Storybook Co-founder Francisco Cornejo on the Importance of Children’s Sleep

 
Storybook App on Republic 2022

Introduction

Sleep is the foundation of a healthy life for adults and children alike. Although sleep problems are sadly common among children, many stem from causes that can easily be solved without medical treatment. For example, kids who missed their parents throughout the day can be restless at night because they prefer quality time over sleep.

Storybook turns bedtime into a bonding experience between parents and children. The app helps parents tell their children stories and provide infant massages. It offers songs, personal profiles, and three language options. We reached out to co-founder and CEO Francisco Cornejo to hear more about how he met his co-founder and was selected for an investment from Jason Calacanis.

Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.


Kingscrowd
In your own words, how would you describe storybook?

Storybook is on a mission to give families more “togetherness” time to improve their wellness and sleep. We talk a lot about children’s sleep, and that itself is such an important task. However, Storybook is about so much more. There are tons of methods to get children to sleep that work. You can teach children to fall asleep by neglecting them and letting them cry until they sleep. In a couple of days, they most likely will learn to sleep through the night, but it will cause emotional scars for life. We believe that no device should replace a bedtime routine. Children deserve to have a personal, sacred bond with their parents, and for most, the only time of the day when they can do this is before bedtime.

Kingscrowd
What inspired you to take the leap and start this company?

The idea came to us when our kids were suffering from sleep problems, and we were undergoing a family crisis (by that time, living in Australia). However, for me, the big “a-ha” moment was when I realized that my eldest was already four years old, and I missed a lot of bonding time with him because I was too focused on my career. When we started introducing multi-sensorial stimulation (massage, music, oils) to our bedtime routine, we saw something that never happened before: our kids started to fight each other about who is going to bed first. But the main outcome was that we felt so much more connected with each other. Our kids seemed happier and more affectionate, and we felt like super parents – just by giving them a few minutes before bedtime. I turned down a lot of C-level job offerings to pursue this dream, and there is nothing more rewarding than reading reviews from users who tell us that they are experiencing the same connection at home.

Kingscrowd
Who is on your team and how did you come together?

I’m very proud of the team we have. My co-founder, Daniela, and I have known each other for 20 years but weren’t too close. Things changed one random evening when she went to a bar (that I owned at the time), and I asked her to go out with me to the movies. We got married two years after that. We’ve had a very solid marriage, but we became so much closer when we started to find ways to bond more with our kids (hence, Storybook’s idea came to Daniela). After a couple of years of ideation and creating the minimum viable product, we decided we needed to have the best possible talent on our side. Hiring in current times is extremely complex, and for seasoned profiles, you need to offer very high wages. In our case, being a mission-driven company helped us out a lot. Our vision is so powerful that we were able to attract outstanding professionals from well-established scale-ups throughout Latin America. Rodrigo, our product manager, was essential to growing Trivia Crack into millions of daily users. All of our data foundation was created by a former Mercado Libre and mom of two, Yanina. After consulting for Airbnb, Ivanna left a big corporate job to work on our content marketing strategy. Our development team has so many talented people lead by Martin, who is acting as the CTO. We are extremely lucky to be joined by the founder of the Family Sleep Institute, probably the most experienced sleep trainers in the country, and Prof. Martha Pelaez, former board member at American Psychology Association and one of the most active scientists in the Touch Research Institute. 

Kingscrowd
How is storybook transforming the children wellness industry?

The basic premise we follow is based on very obvious data. In the first three years of life, 85% of brain development happens. No one has as much impact in this period as the parents. If we can give parents easy-to-use tools to help them bond with their children, help them establish routines, and get kids to sleep enough hours, we could have a very powerful impact on the next generation. Even companies are realizing that their workforce’s productivity gets reduced when they have trouble at home, and now they are investing in wellness initiatives to help families. 

Kingscrowd
How did you choose your pricing strategy?

We are convinced that if we can get children to sleep better, parents will be willing to pay a high price. However, our goal is to be as accessible as possible and be able to help every single family. Hence, we have a free-for-life offering with limited content. For the premium content, we have been running a lot of A/B tests to determine which price band maximizes our customer lifetime value in each of our main five countries. We look at industry benchmarks and try to keep it along those lines.

Kingscrowd
What does the competitive landscape look like, and how do you differentiate?

There is nothing like Storybook out there. We are the only “sleeping” app for children that physically involves parents in the falling asleep process. Parents use Storybook as a guide without their kids looking at the screen. This allows them to bond and connect in a genuine way. 

We designed our app for parents, not their children. Children shouldn’t be looking at screens before bedtime to get a good night of sleep. Our competitors have designed their apps to entertain children, adding illustrations and animations that make kids want to look at the screen. In contrast, our product is focused on assisting the parents by guiding them through massages and providing bedtime stories with relaxing sounds.

Parents make their children fall asleep, not us. We understand the importance of infant massages. For children, a massage not only relaxes them before sleeping also helps them reduce stress and feel loved. For parents, it’s a way to give love and show affection. We understand that parents can get their kids to fall asleep better than any app will ever be able to.

For most parents, bedtime routines are the only one-on-one moments within the day in which they get to bond with their children. We want to make each night special.

Kingscrowd
How do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?

Our main goal is to supercharge our growth and reach a Series A stage in the best possible shape. On the product side, we will be working with up-and-coming authors to scale our content. We will expand our development team to increase our speed, and we will translate Storybook into two new languages. On the growth side of things, we will be investing in content marketing, our referral strategy, and creating viral loops to further increase our organic growth. We will double down on corporate partnerships in the US and Latin America. Another important milestone will be launching our clinical trials.

Kingscrowd
What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?

Sleep is fundamental for life. It is as important as nutrition for a child’s development, yet more than 60% of kids sleep less than the required time. Among children between infanthood and 12 years of age, 66% of children will have sleep problems which could impact their social skills, brain development, and academic performance for life. Giving parents the right tools and guidance is crucial. However, the most impact we can have on the next generation is by fostering the quality of the bond they have with their primary caregiver. Most mental and emotional health problems can be traced back to childhood. If we can help parents have a stronger and healthier relationship with their children in their first years, we can truly impact the future with a more empathic, resilient, and healthier generation.

Kingscrowd
How did you manage to get investment from jason calacanis?

I’ve been following Jason for a long time. I’m a big fan of his podcast and content. I decided to apply to one of his Founder University online programs and got accepted. During the program, he asked 10 startups to pitch live for one minute. There were 300 people on the call, and I decided to give it a go. At the end, Jason selected the startup that he liked the most and chose Storybook. The next day, we were approached by his team to offer us an investment and the possibility to join his personal accelerator program, LAUNCH. Jason was our first investor check, and we were lucky to have him investing more at the end of the program. It was impactful to see how he saw the potential in just a pitch and a quick follow-up call. Later, he explained to me that he loves the consumer-based subscription apps in the wellness space. He had a big success with Calm in the past, and also, he personally experienced the benefits of multi-sensorial therapy with his daughter. So for him, it was a no-brainer. There is no offering in the parent-child wellness space, and we aim to own it.

Kingscrowd
As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? have you set any future goals for the company?

Storybook is really interesting because we exist at the intersection of family health, wellness, content, and education. That gives us a lot of optionality in terms of who could be a potential acquirer. There are a few obvious companies in the wellness space that would see our acquisition as a strategic move into capturing the new generation of users before their competition can. Paternity/child oriented packaged goods companies like Johnson & Johnson would also highly benefit from adding our growing community. These companies have made similar acquisitions in the past for hundreds of millions.


We look forward to seeing where Francisco and his team take the company. Storybook is currently raising on Republic.


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