How These Dads Created A Reading Robot From The $61k Raised On Kickstarter
Chris Harden and Jeremy Scheinberg created Trobo, a robot that is an educational toy focused on teaching young children STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). They successfully raised $61,000 on Kickstarter. Here’s how they did it.
Chris explains, “We got started at an event in November 2014 called ‘Startup Weekend.’ It’s a 3 day weekend where you pitch a brand hew business idea, form teams, and create as much of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) as you can. You also go out to a market place and get feedback, specifically to determine whether people would buy and how much they would pay.”
The biggest challenge, Chris explains, was to actually do what they’d promised with finite resources.
Our biggest challenge to overcome how to turn a $61K Kickstarter into what is now roughly a $240K+ investment. The physical product, the marketing, the patent, and definitely the application cost a lot more than $61K dollars (which is even less after Amazon and Kickstarter’s cut). We were fortunate enough to get a Phase 1 SBIR grant from the National Science Foundation for developing the product and trying find a fit for it in the Education space. We interviewed 40 administrations and 60 Educators which ended up improving our approach to the product as well as helping us vet that market. We also invested personal funds as needed.
Ultimately, Chris attributes their success to luck–and the media.
We have been lucky with TROBO. The dolls, our STEM for Very Early Education concept, and our story has been compelling enough that we have been graced with loads of exposure from like-minded publications such as USA Today, Tech Crunch, People, Xploration Station, and Popular Science (who gave us Best of Toy Fair 2015). This kind of PR is extremely helpful to a startup, because all of our money has gone to executing on the product and infrastructure. We didn’t have money for Marketing. So the exposure has brought in others who have helped us along the way, whether it be investing in our Kickstarter, connecting us with significant influencers, or just sharing the word on social media. All of that has helped us build a core audience of loyal early adopters that we rely on heavily even now for sharing announcements and growing word of mouth.
On Thursday, January 21, 2016 at 5:00 Eastern, Chris and Jeremy will join me for a live discussion about their success, including raising $61,000 on Kickstarter. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.
Jeremy Scheinberg and Chris Harden, courtesy of Trobo
More about Trobo:
TROBO was created by two fathers – Jeremy and Chris – who wanted to give their children better toys. They saw how their children were curious about what was going on in the world around them, yet their mindless toys and apps did nothing to satisfy their curiosity. So Chris and Jeremy used their experience as engineers in the theme park and video game industries to create TROBOs – lovable, huggable companions that could teach young children about science, technology, engineering and math (or STEM) in a fun new way. By using interactive stories that made the child the star of the show, TROBOs can answer kids questions about STEM in the world around them before they can read on their own. TROBO was created in 2013 and had a successful Kickstarter campaign in October of 2014 and was given an Phase 1 SBIR Grant in 2015. TROBOs are lovable, huggable companions that help kids 2-5 learn about the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) in the world around them through fun, personalized stories. TROBO began shipping in November 2015 and as of January 2016 has become an Amazon Exclusive product.
Chris Harden, CPO: Until July of 2014, Chris was a Development Director with EA Sports, managing the User Experience core technology group and mobile initiatives for the label. His app development experience while a Developer and Manager at BSQUARE is on on Android, Windows CE, Windows Mobile, iOS (learning it now), and other embedded operating systems.
Chris has an extensive creative background, one time being an Inker/Penciller in the comic book industry (Marvel, DC, Image, TopCow), produced three amateur music albums, and music videos. Chris strengthened his storytelling skills while briefly attended the Florida State University’s Film School.
Previously Chris was a Project Engineer in one of the top equipment manufacturers for the Entertainment Industry – Alcorn McBride Inc (where he and Jeremy met).
He has a degree in Electrical Engineering from Auburn University (1998), an MBA from the University of South Florida (2007), and two years of Industrial Design (Product Design) training.
He has a wonderful son, Asher, age 4.
Jeremy Scheinberg, CEO: Growing up in the shadow of Disney World, Jeremy always knew he wanted to be a theme park engineer. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Systems Engineering, he worked for Alcorn McBride the leading manufacturer of audio, video and control products for themed entertainment. For over 10 years, he traveled around the world working on rides and shows for NBC, Universal, Lego and Disney.
With the birth of his two children came a lot of toys to play with some that were great and some that were just plain annoying. Too many times playing princess with his daughter led to the birth of TROBO, a robot storyteller that would get his kids (and others) interested in something important Science, Technology and Engineering instead of which dress to wear to the ball.
Jeremy also has an MBA from the Carlson School of Management.
He has 2 lovely children – Sophia age 7 and Jake age 4.
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