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2017 Finalist


FaceTime Meets Kindle for Kids

Caribu is an app that helps parents, extended family, and mentors to read and draw with children remotely via a video call. Catalyst sat with Caribu CEO Maxeme Tuchman to learn about her journey and her advice for aspiring education innovators.

Tell us about your enterprise.

When children are in the beginning stages of reading and motor skills development, it’s important for them to be co-learning, co-playing, and co-reading with a trusted adult. With Caribu, parents and others can read and draw with children remotely via a video call. This adult interaction makes the experience more rewarding for the child as the adult helps them to sound out words and recognize mistakes.

How did you come to enter the EBPC?

It had long been my intention to get in to Education Technology. I met my cofounder, Alvaro Sabido, on Founder Dating, a social networking site for startup founders in 2016. I loved his product and we decided to join forces. I became the CEO of Caribu at the end of 2016, and we entered the Milken-Penn EBPC in 2017.

It was early on and we were still learning a lot about ourselves and the education component of what we were doing. While we didn’t win the  competition, I loved the feedback from the judges and the audiences.

Milken-Penn was one of the only competitions that recognized we had financial burdens as a small bootstrap startup and gave us a stipend to cover some transportation and travel costs for us to attend the finals. We were so grateful.

What growth is Caribu seeing?

We get our customers from word of mouth. Parents love what we’re doing and love to share it with friends and family. Caribu sells itself, and we focus our efforts on earned media.

We also have a partnership with Blue Star Families, the US’s largest non-profit supporting military families, to donate free Caribu subscriptions to every individual serving in the military, domestically or abroad, for the life of their service. It’s a small thank you for what they are doing for us.

Toyota joined this effort by sponsoring 2,000 new military subscriptions. Recently, we were featured in Ink magazine and in a trending video Howie Mandel made a Caribu video call with his granddaughter.

We are the market leader in this space with this type of technology. We want to continue that lead, while continuing to grow. We already have users in over 148 countries. We want to continue to scale and grow in all of those markets. There are also more uses for our technology that we’re excited about, and we know that we can grow Caribu into a true learning company that becomes a household name.

What role has the EBPC played in Caribu’s story?

At Milken-Penn we learned that with an education audience we need to build out the educational component of our pitch – explain more of how Caribu is helping kids learn to read, rather than focusing on parts of reading the audience understands. Every pitch is different and has to be tailored for each specific audience.

The competition is first-rate, and it truly was a learning conference. As someone who has been a winner or finalist in 20 competitions, the team at Milken-Penn and the caliber of people they brought in were extremely impressive.

What advice would you give to aspiring education entrepreneurs?

Today’s market is very fragmented, and selling to teachers and schools and districts can’t be your only business model. Think of other ways to bring in revenue so you are not relying on outdated procurement systems.

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Editor’s note: Since this interview, it was announced that Caribu was selected as one of eight finalists to pitch their company at SXSW EDU 2019 in March 2019.