The failures outweigh the successes on Kickstarter, but the Ubooly is one of those that have done well thanks to the crowdfunding platform. This kid’s toy, created by Colorado-based husband and wife duo Carly Gloge and Isaac Squires, used an iPhone as its core and delivered interactive child-friendly personalized content in a plush, huggable package.
The Ubooly is back for a second dip at the Kickstarter well today, with the startup looking to fund version two of its product via a new campaign. The second-generation product keep the same look as its predecessor (with some new color options), since it hopes to build Ubooly into an iconic character, but seeks to add depth to the Ubooly software and jumpstart its international expansion efforts.
Version two includes modifications to make it compatible with Android smartphones, as well as a jumbo version for the iPad mini, and there are five new languages for the Ubooly software, each complete with speech recognition and downloadable add-on education packs. The new languages include Spanish, Italian, French, German and Japanese, and each localization is spearheaded by a local team on the ground in that country to help make it happen.
“The number one thing that was a big surprise in terms of requests from the first campaign was ‘Can I get Ubooly content translated into my language,’ or ‘Can Ubooly help my kind learn a new language,” Gloge explained in an interview with TC. “Bost Isaac and I are not bilingual… so that was something that was a little outside of our realm, but we recruited a number of international teachers.”
That has led them to be able to launch in these new European markets coming up in November, if all goes well, and in Japan later this year. Part of the funding will go towards hiring voice talent to vocalize additional international language content. Building an international brand is important to Ubooly’s larger goals, since it should help them solidify the Ubooly itself as something iconic. Gloge says the team was tempted by bigger companies looking to license their software for their own characters, but believed theirs had the power to be the next Mickey Mouse.
“We were definitely approached by companies that wanted to put their character on the Ubooly technology,” she said. “To our surprise, the community really loved the Ubooly characterv[...] One of our mentors is a former VP at Disney, and I thought she’d be the one to say we can’t compete against the bigger brands, but she said ‘You guys have something here, and you need to keep building out that character.'”
Eventually, Gloge sees the startup building a whole stable of characters, and has already introduced a snail companion for Ubooly, but for now the focus is on making their first character as recognizable as possible. A big part of that has to do with providing kids with engaging and continually updated content, which is why the Ubooly time regularly delivers content packs which can be uploaded direct to the app without and update. Now, thanks to iOS 7, those updates can be served in the background, which means every time a child sits down to play with Ubooly, they could be getting a smarter toy with more depth of content.
Ubooly raised $1.5 million in seed funding following their initial Kickstarter campaign from traditional investors, and is now looking to raise another $25,000 via this new crowdfunding effort. Pre-orders of the V2 Ubooly begin at the $30 backer level, and even $10 pledges earn contributors a Ubooly vinyl toy. The team says its new speech recognition software is even more intelligent than before, so the potential for this startup, which was already high, is likely higher still.