit the content preference of the users. It’s basically a subscription with prices that depend on the options chosen and extra features. It can also be completed by third party content such as bedtime stories, games or language courses for instance.

How do you plan to move further with finances?

“We are bootstrapped at the moment. Until now we invested about 40.000 euros and the total need for funding the development is 150.000 euros. This autumn we will start a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter with the purpose of raising the money we need for financing the production of the first series (10.000 pieces) and getting US market validation.”

What is Woogie’s greatest challenge?

The greatest challenge seems to be the novelty of the product in a market that is still immature. People don’t yet grasp the full extent at which the product can go since it’s something that is meant to change their perspective. Woogie needs people to give it the chance of showing that it’s a great companion.

A second challenge is the time constraint. While the product is still unique, the team at Woogie has to move fast not to risk being seconded by a competitor working to develop the same type of technology. 

MVP_DemoDay_2016_78Woogie – part of MVP Academy Batch of 2016

Woogie was part of the MVP Academy Batch of 2016, accelerator program for early stage startups. It was an intense experience that helped them build their product and business faster. Looking back now, the founders learnt first and foremost to focus on what the user needs, not on what he wants. This adds up to the fact that you have to stick with your vision and only take into account relevant feedback while making sure you don’t overpromise, not underdeliver.

The MVP Academy team really helped us realize how useful and amazing our product can be. We found it very helpful to get in touch with smart people and valuable mentors. Our first user interviews session was a suggestion of the MVP Academy team and it was really useful.”, Oana says.

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What does the future hold for Woogie?

Oh well, the team hopes to launch the product in one year from now, start mass production and have at least 15 partners in the fields of technology, content, and education. We wish them the best of luck, and we are sure that taking into consideration the fact that they’re always hustling, they’ll manage to accomplish all these and many more. We’ll keep a close eye on them!

Meanwhile, if you’re an early stage tech startup looking to close deals and accelerate your business, don’t miss the chance to be part of How to Web Startup Spotlight 2016. Find out more here & apply by September 25!


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