Three years ago, Gauri and I began to work on a new way to voice chat with kids. We wanted to make a physical toy, because, unlike a phone, that's something you can feel good about putting in kids' hands. And we wanted the interface to be simple, because that is how communication always should be.
We called it Toymail. It has two parts - an app, which connects grownups to kids - and the Talkies, toys that connect kids to their friends and family.
The beauty of our messaging system is that kids as young as three can send messages to parent approved contacts with just the touch of a button.
We built this platform with families like mine in mind, working parents who wanted a way to stay in touch with their kids when they couldn't be there in person. And with extended families drifting farther and farther apart geographically, we knew it would meet the needs of so many grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
When we launched the beta version on Kickstarter, we heard back from our customers and discovered Toymail met the specific needs all kinds of people in different family situations: military families; divorced parents whose children split their time between households; children in hospitals and children with special needs.
So we created characters inspired by the creatures in my own kids' stories and sketches. We made toys that could respond to physical play (it stands to reason that toys should giggle when you toss them). We endowed our toys with expandable content, so that parents could unlock new features as their children grow or their interests change, and curate songs, stories, and apps for their kids that are personally meaningful.
We bootstrapped this project ourselves and sold over 20K units with zero marketing spend. We have poured all of our revenues (and I might add, a fair amount of blood and sweat) into research and development of V2. We did extensive learning and testing with real families to get the Talkies as close to perfect as possible before bringing them to the market.
And now, with backing from Amazon and Verizon, we are ready to launch our next generation of messaging toys - toys with endless capability and astonishingly simple design. One that does not require screens, but instead encourages open ended, self-directed play.
We are proud of what we have built and passionate about bringing meaningful connection to families in a world where they are too often apart.