Last Updated on September 8, 2021
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About Elnaz Sarraf
I am the CEO and founder of ROYBI, an investor-backed EdTech company that raised $4.2 million in its seed round focusing on early childhood education and self-guided learning through artificial intelligence. ROYBI is the creator of Roybi Robot which is the world’s first AI-powered smart toy to teach children language and STEM skills. Before Starting ROYBI I co-founded and led a consumer electronics/IoT company, iBaby, serving as the company’s President. Growing up as a woman in Iran, I witnessed how education can affect one’s life and lead to success so I wanted to create a technology that would empower children by providing universal access to personalized learning and an education that prepares them for a better future.
I came to the United States when I was in my early twenties to start a new life. Knowing English and the American culture helped me adjust to American culture and excel in my studies. So I experienced firsthand how learning a different language early on in life can help reach your goals later in life. We know that exposure to multiple languages at an early age is significant for children’s future success. Still, not every family can afford to hire private tutors or sign up their child at a language immersion school. Parents I met at different research groups also often told me about their interest in an affordable and smart technology that can expose their children to multiple languages. During a discussion I had with my co-founder, Ron Cheng, I learned about his shared interests as an engineer and a parent for a smart toy that can help his children with self-guided learning with fun stories and engaging lessons. Together, we decided to work on an education toy robot that can address this need for parents. With Roybi Robot, we chose to utilize AI early on in our planning stage to ensure that teaching with the robot is interactive rather than passive. We want the experience of learning and interacting with Roybi Robot to interest children more in STEM topics and curious about innovations.
How Did You Get Your First Several Customers Or Users? How Many Users Or Customers Do You Have Now?
Our first customers found us on indiegogo during our first round of fundraising, and then gradually through word of mouth or the PR that we received. We launched in November 2019, shortly after, in December, we got surprised with a recognition from Time Magazine as one of the best inventions of that year. We were featured twice on the magazine’s cover which led to many sales.
How Does Your Company Grow And Acquire New Customers?
Most of our customers find us through our PR outreach. We get contacted regularly by magazines and blogs that feature products for education.
What Actionable Tips And Tricks Do You Have For New Founders Who Are Looking To Get Their First Thousand Users Or Dollars?
I would say, start small and then build up. Start with building a community of supporters who like your vision. This can be through crowdfunding, and then build up with that. With your community and interest, you can show investors that your product is scalable and raise funding.
What Is Something You’ve Learned That Would Not Be Obvious To Somebody Who Hasn’t Worked In Your Space Before?
Every person you talk to in the education industry has an opinion about it because we all experience it in our life, but it is a challenging space for raising funds. To convince your investors, you have to have a clear vision of what you’re building. Also, you have to make sure you have research that backs your product’s effectiveness to attract parents and educators.
What’s The Craziest Thing That’s Happened To You (Good Or Bad) On Your Founder Journey?
Oh, it’s so hard to name one, but securing a factory that can make our product was a big challenge with many crazy coincidences that led to our success in securing a deal.
What Are Your Favorite Books?
That’s another hard one to answer, but I’m now reading “Why Don’t Students Like School?” by Daniel Willingham and am learning so much from his findings based on cognitive science.
Anything You’d Like To Plug?
We are looking for strategic partners and distributors to grow globally.
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